Throwback Thursday: Revisiting Juvenile’s 400 Degreez

We're back with this week's Throwback Thursday and Taji decided to touch on Juvenile's third studio album.

1998 was a monumental year in hip-hop due to all of the impressive projects that were released, some of which spawned many of the genre’s future stars. DMX, Lauryn Hill, Cam’ron and N.O.R.E. all dropped their debut albums and set the industry ablaze. Then there was the interesting case of Juvenile who dropped his third studio album, 400 Degreez which came across as a debut to the masses. Before Lil’ Wayne was Cash Money Records’ golden boy, there was Juvie the Great. You don’t know? The legend who washed Jay(-)Z on a track and had your aunt “backing that ass up.”

Juvenile’s first commercially successful single, “Ha” was the definition of a hood anthem before the term was tossed around so loosely. The unorthodox rhyme scheme of ending almost every line with “ha” and Juvie’s ability to float over the beat while still spilling the tales of living in New Orleans was something listeners have never experienced before. “Ha” was so unique that Hov hopped on the remix and attempted to emulate Juvenile’s flow in a failing manner.

As phenomenal as “Ha” is, 400 Degreez‘s second single is an undisputed monument in hip-hop’s remembrance park. Despite being released nearly twenty years ago, “Back That Azz Up” still lives at every function and receives more reaction than most of the newer releases. Following suit as the first single, Juvenile ends nearly every line with “yeah” over this Mannie Fresh-produced track and even lets the producer get a verse. The show-stealer, though, is the young Lil’ Wayne who would take the opportunity to popularize the term “drop it like it’s hot” in the song’s closing moments.

Prior to the release of 400 Degreez, New Orleans wasn’t necessarily a national household name in hip-hop aside from acts Master P and Mystikal, but Juvie changed that. Album cuts like “Gone Ride With Me” and “Welcome 2 tha Nolia” sees Juvenile play the perfect role of the Magnolia Projects tour guide, painting vivid pictures of his everyday sights for listeners to understand. Meanwhile, his bounce-inspired tracks like “Follow Me Now” introduced critics to the alternative-flavored style New Orleans housed. He also displayed his ability to flow with the best artists nationally with the album’s title track, “400 Degreez.” That track is among some of my favorite songs in the genre’s history due to how smooth Cash Money’s original golden boy sounded spitting bars that listeners weren’t used to hearing.

400 Degreez certainly isn’t the most substantial album with certain tracks occasionally blending while feeling like a rap “two-for-one special.” That said, the album served a purpose I’m not even sure Juvenile set out to do. The success of 400 Degreez caused Cash Money Records to become one of the heavy-hitters in hip-hop, which in turn lead to major releases from the Hot Boys, the Big Tymers and their individual acts. Most of their releases would sell more than most artists could dream of, but every good thing must come to an end. Cash Money has since become the talk of the music industry due to a relatively big falling out between two men who shall remain unnamed, but 400 Degreez was the rise of an empire.

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