DAR Hip Hop: Juvenile's 400 Degreez

By @TrueGodImmortal

1. Intro
2. Ha 
3. Gone Ride With Me
4. Flossin Season 
5. Ghetto Children
6. Follow Me Now 
7. Cash Money Concert (Skit)
8. Welcome To The Nolia
9. U.P.T.
10. Run For It
11. Ha (Hot Boyz Remix)
12. Rich Niggaz
13. Back That Azz Up 
14. Off Top 
15. After Cash Money Concert (Skit)
16. 400 Degreez
17. Juvenile On Fire
18. Ha (Remix)

When I look back upon my fondest memories of hip hop, there are albums and moments that are near and dear to my heart. As an artist myself, one of the major influences in the beginning of my journey was Cash Money Records, as their music spoke to me at the time, with the harsh reality I lived around, along with the dreams that I had of better. In addition to influencing me in general, Cash Money was the main reason I started writing lyrics. I wanted to be a Cash Money millionaire and young True reflected that through some of the songs he wrote (man it was pretty bad). What spawned this influence? Well although I had heard Cash Money music through 1996 and 1997, the album that truly struck me was the November 1998 release of 400 Degreez by Juvenile. It was this album that asserted the dominance of CMR and solidified Juvenile as a true star. 

Long before Lil Wayne considered himself one of the best rappers, and before the foundation was split between Cash Money and Young Money, Juvenile was the man for CMR. He was the leading MC of Cash Money and at the time, aside from DMX, he was my favorite rapper. It was the southern drawl backed by the firepower of his lyrics that gave Juve his highest appeal. With the world at his feet and the crown ready to be rest on the Cash Money mantle, Juvenile created his biggest album and what I like to consider a true hip hop classic. While I don't think this is the best Juve album (Tha G Code deserves that distinction), it is certainly the most infamous and the highest selling, currently sitting at 6 million records sold, the highest selling album in the history of Cash Money Records. The Cash Money formula was growing in success, and this would be the project that perfected it. 

Starting off with a knocking drum roll and the sweet sounds of Mannie Fresh harmonizing the now iconic "BEAUTIFULLLLLLL" on the intro, before we go right into the landmark first single from Juve in "Ha". As silly as this song was back in 98 when it first dropped, it's now recognized as a classic. It's one of my least favorite songs on this album, yet it's one of the most catchy and hilarious songs here, as Juve weaves a truly infectious hook alongside almost spoken word slurred verses, which pose some of the funniest questions I've ever heard in a hip hop song. For example:

"That was that nerve ha/
You ain't even much get a chance to say a word, ha/
I know I ain't trippin', don't your brother got them birds, ha/
You ready to bust one of them niggaz head, ha/
You ain't scared, ha/
You know how to play it, ha/
I know you ain't just gonna let a nigga come and punk you, ha/
Stunt and front you, ha
Straight up run you, ha/
You know who got that fire green, ha/
You know how to use a triple beam, ha/
Shit ain't hard as it seems, ha/
You keep your body clean, ha/
You got a lot of girbaud jeans, ha/
Some of your partners dope fiends, ha/
You really don't want to fuck with them niggas, ha/
You come up with them niggas, ha/
You stuck with them niggas, ha/"

Imagine these questions asked in an actual conversation. The hilarity is not lost on me and I think what made Juvenile my favorite rapper at the time was his humor included in his music. Something about humor in the verses with solid lyrics as well just made his music even better. After the hilarity yet catchy sounds of "Ha", we go to a true street anthem on "Gone Ride With Me", which features one of my favorite hooks on this entire album. This hook delivered in the cadence Juvenile uses is truly infectious and inspires anyone to rap along to it:

"My nine is gonna die with me/
Pick up the supply with me/
Be up in the ride with me/
Do a homicide with me, who, me/"

With a banging Mannie Fresh production behind the hook and Juve serving up solid verses as well, this is yet another favorite song of mine for this album. The Big Tymers, B.G., and Lil Wayne assisted "Flossin Season" is another anthem, and some of the most quoted Cash Money lines was birthed on this track. While Juve comes with fire, and Baby has an interesting as always verse, Mannie Fresh is my favorite on the song, with his simple yet effective lyrics to shine and stunt with:

"Mr. Betty Crocker cake maker/
Casino breaker/
Tell Shaq I got a half a mill' ridin on the Lakers/
Pack my bitches up and move to the hills/
Thirty days a month - thirty Automobiles/
The Lexus or Benz that come out in the year two thousand/
I got one of them bitches parked around corner by the housing/"

After Fresh gives us a lesson in stunting and shining, Juve gives a more serious vibe on the dope "Ghetto Children", which is probably the most underrated song on this entire album. Juvenile has always excelled at reality rap and being brutally honest about the conditions he went through and observed through his life and times in the ghetto. As if he continued his story of the child of the ghetto, Juve continues with the salsa tinged "Follow Me Now", one of the final singles from the album. While this isn't one of my favorite songs here, Juve once again coasts on this song and is at home on the salsa inspired Mannie Fresh beat. This might be one of the strongest showings from Juve lyrically on the album and after a short skit, we get a street anthem yet again on "Welcome 2 the Nolia". 

The familiar Mannie sounds welcome us to this track, and Juve kicks off the rhymes, leading into a dope hook and a strong showing from Turk as he goes line for line with Juve on this song and doesn't get overshadowed at all. However, on "U.P.T.", which is essentially a Cash Money posse track, Juve outshines all the others here, though it feels like it was intended to work that way. Juve comes with a solid verse that truly takes the attention off B.G., Baby, Fresh, Turk, and Wayne while showcasing why he was the best MC in Cash Money at the time. If anything, 400 Degreez provided us with some of the best street anthems in Juve's career, and "U.P.T" is exactly that. It's a traditional Cash Money street anthem and Fresh provided the best backdrop for the ride out. 

Juve drops some of his best rhymes on the next song, which became an iconic quote for Cash Money on "Run For It", as Juve and Wayne go back and forth with the standard CMR tough talk, but the vividness in the lyrics from Juve is what brings it up a notch. As one of the underrated southern rap storytellers, Juve constructs a verse like a conversation, as he breaks down every point and detail in his lyricism. He does it to perfection here, and the "Run For It" phrase continues on the remix of "Ha" with the Hot Boy$. This is the only "Ha" remix that exists in my mind, and it's unnecessary on this album, but it's a dope track regardless. 

After this, we get to one of my favorite tracks on the album, "Rich Niggaz", as I feel like this is best song production wise. Mannie gives us a bouncy yet sinister beat, while Wayne kicks us off on a playful yet catchy verse, Mannie, Turk, and Juvenile stunt throughout the song, giving us yet another high class Cash Money anthem, but Paparue was truly unnecessary on this song. He doesn't fit at all, but what needs to be discussed here is the greatness that is the verse from Juve. What makes it so special? Just take a look at how he kills it below:

"Juvenile used to be R-T-A bound/
Now I be busting these bitches head when I come 'round/
Acting like a nigga that ain't never had shit/
Look into my bed saying that's a mad hit/
I'll damned if these diamonds and golds ain't shining/
My Rollie ain't winding/ 
And my bank ain't climbing/
You looking at a multi-millionaire in the flesh/
Might don't have it now, but I just got me a check/
I can walk it like I talk it, play it how I say it/
Teach it like I preach it, now, put that in your head/
Nigga, bet a thousand, shoot a thousand - ain't nuttin/
Smoke a pound, pop the Cristal and drink something/
Meet me in the casino, way in the back/
Losing money like a motherfucker, still shooting craps/
Tomorrow I'll be back, I got millionaire status/
We make so much money IRS be looking at us/"

If that's not stunting at its finest and Juve at his best, then I don't know what is. So, if you know the tracklist and have been following, you know what song comes next. The biggest song in Juve's career, and the reason why this album is sitting at 6 million records sold. That's right, "Back That Azz Up" is next and the anthem for all ladies who like to shake and twerk is everything you've known and then some. Simplistic rhythm and drums lead to Juve making his declarations to the lady of his choice with one of the most straightforward hooks I've ever heard in my life:

"Girl, you looks good, won't you back that azz up/
You's a fine motherfucker, won't you back that azz up/
Call me Big Daddy when you back that azz up
Hoe, who is you playin wit? Back that azz up/"

While you wouldn't expect this to be such a big hit, it's one of the most iconic songs in the history of hip hop and everything just seems to work here from Mannie Fresh's outlandish verse to the sounds of Lil Wayne instructing the women to "drop it like it's hot" after they've backed it up and stopped. I know that read funny somewhat, but when you think of how silly the lyrics are here, it puts things in perspective. Juve didn't seem to take that song too serious, but when you have fun making music, perhaps that's the song that gets the biggest for you. Regardless, "Back That Azz Up" is a true classic and the song that catapulted this album. 

Following that, we get the knocking "Off Top", which features the Big Tymers. This is one of the forgotten songs of the album, but it's still a dope listen, as Juve, Baby, and Fresh float over the booming production (well Juve and Fresh float at least). Juve keeps the momentum going to close the album out after a final skit with two of the best songs on the album. The title track is amazing with an orchestral 808 production by Mannie and Juve spitting some of his most famous lyrics on this track in the first and second verse. Here's the opening snippet of verse 1:

"Ya see me, I eat, sleep, shit and talk rap/
Ya seen that 98 Mercedes on TV, I bought that/
I had some felony charges, I fought that/
Been sent to no return, but still was brought back/
Nigga threw some slangs at me, whoadie I caught that/
I punished them lil bitches before they can car jack/
Now I'm lookin for they family and pile up the war bat/
If I ain't a hot boy then what do you call that/"

That opening line of "you see me, I eat, sleep, shit, and talk rap" is one of my all time favorite opening lines in hip hop. It's just effortlessly delivered by Juve and it sets the tone for the entire song. The 2nd verse is more of the same, but Juve employs his signature sing-song flow as the verse progresses, but the lyrics remain sinister:

"Bitch what, I'll bust yo ass up/
Don't even go there whoadie cuz I'm ready to mask up/
I heard about the money thats some nice change/
For the right price I'll bust the right brain/
Why must a nigga try, I can't do the right thing/
Only God knows what the future might bring/"

If the title track is the apex of Juve rapping on this album, then "Juvenile On Fire" is the apex of his comedic lyricism and "hard on them hoes" vibe that's displayed throughout the album. Juve kicks off the song with some of the funniest scenarios and lyrics on the album, making this one of my all time favorite Juve songs and a top 3 song on this album. It's Juve at his most reckless yet focused. For example:

"Let's say I'm in a room with a bitch, and the hoe don't wanna fuck/
Like a man I'ma beat my meat, and get my fuckin nut/
Fo'sho she gonna be drove then/
And I'ma cut the TV off, and got to sleep on that hoe then/
Now tell that to your girlfriend
You tell her everything else/
She goin to be with her boyfriend, you goin to be by your damn self/
While I'm in my benz with your friend, and she bout to get nervous/
Baby I don't want nothing, but some mouth and lip service/
Don't act bad/
Don't get mad/
That's all I can do with you, cause I don't want your ass/
Look you kinda fine/
But a nigga name on your spine/
Now respect my fuckin mind/
How I'ma hit that from behind/
Got a hoe cross the court/
And my lil boo stay the next door/
I'm getting tired of you heffas, 
It's time for me to restore/
I done fixed these bitches house up, and have them living swell/
But yet and still a nigga like me was eating a taco bell/"

If that's not Juve at his most hilarious and honest, I don't know what is. This concludes the album in my mind, as the Jay-Z remix version of "Ha" doesn't exist in my world. As a kid, when this album dropped, I was extremely excited just off name value alone. Juve and Jay? Two of my top three rappers? No way this couldn't be fire. Well, it wasn't. It's a rare bad spot on the album that truly felt unnecessary and probably was just added for Jay's name value alone. Universal was smart for including it, but this remix was pointless. Regardless, when we look back at Cash Money and their journey in music, there is nothing more vital than 400 Degreez. Before Tha Carter series was in existence, or before Drake and Nicki took over and became two of the biggest artists in the world, Juvenile stamped the Cash Money brand in hip hop with this classic album. Respect his mind. 



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