New Orleans veteran rapper Juvenile is, (as the title of his recently-released ninth studio album notes), officially in Beast Mode. Just seven months since the release of his last effort, Cocky & Confident, the most successful artist in Cash Money Records history is already unleashing his second independent project released via Juve’s own UTP Records (in conjunction with E1 Music), the aforementioned Beast Mode.
On July 22nd Juvenile spoke to HipHopDX about his largely club-driven disc. The onetime resident of the now demolished Magnolia Projects also spoke about Jay Electronica’s Nolia roots, the unintended similarities between the album covers for Beast Mode and Drake’s Thank Me Later, how he actually gave one of onetime rival label No Limit Records’ star artists their big break in the game, and why the now nearly three-year-delayed Hot Boys reunion that Juve declared to DX last fall “will happen” now appears to be in limbo.
HipHopDX: First off, why’d you decide to release another album less than [eight] months since your last album?
Juvenile: Just that man, I was away for three years [after Reality Check in 2006] before I released that album, [Cocky & Confident]. So you gotta look at it like I’m just trying to make up for time that I missed. I got a lot of material sitting around, and it feel like it makes no sense to be – it’s not fair to the fans for me to just be sitting back and sitting on material, so I’m just letting it all go.
DX: So these were songs you already had in the can before Cocky & Confident?
Juvenile: Nah, not really…I just keep on making records, like from the time I put out the last album I recorded another album and I ain’t wanna sit on it.
DX: How is Beast Mode different from Cocky & Confident?
Juvenile: Cocky & Confident was more of a braggin’ album; Beast Mode is more of a street album. It’s straight street, man. It’s really me going back to my roots. It’s an attitude thing.
DX: I saw here in the credits that Juvy Jr. is making his debut on here?
Juvenile: Well nah, [he] was on Cocky & Confident [credited as Young Juve on “It’s All Hood”]. This is his second swing.
DX: Are you like training him into the game…?
Juvenile: You know what? I didn’t teach him anything, man. Truthfully, I guess I was the last person to know he rapped. He was keeping it from me. And one day he just came in here and kicked it and I was like, “Hey man, you been rappin’, you sound like you been rappin’.” [Laughs] It was something that he’d been doing on his own.
DX: How old is he now?
Juvenile: He 18 now.
DX: You gonna try to put out like a whole [Juve Jr.] project?
Juvenile: Of course…when he’s ready though. We not rushing anything…
DX: I know you’ve spoken on this matter previously, but just one final time, were you in any way inspired by the cover for Drake’s Thank Me Later when you came up with your cover art for Beast Mode?
Juvenile: That’s a question the label gotta answer, to be honest. Us as artists, we really don’t have no insight on that part, man. I took a picture…[and] they took the picture and made it into that. I hadn’t seen – And you know what? If I woulda saw Drake [Thank Me Later] album cover before [Beast Mode was sent to manufacturing] and actually had control of it, I woulda stopped it. But it was out of my control, man. I couldn’t do nothing about it. That ain’t even my thing, I wouldn’t try to take nothing away from a younger cat. ‘Cause at the end of the day we all trying to eat. So I don’t wanna do anything to blemish his career - [or] make it look bad on me too… So I’m not really feeling the album cover thing myself.
DX: And not to stay stuck on Drake, but I just gotta ask if you think his success will put the planned Hot Boys reunion album on the backburner once [Lil] Wayne gets home in a few months?
Juvenile: Uh…I don’t know, I don’t think we really had any big plans on doing a Hot Boys album before he signed Drake. The thing is, that’s what the fans want. And we would love to do it, [but] we just don’t have no control over that.
DX: Are you and Baby still in communication about the Hot Boys reunion?
Juvenile: All of us cool. Yeah, everybody cool. We just was at the [VH1 Hip Hop Honors]. That was our last TV thing together… So, it ain’t no beef with none of us.
DX: But just for the fans sake, so they got an idea of what’s going on, what is Baby telling you – or what’s the timetable looking like [for a reunion album to be released]?
Juvenile: Well it ain’t have nothing to do with Baby – Nothing, we ain’t talking about nothing. We don’t – It’s not like we be on the phone every day or something like that. We don’t talk. I’m in my own world, and he [in his own world].
DX: I just don’t wanna report it as like [the reunion] ain’t happening or things [have] slowed down [if that’s not true].
Juvenile: I can’t say nothing, all I can say is I received a check a couple years ago, and I ain’t hear nothing else on that. So it is what it is.
DX: Do you know if there’s an issue with Mannie [Fresh]? ‘Cause I know he recently told AllHipHop.com that basically Baby’s gotta cut him a check first.
Juvenile: I mean, Mannie don’t make the Hot Boys, Mannie [Fresh] ain’t a member of the group. So, that ain’t the situation [that’s holding up the reunion], ‘cause Mannie ain’t part of the group. The group is four rappers, that’s the group.
DX: Would you guys do a project without Mannie? I mean, would you be comfortable doing that?
Juvenile: I mean, man, me and Mannie on the same page with everything, so I ain’t trying to make no friction between my dog. Would I be comfortable? Nah. [Because] me and Mannie still doing things together. I don’t want you to take nothing the wrong way, but it’s like, okay, at the end of the day Mannie ain’t in the group but I’d be an asshole to sit here and say that I wouldn’t wanna do the album [with him]. Would I do the album without him? Nah. I’d love to do the album with him.
DX: [Have] you got a chance to communicate with Wayne about any of this since he got locked up?
DX: And speaking of legal situations, any update on Turk’s - if his situation has improved at all?
Juvenile: Nah, but the [Beast Mode] album is in stores, man. I don’t like talking about too much of that. This sound like the ol’ regular interview, like an interview I did last year.
DX: Well I just know…it’s a lot of people excited about obviously the Hot Boys reunion and if it’s -
Juvenile: I know, but that shit been two years now.
DX: Yeah I just know that’s why people are antsy…
Juvenile: I don’t spend my day thinking about that.
DX: Well let’s move on then, what’s your next project on deck after Beast Mode; you got the next thing lined up?
Juvenile: Nah, right now it’s just Beast Mode. You know, it would be disrespectful to anyone to even say something like that. So I ain’t even ‘bout to go there. But of course I have another project [in-the-works].
DX: I just meant ‘cause…the way I understand it like, you got the label situation going through E1, so I thought maybe you got – not something you’re working on [solo-wise] -
Juvenile: Oh nah, it’s not a label situation.
DX: Oh okay, you’re not running UTP through [E1], like other artists…?
Juvenile: Nah, I’m not running my label through nobody. I do like Jay-Z and P. Diddy: I’ll do a deal with [one label] today, and I’ll do a deal with [another label] next week.
DX: Are there any other artists you’re working with though, anybody else that you’re trying to…?
Juvenile: Yeah, I got a couple of artists. I got a girl that does Pop. And I got a little Rap group, man. Still working on ‘em though. I don’t rush into nothing. But I got me another little Rap group and I think they gon’ make a lot of noise. Right now on the high school level they got a large fan base, and on the street level they got a large fan-base.
DX: Can we put their name out there?
Juvenile: Nah, I don’t do that, I don’t shoot the names [out to the public] until we get all the business and everything done… The truth is, man, I plan on dropping an album maybe two to three times a year. With a few mixtapes [around those releases].
DX: E1’s comfortable with that [Laughs]? They wit’chu on that?
Juvenile: I’m not signed to E1 as an artist like that. I just had – this is a one-album thing [for Beast Mode]. See what I’m saying? That’s what I keep explaining to you, I’m not signed to nobody.
DX: I just had this written down, I don’t know if y’all have ever worked together but I was just curious if any collaboration with the recently-released Mystikal could ever happen?
Juvenile: Yes, of course… I did a song on his [upcoming] album, matter fact. And he just did a song with me on my…one of my projects. [Laughs] I’ve been getting features from a lot of cats lately for my next project after this project… I can’t think of the name of [the song that we did for Mystikal’s album] ‘cause me and dude did like two, three songs together. Just me and him [together on the songs]. Matter fact, I did the beat to the one that’s on his album. I did the drums, and my dude did the music.
DX: I don’t know both of y’alls whole catalogs, but did y’all ever work together way back in the day, or is this the first time…?
Juvenile: Well you know man, me and Mystikal kinda like started from the same area, and the same era. We both knew each other. Dude came in the projects looking for me, ‘cause at the time when he was trying to get on I was already on. [And so then] I kinda like bragged [about] him so much to my homie Precise that he wind up giving him a record deal [with Big Boy Records]. So that’s how Mystikal started off.
DX: Oh okay, wow, I didn’t know that… And I just wanna end this Q&A with a loose question I had written down, and that’s what are your thoughts on somebody like Jay Electronica and his critical acclaim – having someone from the N.O., someone who lived in Magnolia [Projects] I think at one point –
Juvenile: I don’t know him, but he younger than me. I don’t know little dude. I don’t know Jay Electronica. I ain’t mad at him either. I’m not a hater. I don’t know him though. And it’s a good chance he coulda lived in the Magnolia. Magnolia ain’t a small place. And if he was younger than me it’s a good chance he coulda lived in there. But, I don’t know him. And I did know a lot of the kids and everything. Like, I knew a lot of kids. I knew like – If he was in the Magnolia…he wasn’t in the Magnolia rappin’, I can guarantee you that. If he was, he didn’t go by that name, and we didn’t know him.
DX: I was just curious if you’ve heard some of his music, the more like cerebral lyricism, [and] like what you think of that representing for New Orleans – you know, something that’s not rooted in the traditional Bounce music sound…?
Juvenile: I like it. I’m not mad – you gotta listen to me. I’m a older cat, so when I hear somebody, anybody, come from where I’m from representing – And he ain’t have to say Magnolia, or say he was from the Magnolia, I was still gon’ represent him ‘cause he’s from my hometown. We got southern hospitality, man. I try to spread that and teach that to a lot of people, but it’s hard to come by. Down here, man, we don’t hate on the next man, we congratulate. And we actually do it. We congratulate a person to the point to where we willing to do business wit’ ‘em. And…I’m not building my business or anything I do, or my reputation, off hating on people, or trying to say something to knock the next man. That ain’t my thing.
DX: Nah, I don’t want you to say nothing to knock [him], I was just curious if like you were feeling [his music].
Juvenile: I like him though, straight up. I like him like I like Weezy. I’m listening to the world say what I said ten years ago about [Lil] Wayne. I hear people say “Well Wayne the greatest rapper.” I’m like, “Muthafucka, 10 years ago we was warning y’all of that…” ‘Cause we knew… You know he a kid [at the time] and you like, “Damn, when he grow up, goddamn! It’s gonna be ridiculous.”