Juvenile

Reality Check

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Since his last full-length, Juvenile's situation changed in so many ways. He topped Billboard with the single "Slow Motion," he had a not-so-friendly split with his label, Cash Money, and then Hurricane Katrina and its grim aftermath hit his New Orleans home hard, destroying his house and scattering friends and family across the country. There was also a three-single build-up to the album, with the raw mixtape hit "Animal" setting the streets on fire and the smooth "Rodeo" keeping radio happy before "Get Ya Hustle On" and its accompanying video painted the rapper as New Orleans' most militant revolutionary, with Bush, Cheney, and Nagin all in his sights. Folks who caught the edited version of the song missed out on Juvy's true assessment of the situation, which is basically that FEMA and the rest of the government have forgotten the Crescent City, so pushing crack is the way to step up and provide. Whether or not the powers that be edited the word "Pyrex" out of the tune because they felt it was product placement or were aware it was slang for a crack pipe, the track is a bleak party number that's irresponsible while also being a stunning breakaway hit that brings into question whether or not the big corporations pimping it are now comfortable with crack dealing or totally unaware of how street-slang/street-life has progressed. The rest of the album is nowhere near as subversive, but Juvenile has constructed a wonderfully varied collection with club tracks, street burners, and even "one for the ladies." "Addicted," with smooth crooner Brian McKnight, is the blueprint for delivering a bedroom number without selling out, while all the previous hits sound even better here, surrounded by album tracks that are inspired. Special mention goes to "I Know You Know," which is a great portrait of domestic life in the hood (Juvy speaking to his woman: "I'm comin' home with a big bag of groceries/And somethin' we can smoke up"), but longtime followers of the man's story should jump right to the end of the album and check his bitter beef track, "Say It to Me Now," which addresses the Cash Money split. Drop the laser anywhere and Juvenile's lyrics are tricky, wry, riveting, but most of all, brutally honest and free of any major-label influence. Love it or be horrified by it, there's no denying that the album's title is as accurate as they come.

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