On the cusp of the Fourth of July weekend, which is likely to have many young Americans panicking again about college debt and other ills, let Juvenile cheer you up instead.
The 48-year-old New Orleans rapper — a favorite with older millennials for tracks like “Slow Motion” and “Back That Azz Up” — has hit the set of the summer with his Tiny Desk concert. Alongside legendary Cash Money producer Mannie Fresh, he enlisted an amazing live band and horn section for a 10-song set to remind fans of Southern rap’s deep jazz, R&B and soul roots.
Although numerous big stars have gone through tiny desk studios (Usher spawned et al). meme ecosystem Juvenile’s appearance on the NPR show was largely due to fan demand. Perhaps they enjoyed the excitement of seeing one of the grittiest rappers of the Y2K era in such a plush format. The rapper was initially skeptical in April – “Wtf is a tiny desk 😂 and no 😂😂,” he wrote on Twitter – before giving in: “Ok ok 😂😂 10,000 retweets in all and I’ll reconsider doing @NPR Tiny Desk while drinking an ice cold #JuvieJuice.”
Juvenile and Mannie Fresh have delivered too much – together they’ve completely re-read their catalogue, digging out the steaming old-soul roots of their collaboration. For “Project B-,” the Cash Money Millionaires’ supergroup track, they brought out Grammy winners Jon Batiste and Trombone Shorty; A string section from the Louisiana Philharmonic joined on “Back That Azz Up,” while guest vocalists The Amours brought royal harmonies to “Rodeo.”
Rap fans in the crowd — NPR staffers and, we suspect, some cash-money artists who knew every word — adored the Hot’s “Bling Bling,” “400 Degreez,” and “I Need a Hot Girl.” Boys while a young man was in Juvenile in his music video.
Youthful, with a mouth full of jewelry and a camouflage bandana, and a jubilant Mannie Fresh, he took the opportunity to show off the complexity and history behind these floor-filling party tracks. (See the lyrics below, but be aware that the lyrics are often not safe for work.)
America has a lot to worry about right now, but this is a set we can be absolutely proud of today.