A great thing happened this Saturday, that was until I realized it wasn’t all that great, at least not anymore. I hit up my local mom and pop to see if they’d gotten anything used worth purchasing and I was greeted by a new copy of the Juicy J album out a full 3 days before its street date. It was reasonably priced to boot, a mere $12.99, practically free compared to the $20 or more shady retailers charge when they purposefully try to sell albums before their store date. I quickly purchased the CD, popped it into my CD deck, rolled down my truck’s window and blasted it on the way home. Ten years ago I would have felt on top of the world, and not just because I was in high school at the time. Back then, listening to an album before release date Tuesday was considered a gift from the hip-hop gods. Having the actual CD in your hands made you a god yourself. You had the ability to give your opinion on the music, talk about the cover art, and generally feel good when you rode around blasting the latest hit song when everyone else had to rely on the radio when they wanted to hear it. I remember a friend used to brag his local store opened at midnight on Monday nights and allowed you to get the new CDs then. Even an 8 hour head start was considered brag worthy in those days. On Saturday, my feelings of elation slowly subsided. I realized that most of the songs were contained on one of the many mixtapes released weeks before the album and readily available at the same mom and pop. Furthermore, I realized that if anything I was LATE in peeping the new Juicy J. Surely the album had leaked days, if not weeks earlier. Bloggers and teenagers had probably already gotten their fill of J and moved on to the next new release to leak before its street date. It’s sad, even depressing to think about.
Juicy J’s CD is an apt title for this observation because it is just the type of album meant for these fringe benefits of being a rap fan. Three 6 Mafia was built on this type of fanaticism and exclusivity. While fans were busy chewing up the latest radio hits in the 1990s, Three 6 Mafia fans were eating up the group’s brand of dark and crunk music. It said something about your ear to the streets when you knew about “Tear Da Club Up” without the “’97” attached to it. Always best suited for a car with two 12s in the back, having a Three 6 Mafia CD early would have been the ultimate experience 10 years ago. What has changed in those 10 years? Certainly not Juicy J as “Hustle Till I Die” is chock full of the same crass, street material that Three 6 Mafia built their empire upon. Remove 2 skits and an outro and you’re left with 17 tracks of bass thumping production and unadulterated Juicy J. The lead single is “30 Inches” and is a sweet tribute to big rims. Flipping the same sample from Big Pun’s “I’m Not A Player,” Juicy J gives The O’Jays new life by giving emphasis to the bass and harmonies in the track. The rest of the CD eschews the soulful melodies and relies on the darker synths that Juicy J is known for. “North Memphis Like Me” is a horror film score that happens to feature rappers on it. “Violent” evokes the same dreariness and impending doom of Juicy J’s best work. “That’s What A Pimp Does” is one of the few songs that revives Juicy J’s recent soulful production with a funky, laid back groove pushing the track. Lyrically, Juicy J never has and never will be known for his content or metaphors. His best showing comes on the storytelling “Ghost Dope:”
“I knew a thug that had a pump straight out of south Memphis
But he had a drug habit, he couldn’t stop sniffing
I had my goons meet em, ready to buy about 20 bricks
During the summer time, ooh, I’m bout to make a lick
Just like always, man we had to check the dope
Then he said, “It’s all good man, you know we folks”
One of my goons called “J man, this nigga tripping”
“I see bout 50 pillows, but the other 5 missing”
“And this nigga’s nose draining like a waterfall”
“I’m bout to get what I can get and make his heart pause”
Just before I could get this nigga to calm down
I heard a “FREEZE” and some shooting in the background”
Juicy J is competent on the mic, but his job there is mostly to keep the music moving. Guests like newcomer V Slash, Project Pat, Gucci Mane, and Webbie add variety to the mix.
“Hustle Till I Die” is just what I expected. Over an hour of banging music perfect for the summer time. The hooks drive the tracks as lyrically Juicy J does the bare minimum. The subject matter is ignorant, but genuine. I definitely enjoyed the ride back from the record store and see this CD staying in rotation. It is nothing mind blowing, but it definitely has its merits. This only highlights the nuances missing from the game. “Hustle Till I Die” is recommended for those who enjoy music. Those who enjoy the entire process. Those who go past downloading the latest leak, giving it one listen on their computer speakers or headphones and then rushing to the next mp3 file in their queue. This CD is for anyone who has ever bumped a CD at full blast on a hot summer day with the windows down after having driven out of your way just to buy said CD. If you don’t know that feeling, it’s never too late to start.