Review #470: 400 Degreez, Juvenile

Karla Clifton
3 min readNov 25, 2023

#470: 400 Degreez, Juvenile

Not to brag, but I could tell that Juvenile was from the South as soon as the album started. Outkast has taught me well. (Unrelated, but has anyone else listened to Andre 3000’s ambient flute album?!)

Anyway, Juvenile is a New Orleans’ native who got picked up by Cash Money records in 1997. He was added to their roster as a member of the Hot Boys, which also included B.G., Turk, and (!!) Lil Wayne. Juvenile went solo, but didn’t break through until this record, his third. But it broke through in a big way — the song “Ha,” in which every line is punctuated by a haughty Ha!, put Cash Money on the map. But don’t worry, Juvie brought his crew with him — the Hot Boys are all over this record, especially Weezy, who sounds weirdly unfroglike. Catch all of them on “Ha — Hot Boys Remix.” In fact, there are three versions of that song on the album alone, with the closer being “Ha — Jay-Z Remix.” (And as usual, Jay-Z’s featured verse is the most badass on the album.)

The Ha! repetition is emblematic of bounce music, a rap genre with origins in New Orleans. It relies on the “triggerman beat” and call-and-response, making audience participation practically necessary. See also the chorus of the masterpiece “Back That Azz Up,” which repeats its thesis more often than an undergrad’s English paper. Juvenile was a teenage bounce DJ in the New Orleans’ projects of Magnolia, and he shouts out his hometown a lot — see “Welcome 2 The Nolia” and “U.P.T.”

I love listening to violent rap from this era, in part because the album art is always just … just insane, like a fourth grade boy was tasked with making a badass picture in Microsoft Paint. (Fun fact, all the craziest hip-hop album covers from the early nineties to 2003 were made by Pen & Pixel. Here are some more insane album covers from them.) But oddly enough, Juvenile censors the most violent lines on this record, even on the explicit version of the album. For instance, “Gone Ride With Me” censors the word homicide. Yet it’s obvious what he’s talking about; he tells his enemies to “Run For It,” and later outlines some of the reasons for said systemic violence in “Ghetto Children.”

Something I’ve really come to appreciate about rap music is their unabashed pride in making money. It’s something that even the biggest rock groups shy away from, instead pretending that they’re still leading scrappy lives. They’re probably worried about being unrelatable. But when someone from the projects flaunts his hard-earned wealth, I think they have every right to brag. In fact, that’s part of the appeal. “Flossin’ Season” has him showing off a ring that Liberace would be jealous of, and “Follow Me Now” casts him as a leader of the people (over Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va,” no less). “Rich N****z” contrasts his current circumstances to his upbringing, and “400 Degreez” proves he worked hard to get it. “Off Top” is a more directed kind of bragging, with Juvie wooing a gal with his cash and, ahem, prowess.

This wouldn’t be a turn-of-the-century rap record without several skits. I’ve grown a little tired of rap skits, but I do appreciate how they lean into theatrics. “Intro” is standard, but “Cash Money Concert” and “After Cash Money Concert” both pretend to be soap opera excerpts, from a show called As The Magnolia Turns. They’re just long enough to make you smirk without overstaying their welcome.

Juvenile hasn’t gone anywhere; he did a Tiny Desk back in June of this year! But unfortunately for us, I think this is our final rap album. No more will we get to see those excellent Pen & Pixel album covers; Liberace probably won’t be name dropped again. I, for one, will miss them.

Least Favorite Song: I’m torn on “Juvenile On Fire,” because I really am sick of songs about beating women up. But there’s a masturbation joke in the first line that I find hilarious. We’ll call it a draw.

Review #469: Clandestino, Manu Chao

Review #471: Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane

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