After two albums of fierce, single-minded coke-rap, Young Jeezy displayed unexpected range on 2008’s The Recession, a big-picture album that showed he could rap as provocatively about national anxieties as his days on the corner. That album marked an exciting new direction for the rapper, but it now looks like a one-off detour, judging from its follow-up, TM 103: Hustlerz Ambition, a stale return to the trap. “Let’s take these bitches back to ’05,” Jeezy cheers on “Way Too Gone,” and he lets that regressive goal guide the whole record.
Though Jeezy is as fiery as ever, rapping with such brute conviction it feels as if his heart could give out during any verse, his usually reliable ear for beats fails him. Especially in its opening half, TM 103’s flimsy synths and punishing snares bleed together into an ugly, undistinguished rumble. Later tracks break from that monotony, but even its highlights feel secondhand. “Leave You Alone” is a by-the-numbers Ne-Yo feature, while the matrimony romp “I Do” takes generous cues from UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem,” right down to the André 3000 guest spot.
TM 103 stands as a testament to Jeezy’s stubbornness, and his refusal to conform to a rap scene that now requires its stars to show a little humility from time to time. He makes a mockery of those conventions on “F.A.M.E.,” a would-be meditation on the spiritual toll of success that plays like one long humblebrag, an excuse for boasts about his Porsche, Rolex, and massive penthouse that’s “all elevatored up.” “Trapped” is even more disingenuous, framing Jeezy’s trap ties as a life sentence. “Sometimes I know you feel trapped, like you want to move on, but they hold you back,” Jill Scott sings on a chorus that rings laughably insincere. There's nothing about TM 103 that suggests Jeezy has any interest in moving on.