Born Terius Gray in 1977 in New Orleans, LA. Addresses: Record company--Cash Money Records, P.O. Box 547, St Rose, LA 70087. Phone: (504) 465-5115. Website: http://www.cashmoney-records.com. Website--Juvenile Official Website: http://www.juvenileonline.com.
New Orleans-based rapper Juvenile stormed onto the national music scene with his wildly popular 1999 singles "Ha" and "Back That Azz Up," both from his 1998 album 400 Degreez. The singer is one of the Cash Money Millionaires, a group of rap artists on the Cash Money label noted for their flamboyance and playboy lifestyle. Juvenile and Cash Money introduced Southern rap, or bounce music, into a scene largely dominated by East- and West-coast rivalry. Juvenile's sixth solo album, Project English, was released in November of 2001.
Born Terius Gray in 1977 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Juvenile was raised in the Magnolia housing projects in the Uptown area of that city. His songs draw on his experiences there, incorporating Southern slang and referring often to life in Magnolia. The rapper has tattoos on his forearms, marking him forever as a "'Nolia boy." Juvenile started rapping when he was just ten years old, and in the early 1990s formed the local group 3Grand. When he was 16, this band released 3 Bad Brothers; his real success, though, would be based on his solo talents. Local record label Warlock released his first solo album, Being Myself, in 1995. The album sold locally and was part of the growing bounce music trend: heavy with steady, driving beats and Juvenile's persistent patter. Perhaps most importantly, the album caught the attention of local underground label Cash Money Recordings.
Ronald "Suga Slim" and Brian "Baby" Williams run Cash Money, and have dedicated the label to producing Southern rap with a flamboyant streak. The label paired Juvenile with producer Mannie Fresh, who is known for his wild funk production--reviewer Jason Birchmeier of All Music Guide calls his style "dense electro-funk"--and for bringing bounce music into the national scene. Juvenile's first release on Cash Money, 1996's Solja Rags, included appearances by other Cash Money acts such as Big Moe, Magnolia Shorty, Big Tymer$, and the Hot Boy$ (B.G., Lil Wayne, Young Turk, and Juvenile). The album sold 200,000 units across the Southern United States, but Juvenile had not yet arrived on the national scene. Solja Rags was followed by Juvenile and the Hot Boy$'s first full-length release, Get It How U Live!!
The success of Solja Rags in the South brought Juvenile and the label to the attention of music giant Universal. Cash Money signed a $30 million distribution deal with the label, and with Universal's backing Juvenile's next record, 400 Degreez, blasted onto the national charts in 1998. The album produced two wildly popular singles, "Ha" and "Back That Azz Up" (also released in a clean version as as "Back That Thang Up"). With bouncy, driving beats, the songs hit the top ten charts and received frequent radio play; Juvenile's highly suggestive video for the single was put into heavy rotation on MTV.
Juvenile's songs refer to his newfound wealth after a youth spent in the projects, and especially the sexual attention that accompanies such wealth and success. Although some critics predictably called "Back That Azz Up" misogynistic, Juvenile himself didn't seem bothered by the charges. He also seems to love his image as a Cash Money Millionaire: Juvenile wears pounds and pounds of gold jewelry, gambles and parties lavishly, and, when making his entrance in concert, bursts out of a giant Rolex.
400 Degreez captures the uniquely Southern bounce sound for which Juvenile is known, as well as his deep identification with New Orleans. Discussing the title of the album in a Soul Trainmagazine interview, he said, "It represents my hometown. It's hot. It be burning up there.... I'm hot as a firecracker." Certainly the album heated up Juvenile's career: the album got to number nine on the Billboard Top 100 chart and went platinum a staggering four times. With the record's popularity, Cash Money outsold the other top rap labels, Def Jam and Bad Boy, and became one of the biggest success stories of 1999. Billboard named the record Album of the Year for 1999 in the rap/hip-hop category, and Juvenile was praised, as a Listen.com reviewer noted, for his "peerless technical ability and mastery of various styles."
Juvenile and Cash Money rushed to capitalize on the success of 400 Degreez. In 1999 the Hot Boy$ released their sophomore album, Guerrilla Warfare, which quickly made it into the top ten, and Juvenile released his follow-up album Tha G Code, which sold more than two million copies and made it to number ten on the Billboard chart. In the same year Warlock released a remix of Being Myself and Cash Money rereleased Solja Rags. In 2000 Playaz of da Game followed Tha G Code; the album was mostly remixed and rerecorded material that had not previously made it onto an album. Although these releases sold fairly well, they did not produce the hits that 400 Degreez had, and they were generally dismissed by critics. Tha G Code received some praise for Fresh's production, but Juvenile's lyrics were called clichéd by some: they focus on his status as a Cash Money Millionaire and the related accoutrements. Playaz of Da Game, though, had few redeeming qualities; Birchmeier called it "incredibly amateur" and "an embarrassment."
In 2001, though, Juvenile returned to the charts with his album Project English.The record was certified gold in November, and it debuted at number two on Billboard's Top 100 Rap Albums chart. Juvenile returned to his New Orleans roots in the album, noting in comments included on the Cash Money Records website, "Every ghetto has it's [sic] own slang.... What I'm doing with this album is putting out slang out there so people can understand what we are trying to say.... Hip-hop is all about words said on top of some dope-a** music." The album produced more success for the rapper when two singles from the album, "Set It Off" and "From Ya Mama," reached the top ten at the end of 2001.
Juvenile also branched out in 2001 to establish his own record label, with his brother Corey Gray as CEO of the fledgling company. Called Uptown Project Records, the label's albums are distributed by Orpheus/EMI. Their first release was by rapper Skip; other musicians on the roster include Young Buck and Wack-O. Juvenile himself, though, remains signed to Cash Money.
Juvenile's particular brand of Southern bounce music, with its funky beats and signature flow, challenged the domination of the coasts in the rap scene of the late 1990s. His personal success and flamboyance helped establish Cash Money Records as a major force in the rap world and the Cash Money Millionaire as an urban icon. When asked by a Soul Train interviewer about where he is headed, Juvenile said simply, "I wanna be a legend. I'm not in it for a minute, I'm in it for life, you know."
by Christine Kelley
First solo album, Being Myself, released by Warlock Records, 1995; signed with Cash Money label, released Solja Rags, 1996; joined with B.G., Lil Wayne, and Young Turk as the Hot Boy$ to release Get It How U Live!!, 1997; released multiplatinum album 400 Degreez by Cash Money and Universal, 1998; released Project English, 2001.
Billboard magazine, Rap Album of the Year for 400 Degreez, 1999.
- Selected discography
- (With 3Grand)3 Bad Brothers , 1993.
- Being Myself , Warlock, 1995.
- Solja Rags , Cash Money, 1997; reissued, Uptown/Universal, 1999.
- (With the Hot Boy$) Get It How U Live!! , Cash Money, 1997.
- 400 Degreez , Uptown/Universal, 1998.
- (With the Hot Boy$) Guerrilla Warfare , Cash Money, 1999.
- Tha G Code , Cash Money, 1999.
- Playaz of Da Game , D-3, 2000.
- Project English , Uptown/Universal, 2001.
September 4, 2004: Juvenile married nurse Shadonna Jones in Metairie, Louisiana. Source: People, October 11, 2004, p. 110.
March 29, 2005: Juvenile's album with Beelow and Boosie, Beelow Presents: Louisiana's Sickest, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_1/index.jsp, April 1, 2005.
- Billboard, April 17, 1999; April 7, 2001; November 10, 2001, p. 30.
- Hartford Courant, March 2, 2000, p. 18.
- Houston Chronicle, August 22, 1999, p. 16.
- Jet, July 16, 2001, p. 35.
- Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2000, p. 4F.
- Newsweek, October 4, 1999, p. 71; February 28, 2000, p. 67.
- PR Newswire, November 1, 2001.
- "Interview with Juvenile," Soul Train, http://www.soultrain.com (December 20, 2001).
- "Juvenile," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 20, 2001).
- "Juvenile," Listen.com, http://www.listen.com (December 20, 2001).
- "Juvenile: Tha.Nolia.Boy," Cash Money Records, http://www.juvenileonline.com/frameset_home.htm (December 20, 2001).