The people of New Orleans are past due for a “Reality Check”–literally. After surviving one of the largest natural devastations our country has ever seen and being disregarded by our inept federal administration, some financial compensation is the least that these individuals who faced the real world at its worst are owed. Juvenile, who lost all his earthly possessions alongside his fellow N’awlins soldiers, offers reparation in a form which only someone who experienced Katrina first-hand can; by staying consistent and offering that familiar little piece of home to hold on to. Not switching the recipe too tough has proven to be a smart move. With Reality Check, Juvenile’s seventh LP, he’s hit the ball out the park, landing at the #1 spot for the first time on Billboard’s Top 200.
In his first run out the gate sans Clique de la Cash Money, Juve is spreading his wings as the frontrunner of his own clique (UTP), and track-testing a variety of producers, proving that his magic was not solely on account of Mannie Fresh’s production genius. Reportedly still on bad terms with his former label, he takes a shot at Baby on the self-explanatory “Break A Brick Down” shouting in his signature drawl,“We tryin to bring it back to the team/Let our dogs see how it is to do your own thing/Not like Baby though, really put your own bling/You ain’t doin’ nuttin’ for me nigga, you your own king”.
Though one might have expected Juvenile to be a bit more conscious post-Katrina, seeing that he has a unique platform to get shit off his chest, there is, overall, little mention of New Orleans’ plight. On “Get Ya Hustle On”, Juve rightfully calls out Mayor Ray Nagin and FEMA, but has very unorthodox suggestions for what New Orleanians should do with their oft-insufficient relief checks: “Everybody need a check from FEMA/ so he can go and score him some cocaine-a/” and later, “I got the remedy/Save your money up and find out who got ’em for 10 a ki'”. However, he makes up for these irresponsible comments a little when he puts television powerhouse FOX on blast, stating “Niggas killing niggas and them bitches is loving it/Fuck Fox News I don’t listen to ya’ll ass/ Couldn’t get a nigga off the roof when the storm passed/” and suggests that Mayor Nagin who promised to build New Orleans back up into a “Chocolate City” then flipped and apologized for it is the enemy who pretends to be a saint just to get votes. Despite its trip-ups, “Get Ya Hustle On’s” realness will have middle fingers rising all over country. It is undoubtedly the track with the most playback potential on the LP.
Juve falls a couple times on this album with the mediocre “Keep Talkin'” where he is out-spit by guest emcee Redd Eyezz and “Animal” mostly because of lines like this where he likens himself to a drug addict: “Like a junkie with a pipe up in the smoke crack spot/I be in every hood, see I knows the block”. He quickly recovers with bangers like the Pall Wall and Mike Jones laced, and Hova sampled “Way I Be Leanin’,” perfect for them sweaty, southern drives in neon-lit, righteously-tipped, candy-colored Caddies. Also deserving of an honorable mention are “Rock Like That” featuring Bun B and the Scott Storch-produced “Sets Go Up.”
It wouldn’t be a Juvenile album without the “Slow Motion”-esque usual pledging of allegiance to the brown round, and he doesn’t disappoint his loyal fans with standard ass-anthem “Who’s Ya Daddy” to accompany his Cool and Dre-produced single “Rodeo.”
Overall, Reality Check makes us remember why we loved Juve in the Solja Rags and 400 Degree’s days. Though Juvenile has never been the artist to watch content-wise, and his main concerns (hustling and women), never really change, his work is always respectable because his entertainment value and signature flow keep him poppin’. But Juvenile has certainly had to do his share of rebuilding as of late. The high of finding a new musical home in Atlantic combined with the low of having to reconstruct his actual home in New Orleans has caused a maturation that does show in some spots of this LP. In what is arguably his best album to date, we ain’t mad at Juve’s post-Cash Money swag.