My wish list notwithstanding, the all-grown-up Juvenile is a pretty exciting and considering how fast the game changes, maybe even historic " figure in New Orleans rap. He's been on the scene as a performer and songwriter since New Orleans rap began establishing its own signature Southern sound. He penned lyrics for bounce pioneer DJ Jimi as far back as 1993, and recorded a classic song, 'Bounce For The Juvenile" with him even earlier. Juvenile is one of the few New Orleans rappers to achieve national success and recognition outside the borders of the Crescent City.
When the Cash Money label heads (brothers Ronald 'Slim" and Bryan 'Baby" Williams) put together the Hot Boys, Juvenile was already hardly that " the oldest of the four, he had a solid presence on the bounce scene. Lil Wayne was 15 at the time, but Juve was already in his twenties. In addition to his prolific writing for Jimi and his high profile on the scene as a performer, he had two solo albums, Being Myself and Solja Rags, the latter a major underground hit put out by Cash Money (with guest spots by all the future Hot Boys " B.G., Wayne and Young Turk). In 1997, the Hot Boys formed and put out Get It How U Live, which predated Cash Money's distribution deal with Universal Music Group but still managed to sell almost half a million copies throughout the mid-South. The following year, Juvenile dropped another hot solo project, 400 Degreez (which Wayne would later spoof by titling his own third solo album 500 Degreez), and after another Hot Boys release the same year, the group pretty much dissolved.
Juvenile left Cash Money for a time to form his own UTP collective that released his work as part of the trio Uptown Playas, who had a hit with 'Nolia Clap" (later re-imagined as 'Katrina Clap" by Mos Def). In 2003, he won a famous lawsuit against New Orleans bounce legend DJ Jubilee, who accused Juvenile of lifting his 400 Degreez hit 'Back That Azz Up" from Jubilee's strikingly similar 'Back That Ass Up." In 2006, Juvenile released his Atlantic Records debut, the mature and polished Reality Check, which, among other things, contained biting commentary on Katrina from the under-vocalized point of view of New Orleans' low-income, African-American community. The track 'Get Ya Hustle On" called out both sides of the debacle, from people buying drugs with their FEMA checks to the inept federal government that 'couldn't get a n***a off a roof."
Word has it that Juve the Great is currently getting set to drop Hard Labor, his first studio album since Reality Check, featuring appearances from Young Jeezy, T-Pain, Akon and his old UTP compadres Skip and Wacko. Most exciting for old-school fans, of course, is a track leaked about two months ago, titled 'If I Ain't A Hot Boy," featuring verses from B.G., Juvenile and Lil Wayne and, allegedly, production from Cash Money studio luminary Mannie Fresh. In a report on MTV's Mixtape Monday last year, Wayne suggested that once Turk was released from prison, the four would start work on a new album. The lyrics on the new track, certainly, quash any lingering rumor of a beef between the former crew, and serve as more hard(-ish) evidence in favor of that Hot Boys reunion. In any case, expect to hear new tracks from Juve Friday night and maybe " just maybe " some old New Orleans friends turning up on the mic to say hi.
Readers can reach Alison Fensterstock at email@example.com