Greatest Southern Artists of all Time
Words Bayer Mack / Photo Jonathan Mannion
5 ESSENTIAL JUVENILE TRACKS Juvenile “Ha” 400 Degreez 1998 Even so-called hip-hop “purists” couldn’t front on this Cash Money masterpiece. Juvenile “Back That Azz Up” 400 Degreez 1998 This club staple helped Juve sell more than five million copies of 400 Degreez. Juvenile “U Understand” G Code 1999 Mannie Fresh is the producer, but the beat is just blaze. Juve completely murders this track and all playa hatas within earshot. Juvenile “Set it Off” Project English 2001 Juvenile once said that he signed with Cash Money to rap over this beat. The retooled underground classic sounded ficka, ficka, Fresh. Juvenile “In My Life” Juve the Great 2003 On this reunion track, Juvenile and Mannie Fresh prove why they’re the hip-hop equivalent of Montana to Rice: touchdown. Since almost every great rap marriage has ended in some sort of acrimony, it’s good to see brothers swallow their pride.
“You ridin’ in a Benz on 20” rims, ha?”
caught very little of what Juvenile said the first time I saw the video for “Ha,” but one thing was for certain – it was on fire. His unique Cajun-flavored flow was simplistic, yet intoxicating. Even clubgoers as far away as the notoriously fickle crowd of New York City’s infamous hip-hop club, The Tunnel, couldn’t resist. Juve’s tantalizing mix of raw urban reality and rhythmic delivery captivated listeners. Born Terius Gray, the rapper learned the importance of engaging an audience in the early ‘90s alongside legendary turntablist DJ Jimi. While elementary by today’s standards, Juvenile’s performance on tracks like “Bounce for the Juvenile” showcased his ability to connect with a crowd through the use of everyday “slanguage” and shared experience. Cash Money Records recognized this star potential and signed Juve, releasing his solo debut, Soulja Rags, in 1996. The album only hinted at what was to come two years later. There are two schools of hustling in the street: cohabitation and expansion. With cohabitation, as long as you eating good, you ain’t worried about someone else. With expansion, however, you take the hottest block from someone else by force and start slangin’ your own product uncontested. A hungry Cash Money Records subscribed to the latter school of thought. However, it would take some serious muscle for sibling co-owners Brian “Baby” and Ronald “Slim” Williams to strongarm the block from Master P’s seemingly invincible No Limit Empire. The first single, “Ha,” from Juvenile’s sophomore release 400 Degreez, served as the opening salvo in this Bayou Cold War between the two camps. Juvenile was the cannon and Mannie Fresh was the battering ram. Already a veteran in New Orleans rap circles, Fresh had slit his wrist and poured blood into the beat. Matched with Juvenile’s observations on the subtleties of modern ghetto life, “Ha,” was an all-out assault on the rap industry as a whole.
Having validated his street credentials on the blistering “Ha,” Juve proved he could get females, young and old, to shake their booty on the dance floor with “Back That Thang Up.” The infectious club single skyrocketed to the top of the charts and helped 400 Degreez sell nearly five million records domestically. The album’s success helped set the stage for the “bling bling” era and thrust Juvenile into the ranks of hip-hop’s elite. By the release of Juvenile’s highly anticipated follow-up, G Code in 1999, the Cash Money Millonaires were superstars in the game. Juve’s lead role in the platinum straight-to-video release Baller Blockin’ had significantly increased his celebrity stock and the first single, “U Understand,” cemented his reputation as a hit maker. While somewhat formulaic in concept, G Code still thrived commercially; selling nearly 300,000 copies in its first week. However, besides the first single, the album lacked originality, and only managed to do about a fourth of the total sales generated by its predecessor. “Take me to jail, take my muthafuckin’ ass to jail!” Behind the scenes, the trappings of fame and fortune were beginning to sow seeds of discord between Juvenile and Cash Money Records ownership. The growing tension came to a head in 2001 when Juve publicly severed ties with the label. Citing financial disputes and creative differences, the rapper announced the formation of his UTP Records label with the backing of Universal. Although it featured the banger “Set It Off,” Juvenile’s third and “final” album for Cash Money, the gold-certified Project English, suffered from the CMR formula of matching one blistering Mannie Fresh track with fifteen other joints only fit for a demo. Juvenile found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the new millennium. In July of 2000, the rapper was found guilty of several misdemeanors after chasing five strippers down the street with an ice pick (they reportedly let a tub overflow upstairs during his housewarming party). He was later arrested in March of 2001
for allegedly striking a man in the head with a bottle of Moet at the Improv Comedy Club in Miami. To make matters worse, UTP’s deal with Universal Records never really materialized, so a mature Juvenile found himself going back to his old Cash Money home in 2003. “Y’all can’t do nuthin’ but love Fresh, ha?” The reunion album, Juve the Great, was pure Louisiana voodoo featuring everything fans had originally loved about the crew. A reinvigorated Mannie Fresh delivered the usual in the disc’s explosive first single, “In My Life,” which also featured the maestro on vocals, while the Birdman himself joined Juve on the refreshingly positive breakup-to-makeup anthem “Bounce Back.” No one, however, could have imagined the public response to “Slow Motion,” featuring fallen No Limit artist Soulja Slim. The collabo shot to number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and became one of the biggest singles of 2004. The future got even brighter for Juvenile in 2004 after he entered into an exclusive longterm worldwide contract with Atlantic Records that included distribution for his UTP (Uptown Projects) imprint. His first artists, partners Wacko and Skip, scored a hit single with “Nolia Clap” on Rap-A-Lot Records, Juvenile’s first without Cash Money, and the public is once again eagerly anticipating something from that yella Nolia Boy in 2005. In December of last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing southern rap legend Willie D of the Geto Boys. Always the most outspoken member of the pioneering trio, I asked Willie when was the last time he heard something on a record that shocked or caused him to raise an eyebrow. “Juvenile say some crazy shit,” was his response. “But he say shit that I would say. Like on his new album with UTP he say, ‘Order a drink and sit yo black ass down.’ That’s some real shit. I love how he put regular conversation in the rap.” Apparently, everyone else does too. OZONE APR 2005
Ozone Mag #33 - Apr 2005