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JUVENILE: Reality Check (Review)

 

That ‘Nolia boy is back – and this time on his own.  Not a stranger to unforeseen circumstances, Juve returns in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Having lost his home and seen close to 200 friends and relatives displaced, can Juve’s seventh album, Reality Check live up to its straight-talking title?

 

Juve quickly sets the pace of Reality Check with the first track ““Get Ya Hustle On.” Despite losing it all in Katrina, Juve keeps it gully: “F*ck Fox news/ I don’t listen to y’all a**/ Couldn’t get a n*gga off the roof when the storm passed.”  Following suit, the New Orleans native filmed the video to the song in his hometown giving a face to what most listeners only know as a natural disaster.  Juve does something for the ladies on “Rodeo” which samples R. Kelly’s “Bump N Grind (Remix)” and “I Know You Know” featuring label-mate and crooner Trey Songz.  “Way I Be Leanin’” featuring Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Skip and Wacko finds Juve joining the ranks of chopped and screwed tracks sampling Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.”  Other standouts include “Around the Way” which will give die hard fans the Hot Boy sound they’re used to and “Loose Booty,” the distant cousin to “Back That Azz Up” featuring Eightball & Skip.  Still the braggadocios “Animal” produced by Mannie Fresh brings Juve to his best:  “Nope, I ain’t rockin’ with those boys I was with/ But I’m still blinging and showing off my toys in this b*tch.” Finally, while not necessarily the most eloquent lyricist, Juve will keep fans’ attention on “Say It To Me Now” – a track that addresses not only haters, but dare I say Lil Weezy.  Alluding to the allegations of Baby slighting his artists of their rightful money, Juve raps:  “You know he owe you money and you scared of him ain’t you.”

 

Despite debuting at number one, Reality Check is not without missteps.  “Pop U” simply drags to the point of boredom.  While guest appearances from Ludacris and Fat Joe add some excitement, they appear too late on the track to resuscitate any life.  Meanwhile, tracks like “Holla Back” and “Keep Talkin’” simply serve as filler and make an already excessive 19-track CD too long. 

 

Overall, the Reality Check is solid.  While he’s not the most lyrical emcee to touch the mic, no one can accuse Juve of being single-minded.  The tracks jump from breaking down bricks to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to loose booties.   Die hard fans will still get a taste of that New Orleans sound that he and his former comrades are known for, but Reality Check steps it up a notch with help from a plethora of distinct places – Brian McKnight, Fat Joe, Ludacris.  I’m not convinced that the content justifies the title, but it’s still feel good music nonetheless. 



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