One of the great things about music is when you can see an artist evolve. When Cash Money first broke through around 1999, it was hard to fathom back then that Juvenile would ever outgrow the white T-shirts, platinum teeth and twenty-inch rims. From songs such as "Back That Azz Up" and "She Get It From Her Momma," Juve seemed forever destined to be associated solely with the clichés of Southern rap.
But here we are in 2006. A disaster such as Hurricane Katrina can effect the hardest of G's, and that's what it's done to most rappers from the N.O., including Juvenile, whose house was completely destroyed last September. He's dedicated Reality Check to the victims of Katrina and came strong with a special message to the powers that be with his first single, "Get Ya Hustle On."
In a video that depicts President Bush and others in their "involvement" in the events in America's Gulf Coast, Juve rhymes, "Wodie, you really feelin' your folks/ It's them crackers behind them desks that ain't hearin us, though/ We starving, we livin' like Haiti without no government/ Niggas killin' niggas and them bitches is lovin' it."
Juve the Great isn't completely vying to become the twenty-first century Chuck D; the album also has songs such as the second single, "Rodeo," and "Loose Booty" and "Who's Ya Daddy?" But you'd need a "reality check" to think the album would be chock full of politically charged lyrics. What Juvenile does do is refreshingly discard his Cash Money persona, setting himself apart as the leader of the UTP collective and a solo artist no longer dependent on Baby and company.
He also comes with a steady plate of notable collaborations, including a hook-up with former associate and another Cash Money defector, Mannie Fresh, on "Animal," and with his Houston cohorts Mike Jones and Paul Wall on "Way I Be Leanin'." Fat Joe and Ludacris appear on "Pop U," and Brian McKnight makes an unexpected guest spot on "Addicted."
Reality Check could have been much more, and admittedly Juvenile did get my hopes up when releasing the video for "Get Ya Hustle On" that won't be appearing on Fox News anytime soon. But the album has a worthy balance of street tales, party songs and chill cuts to keep Juvenile amongst the top of the list for artists in the Dirty South. Most important, though, it shows a natural progression that I hope will continue in future albums, where we can continue to "drop it like it's hot" and also wonder why "everybody needs a check from FEMA."
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