Our "Classic Rotation" series revisits classic albums on the anniversary of their release. Today we take a look at Juvenile's classic album, "400 Degreez", which dropped sixteen years ago on November 3, 1998.
Juvenile’s 400 Degreez was released in 1998, 16 years ago today. Solely produced by Mannie Fresh, it was Juvenile’s third studio album and first album released on a major label. 400 Degreez was the follow up to the NOLA artist’s previous 1997 release, Solja Rags. Certified 4x Platinum by the RIAA, this album is what solidified Cash Money Records as a force to be reckoned with and catapulted Juvenile on top as a mainstream contender.
Previous to the release of the highly reviewed album, Cash Money Records had acquired a great distribution deal with Universal Records. The label ran by Bryan “Birdman/Baby” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams signed a $30 million distribution and pressing contract with a $3 million advance. While a $3 million advance was gravy, the rights to royalties and publishing was even better. Cash Money was entitled to 85% of its royalties, 50% of its publishing revenues and full ownership of all masters. At the time, this was uncommon.
In fact, 1998 was a very interesting year for hip hop. It was two years after Tupac was murdered and a year after the death of Biggie Smalls. Hip-hop no longer physically had two of its most prolific emcees, leaving room for other artists to shine. Unlike any other year, Southern rappers dominated the charts just as much as artists from the East Coast did. Silkk The Shocker, Scarface, C-Murder, Fiend, Kane and Master P had all topped the Billboard charts alongside The Lox, Lauryn Hill, Capadonna, Gang Starr, Big Pun, Jay-Z, 2Pac and a few others. Specifically, No Limit Records, Cash Money’s direct competition tyrannized the charts.
No Limit had been known to offer a piece of the New Orleans’ sound, but Cash Money signified Louisiana hip hop and specifically infused its jazz and bounce origin, thanks to in-house producer Mannie Fresh. The intro on 400 Degreez was a specific example. You could hear Mannie Fresh narrate the introduction of “Juve” from “the Magnolia” over a consecutive jazz track. The album’s lead single, “Ha,” which has since sold over 2,300,000 copies, was a comical inquisitive song, where Juvenile ended all of his lines with “Ha?” Juvenile’s previous album’s title track, “Solja Rags” was sampled in the song. When released, it peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album included two remix versions of “Ha.” The first remix featured Juve’s fellow Hot Boys members B.G., Lil Wayne and Turk. The second one featured Brooklyn’s Jay-Z, who was the only artist outside of Cash Money Records to make an appearance on the album. D.O.P.E paid homage to Juvenile and “Ha” by sampling the track on their 2012 release, “Block Blazer,” which features T.I. Saigon sampled the track as well in 2009 on “Lady Sings the Blues."
The second single on the album was “Back That Azz Up” or the radio version, “Back That Thang Up,” which was a modern day tribute to the derriere that featured Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne. The track served as an unofficial twerk anthem before twerking became the phenomena it is today. In 1999, the popular song topped the U.S. Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart at number one. It peaked at number four on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and at number 15 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song was so hot the Weezy sampled it on his 1999 track, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and Drake reminded us of that when he did the same in 2011 on “Practice” from his Take Care album.
The third single was “Follow Me Now,” which sampled Tito Puente’s popular 1963 song “Oye Como Va.” Unfortunately, even with a sample of a popular song like Tito Puente’s “Follow Me Now” didn’t perform as well as Juvenile’s other singles did. Nevertheless, it was a brave choice for a rap artist. Just as it was also brave to sample Maxwell’s “Luxury: Cococure” on “Flossin’ Season” because the album that it came from, Embrya was just released the same year. Producers tend to sample classic or obscure old school records and not necessarily brand new ones, but Cash Money was actually known for sampling themselves and each other.
400 Degreez was filled with continued tales of Guerilla Warfare in the Magnolia Projects, flossin, shit talking and camaraderie amongst the entire Cash Money crew. Its success helped bring bounce music to the forefront on a national scale. It also helped introduce hip hop to New Orleans’s third ward. If you press play today, it’s not a far stretch from what’s currently being played on the radio. Perhaps, making the album ahead of its time. Today, 400 Degreez remains Juvenile’s best-selling album of his solo career and the best-selling album ever released on Cash Money Records, out-selling Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake. As of 2013, it sold over 5 million records. Being that Juvenile’s record holds this much weight with Cash Money, it makes sense that’s he has recently decided to return to the label that catapulted him to fame. During a recent interview with MTV News the rap veteran said that he plans on retiring with Cash Money Records. Will he ever be able to emulate the success of 400 Degreez? Feel free to discuss this, the album, and his return to Cash Money in the comment section.