DMX made history in 1998. September 29 of the same year forever stands as a landmark moment in rap’s family tree. Yet, perhaps the most overlooked classic of ’98 dropped 15 years ago today. Juvenile’s 400 Degreez is to Southern Hip-Hop to what the “Last” button on a remote is to the television experience. Sure, music would’ve carried on without it, but the quality of life as currently constructed has been significantly better off thanks its presence.
The Cash Money Records seen in 2013 vastly contrasts to the label 15 years ago, which is kind of the point. Juvenile no longer holds court as the label’s most popular act and bread winner. But such became the case soon after 400 dropped and effectively turned he and every member of the roster into household names, including a then-teenage Lil Wayne. Suddenly, Magnolia Projects and its surrounding blocks became an epicenter for a new style of rap marinated in its bayou water and Mannie Fresh beats while draped in solja rags and white tees.
“You lookin’ at a multi-millionaire in the flesh
Might don’t have it now, but I just got me a check
I can walk it like I talk it, play it how I say it
Teach it like I preach it; now, put that in your head
Nigga, bet a thousand, shoot a thousand – ain’t nothin’
Smoke a pound, pop the Cristal and drink something
Meet me in the casino, way in the back
Losin’ money like a motherfucka, still shooting craps
Tomorrow I’ll be back, I got millionaire status
We make so much money IRS be lookin’ at us…”
And there lies 400 Degreez’s most endearing quality – which all classics have – its range and depth. “Ha” reigns supreme for the award for “most unique sounding rap single” of the past 15 years and “Back That Azz Up” is – personally speaking – the greatest party anthem rap has ever birthed. Beyond those two records, however, remain “Juvenile On Fire,” “400 Degreez,” “Off The Top,” “Rich Niggaz,” “U.P.T.,” “Follow Me Now,” and “Gone Ride With Me,” all of which brought the 504’s violence, beauty, culture and petulance for stunting to living rooms as far north as Brooklyn and west as Compton.
Fifteen years later, roughly the only inaccuracy with 400 Degreez resides in the lyric quoted in the title of this article. Cash Money was going to be anything but its own oxymoron. More importantly, the album not only left an indelible impact on the growth and influence of the aforementioned record label.
Nothing was the same with Hip-Hop as a whole either. Pun intended.