When Reality Check dropped in 2006, Juvenile had been exiled from Cash Money Records and many assumed Juve would have a point to prove. Instead, he went the strip club route with a large collection of generic bangers. Tellingly, it didn’t result in any huge singles outside of his region. As Juvenile unleashes his latest on the public, my main worry after seeing the album art was whether Juvenile was going to attempt to grow as an artist or if his budget would even allow him to. Cocky & Confident opens with a title track that very obviously aspires to approximate Timbaland’s Shock Value style on a tight budget. This is a smart placement for this song because it prepares listeners for one of two albums: an awkward album in which Juvenile tries to do way more than he can, or a boring album in which the production can’t hold up Juvenile rapping about popping bottles and making money.
Thankfully, it’s the latter. I mean don’t get me wrong, Juvenile sounds way too much like Rick Ross on “Gotta Get It” and outside of “Feeling Right”, there is not a legitimately interesting song in this set. But I’m thankful because, despite a lot of generic music and Juvenile obviously trying to appeal to new fanbases in the wake of New Orleans’ changed guard, Juvenile himself is mostly the same person we met up with on Reality Check. So unabashed Juvenile fans will certainly enjoy what this album has to offer. Songs like “Back Back” and “Break It Down” do just enough to remind us what made Juvenile such a dominant force on the radio in the ‘90s and early part of this decade. But most of the time, after hearing 30 seconds of a given song it’s pretty easy to predict where the track’s going.
Thanks to the heavy amount of features from new school MCs like Dorrough, Shawty Lo and some relative unknowns as well as vocalists like Bobby Valentino and Pleasure P, not much of Cocky & Confident feels like a Juvenile album, either. He seems to bend his will to whichever artists are featured on the track or whichever producer he’s working with. Combined with the mixtape-quality production, as an old school Cash Money fan I find it incredibly hard to get into this album. In fact, by “My Money Don’t Fold” I’m usually ready to start skipping around and looking for favorites. Not really a good look from a guy that used to be one of the South’s most entertaining personalities. The contrast between him and B.G. on “Feeling Right” is almost saddening. And for old school fans, “Top of the Line” and it’s Mouse production could be the last straw towards hitting the Stop button (though Trill Fam fans will no doubt eat it up, and I’ll admit I’m a small fan).
This is an incredibly stale Juvenile, as obsessed with money and popping Louie tags off Louie bags as any other Atlanta rapper. It’s just a shame to hear Juvenile like this, really. Juvenile has some good lyrics on this album, but unfortunately the music he’s making to deliver those lyrics is just not entertaining in the least. Nothing here is truly offensive like other budget Southern productions thanks to Juvenile’s veteran presence, but make no mistake that Cocky & Confident is as dull as most albums from rappers approaching middle age while rapping as if they were still in their 20s, still living the life rap helped them escape. Juvenile surely misses a prime opportunity focus on larger issues here. His daughter was recently shot to death and there is a rather noticeable lack of gangsterism and violence on the album, but Juve seems unable or unwilling to confront serious topics at this point.
Perhaps the most damning thing I can say about a Juvenile album in 2009 is that the man no longer sounds authentic. He’s merely another voice in a Southern club rap scene that’s quite frankly way too overcrowded and could use some trimming. May as well start with transplant guys like Juvenile that sound like they have no business being there but to make money and stick to the formula that’s held the South down for the better half of this decade. It’s disappointing that Juvenile went this route, but considering his last album was his first Billboard #1 it’s not surprising he tries to emphasize its club leanings even more here. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to better music—it just lead to Autotune. Perhaps different production is all this LP would need for me to appreciate it, but I can only go off what I’ve got and this album is not up to par with Juvenile’s run from 1996 - 2003.