[31 January 2005]
Hip-hop’s primary imperative has always been the art of moving butts. Up-in-the-clubbers of today preserve the hallowed tradition founded by block party people of old. Yes, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five composed a global message that you, and you, and you clapped hands raw to but only because that beat Cowboy and company rode was fire. You need more proof? Public Enemy thwarted anti-Martin Luther King, Jr. day Arizonians courtesy of Bomb Squad sonic madness, and everybody’s favorite jazz-sampling, Birkenstock-wearing, notty-headed, bohemian, now-defunct rap star’s poetics always served one chief aim: movement.
New Orleans’s Terius Gray picked up the rap torch on his 1998 major label debut, 400 Degreez, by moving more than 2 million units and countless asses. Juvenile, his chosen moniker (a nod to hip-hop’s youth driven culture and a hint at his shallow rhyme content), burst on the scene thanks to the inventive song “Ha” and remained there care of a nation’s itch to twitch. In what appeared to be a cost-cutting attempt to transform Cash Money records from an army to a navy of blinging millionaires, Juve nixed the message and evinced the music fucking up what had once been a happy home.
In honor of Juve’s seven years of success and in hopes of squeezing some more cash from the unhappy artist before he jumps ship, Cash Money has released The Greatest Hits, a collection of MTV frequent rotaters. Rifled from Juve’s four major label albums, 400 Degreez, Project English, The G Code, and Juve the Great, the compilation exemplifies the narrow spectrum of contemporary hip-hop, which is to say it is heart-pumping dance music and nothing more.
From the hip winding charge of the deceased Soulja Slim-featured “Slow Motion” to the soft Latin flavor of “Follow Me Now”, The Greatest Hits brings back hangover-obfuscated memories of club crawling past. Of his surprisingly extensive list of hits, his debut album’s singles, “Back That Azz Up” and “400 Degreez”, floating on Mannie Fresh’s trademark anti boom bap sound, shine brightest. Other notable tracks include “Mama Got Azz”, capable of inducing reluctant laughter from even the most ardent feminists, and “Bounce Back”, with its school yard sensibility. The sweaty ball [and] schtick present on “Back That Azz Up” (“I’m sweating in the draws yeah”)—a precursor to Lil’ Jon’s “Get Low” choral mandate (“til the sweat drips down my balls”)—demonstrates just how much influence the maturity-challenged rapper has exerted on contemporary chart-topping hip-hop and will continue to display on his upcoming solo album from Atlantic Records.