From the moment that Jeezy and Gucci Mane walked onto the stage at Atlanta’s storied Magic City strip club, the rap world held its breath. This was some prizefight-level programming by Verzuz. For more than 15 years the Atlanta duo have been nemeses—the real-deal kind, not the Instagram-beef kind—with a long, complicated, and violent history. Up until last Thursday, most episodes of the now-legendary “battle” show started by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, from Snoop and DMX to Patti and Gladys, had been low-key competitions among friends. Jeezy and Gucci, though: this was war. And Gucci came armed.
He lobbed diss record after diss record. Jeezy mostly played it cool, leaning into the bag of monster hits from his breakout 2005 debut, Thug Motivation 101: Let’s Get It. But it was Jeezy’s response to Gucci playing scathing mixtape cut “Truth”—which Gucci officially released to the major streaming services as a single just hours before the event—that seemed to secure him some sort of psychological win.
That’s when, as “Truth” faded out and Gucci kept talking shit, Jeezy took a moment to step back from their personal beef to put their feud into a bigger, deadlier context.
“All these kids out here doing what the fuck they do cause they saw what went on with us, dog,” he said. “So this shit ain’t about me, this shit ain’t about you, you feel what I’m saying?”
He namechecked some of hip hop’s recent, tragic deaths: “This shit about King Von.This shit about Doe B. This shit about Nipsey Hussle. This shit about motherfucking Pop Smoke. M03. And I’m real enough to do that, n***a, because one thing about it, two things for sure, three things for certain, n***a…”
And at that moment, Jeezy’s DJ, DJ Ace, dropped the Thug Motivation anthem “Get Ya Mind Right.” The whole tone changed. The night ended peacefully and even featured Jeezy and Gucci jointly performing “So Icy,” the track that helped spark their beef. Nearly two million people tuned in on Instagram, plus more than two million more via Apple Music. It’s the most-watched Verzuz so far.
Just a few days later, GQ caught up with Jeezy to talk about his new album, The Recession 2, his podcast, meeting Joe Biden, and his impressions of a night that will live forever in hip hop history.
First off, I know your fiancée, Jeannie Mai, recently had a health scare. How is she doing?
She’s good. Thank you for asking. She’s back. I think she’s able to eat now and she’s about 80 percent. Twenty more percent and she’ll be back out there saving the world. Back on The Real and back doing what she do.
I’m glad she’s on the mend. You have a lot going on. New album, new deal with Def Jam, podcast, TV show on Fox Soul.
I’m all about mental stimulation. My first guest on Worth a Conversation was Steve Harvey. My second guest was Deion Sanders. And the third guest was John C. Maxwell, who’s a thought leader. And my [most recent] guest was Tamika Mallory. [On the show I] talk to people about what they went through on their roads to success, why they didn’t give up, what was the hardest moment and what was the biggest lesson they learned. When you have the conversations with these people, you learn things, and for me, using my platforms to educate my culture is the goal.
On the Re(Session) podcast side, it’s more about real life. My first guest was Tony Robbins. It’s dope because Tony Robbins has his own outlook on how the world should work and how people should be motivated, and I have mine, too, so we kind of had a meeting of the minds there. And my [most recent] guest was Freeway from Roc La Familia. He talked about having kidney failure, and [the costs of doing] dialysis without insurance, only for his son to get slain a little bit later. And while he’s telling me this, his [teenage] daughter is sitting next to him and she was just diagnosed with cancer. I asked him how did he deal with all of that. He’s a Muslim, so he was like, God, Allah. And I think people need to hear that. I don’t just want to motivate people with my music and my albums, and those things, I want to use every platform to give them that insight.