Recording information: A House , Malibu; Silent Sound Studios, Atlanta, GA; The Blue Room Recording Studios, Atlanta, GA.
Dropping the Young from his name and turning on the full Jeezy, Church in These Streets finds the veteran Atlanta MC tackling the concept album while playing the role of an inner-city preacher. The title cut is also the LP's key cut as it bangs along with twerking Zaytoven production, and offers the album's main message for anyone caught in the drug game: "If you see another day, then just say 'Hallelujah!'" The track "Lost Souls" is a heavy triumph, sampling a bit of the movie Street Life before the lyrics declare that any time spent in jail is time spent breeding another monster, while later, the woozy and hooky banger "Scared of the Dark" skewers flashy gangsters for their unwillingness to do life's dirty work. By the time "Sister Good Game's Testimony" snarls all the weak and meek out of the trap house, it seems Jeezy's "Pastor Young" character comes with the toughest brand of love, but "I Feel Ya" ("You put your fam on your back, boy I feel ya/You put your hood on the map, boy I feel ya") is a sympathetic cut that broadens the album's spectrum. "Sweet Life" with Janelle Monae is the kind of high-flying, blue sky rap that Curren$y usually offers, and if that wasn't enough, it comes with a Psalm recited by Monica, who is playing the role of Sister Brown. Monica and Monae are the ambitious album's only guests, and when the highlight "God" hits the speakers, with its underground dubstep wobble and its rickety beats, Jeezy does a successful reach outside his comfort zone and winds up with a spell-binding cut. That said, when taking in a full album, his monotone, bellowing delivery is an acquired taste, and with only a few guest shots, plus a long track list, newcomers might find this big LP a tough go. Regardless, the ambitious Church in These Streets stands with the man's great Thug Motivation 101 while beating that album on artistic merit and meaningful lyrics. ~ David Jeffries