When they showed 24-year-old rapper Juvenile the video for his new hit single "Back That Azz Up," he gave it the accolade du jour: "That s--t is off the hook!" The video--basically, women shaking their rear ends--is subtle only in its coyly misspelled title. But MTV has it in heavy rotation, and young America's chanting along: "Call me Big Daddy when you back that azz up." Wait, get your mind out of the gutter. Juvenile says, "It's just like saying, 'Let me get another look'."
This is the latest coup for Juvenile (Terius Gray), New Orleans-based Cash Money Records and the bass-heavy Southern hip-hop called bounce music. The label's founders, Ronald and Brian Williams, once sold albums out of their car. Juvenile made his living by capturing alligators at $50 a pop. ("You just need a stick and some rope.") Now his debut, "400 Degrees," has hit the pop top 10, and Cash Money, also home to the Hot Boys, is the hottest rap label in the country. "I'm a little surprised," says Juvenile, "but hip-hop is wide open like that."
Juvenile says Cash Money's records sell because they sound fresh--"not that same old sample s--t"--and don't allude to "things the average brother can't relate to." Is he twitting Sean (Puffy) Combs, whose frame of reference extends to Rolexes and the Hamptons, and whose samples range from Sting to Herb Alpert? Well, with his own sales slipping, Puffy has the Cash Money crew doing remixes on his new CD. And Juvenile's megahit may force other rap producers to think about a backup plan.