Juvenile: Life After The Storm

On his last album, Juvenile took a detour.2006’s Reality Check was an extremely politically-minded album and “a learning experience,” but the New Orleans rapper said he’ll be taking an alternate direction with his latest offering Cocky & Confident.”I just want to make happy music; I don’t want to make sad music anymore,” he says before […]

On his last album, Juvenile took a detour.2006’s Reality Check was an extremely politically-minded album and “a learning

experience,” but the New Orleans rapper said he’ll be taking an alternate direction with

his latest offering Cocky & Confident.”I just want to make happy music; I

don’t want to make sad music anymore,” he says before continuing, “I’m

not going through the things that I was going through when I did Reality Check.” Aware that his fans are looking forward

to hearing something new and fresh,  Juvenile explains that this album

would be a much more up-beat and optimistic project and “something

that can pick you up.” He describes it as the “perfect album for

right now” due to the slower paced offerings from most Hip-Hop artists

in the industry today. He acknowledges that the genre is in need of

a renaissance, joking “you got to reinvent yourself,” especially

as an artist “from maybe 10 or 11 years ago.”

Just a few years, ago the rapper’s life was much darker than the happy music he seeks to craft now.On August 29th 2005 Hurricane

Katrina shook New Orleans to its very core, leaving only a trail of

death and destruction. Over 1,800 people tragically lost their lives

during or after the storm and thousands more were displaced from their

homes. Discontent with the government’s response was widespread and

many were left feeling as if the administration had failed them completely.

At times it seemed as if it was only the representatives of the Hip-Hop

community that were willing to stand up and provide a voice for the

victims of Katrina. Juvenile, a former Cash Money Millionaire, was one of the artists in question and, who even decided to

film the satirical video for his post-Katrina political critique

Get Ya Hustle On

in the hurricane-torn Ninth Ward.

He lost both his houses and all of his possessions during the floods,

Juvenile’s last album expressed the pain felt by his whole community

following the disaster. “When I did Reality Check, it was at

a point in my life where I was kind of mourning Katrina, being that

I am from New Orleans,” he recalls emotionally. “We went through

so much down there in our city.” He explained that the whole experience

left a dark shadow over his life and his work but that the project provided

exactly what he promised on the cover, “a reality check not only for

[him] but for everybody else in [his] city.” Although he is quick

to point out that, like the people of New Orleans, he is hoping to move

forward, stating “I’m not saying that my album was a mistake and

it didn’t do good, I just don’t want to mourn anymore.” Part of Juve’s healing is getting in tune with what’s going on in the “hear” and now.Keeping his ear to the

streets for fresh new sounds, he realised that in order to do that he

would have to rely on the assistance of young talent. “I got producers

from New Orleans that are real young, like maybe the oldest one is 25,”

he explains. “they got this new sound that I like so much and it’s

working in New Orleans so hard that I want the rest of the world to

hear it. I think that’s part of keeping me fresh,” he jokes.

Unlike many experienced rappers he

is not looking to blame younger artists for the decline in Hip-Hop,

rather his own peers, stating “I do not have a problem with the young

cats or the new cats making dance music, but I do have a problem with

the older cats for criticizing them because when we came through we

didn’t have people on our back like that.” In fact he has rather

a lot of respect for people like Soulja Boy, who he feels merely “filled

a void” in the industry. “I look at Soulja Boy as somebody who put

his work in, he found him a new niche with the internet, he found ways

to make money off it and I’m not mad at him.” After all, “at the

end of the day we’re all trying to make a dollar. I’m not

trying to be the God of Hip-Hop and make the rules or judge the next

man on what he said on his record or how he goes about doing Hip-Hop,

he says passionately. ‘It ain’t right man, Hip-Hop is for us. This

was really in the beginning our way to express ourselves. It was our

own music.”

“Ten years ago I remember going

to MTV and BET and telling them Lil’ Wayne was the future and everybody

looked at me like I was crazy.”-Juvenile

He feels that perhaps more of his peers

should understand that the genre is constantly evolving and “changing

every day right in front of us’ and that “maybe next month the sound

you’re hearing on the radio won’t even exist anymore.” He also

explains that Hip-Hop is only really what we make of it, stating “everybody

doesn’t get the same message out of the same song.’ He says bluntly, “We can only speak from our point of view. It’s on you to sit through

it and make out of it what you want to,” suggesting that perhaps the

younger artists of today actually maintain more relevancy despite their

apparent lack of substance. Even today’s Hip-Hop stars faced similar

doubts in past, as he fondly recalls, “Ten years ago I remember going

to MTV and BET and telling them [Lil] Wayne was the future and everybody

looked at me like I was crazy.” In typical Juvenile style, he then

jokes, “Hey to everybody out there, I told you so.’

When asked about his current relationship

with his former Cash Money family, he simply responds, ‘I talk to

Baby now and everything is ok. Everything is going really well.’ 

He then reveals, ‘We plan on doing a Hot Boys album next year some

time and if we don’t do it I can definitely guarantee you that we’re

definitely going to be making a lot of songs together.’ Hot Boys fans

should also be able to look forward to ‘features from Baby and Wayne’

on the remix of We Be Getting Money, from his forthcoming release.

Juvenile is glad to keep his music grounded fully in the South, which

he feels ‘pretty much runs the music industry’ right now. ‘We’re

the third coast, we listen to everybody and we supported New York, we

supported Chicago, we supported LA and we still do too, it never stops

and it’s like it’s our turn right now,’ he explains proudly. ‘Up

until the nineties came nobody knew anything about the South to be honest.

So it’s like we waited all those years to get these few years.’

Despite a clear musical progression

in his home city in recent years, Juvenile remains somewhat less optimistic

when it comes to the social and financial issues faced by New Orleans. “A lot of people’s hopes are down because right after Katrina we

went into this big recession.” He stresses heatedly, “We’re waiting

on money from the government, we were promised a whole lot of things

that never happened and then all of a sudden it’s a recession.” He explains how the global financial situation has lead to the problems

that are still rife in New Orleans to have been merely “brushed under

the rug.” There is a widespread sense of hopelessness as “now it’s

like the whole country is going through what New Orleans was going through,’

so he feels the situation is unlikely to show signs of improvement anytime


Clearly still unable to shake his disappointment 

with the administration, he states “New Orleans is in the same state

as when the hurricane hit; the only difference is that they didn’t

rebuild some of the neighborhoods. It’s like moving everybody

away and just letting certain people back and funding the people who

you moved away to not come back, that’s kind of what it looks like,”

he highlights bluntly. “It looks like they wanted a certain kind of

people, a certain genre of people out of the city and I guess that was

their way of doing it.” Sadly it looks as though he may be right,

as according to a recent Bloomberg report nine neighbourhoods in New

Orleans still have “less than half of the active residential addresses”

that existed before Katrina hit in August 2005. Despite the promises

made by President Obama of his commitment to “making sure that a disaster

like Katrina does not happen again,” during a speech in the city’s

Lower Ninth Ward this month, Juvenile clearly feels that the damage

has already been done. He simply says pessimistically, “I don’t

think New Orleans will ever be back to the state it was in.”

Still, on a lighter note, he is also

keen to point out that while there is music, there is hope, as “it

calms the soul.” “Music has always been like a soul mate for us,

he says insightfully. “Sometimes you listen to the radio and you hear

your favorite artist and they make songs that relate to your life and

something that you’re going through.” Having used his last project

as a vehicle for truth during the aftermath of Katrina, Juvenile understands

fully the cathartic effect that music can have on people, although he

adds that it can also help lift spirits in times of need. “They listen

to the music and sometimes they get a direction or maybe they find out

that maybe it could be a whole lot worse, he explains. “Your life

could be going a whole lot worse and you’ve got a lot of things to

be happy about; these are the things we get out of music.” Finally

he adds, “We all get something out of music, before posing the inevitable

question, ‘without music where would we be?”

Juvenile’s latest album Cocky

& Confident is due to hit stores on November 17th

2009, although his singles Gotta Get It and the Pleasure P-assisted “Hands On You” are currently available for purchase. You can also

follow Juvenile on Twitter via twitter.com/juviethegreat