Perhaps unfairly, Juvenile is remembered almost solely for his time with Cash Money as a member of the Hot Boys. Yes, we all remember “Back That Azz Up” and “Slow Motion.” And although those two anthems were great testaments to the almighty ass, who remembers that Juvenile’s been through his fair share of strife? Juve’s Louisiana home was damaged during Hurricane Katrina, and he was one of the most vocal and active emcees in his response to the catastrophe, both criticizing the U.S. government’s reaction and raising funds for those affected. Most tragic of all, the rapper’s four-year-old daughter, Jelani, as shot and killed a year ago. So anyone who thinks that Juvenile remains unchanged from the time he entered game – a cocky, 19-year-old New Orleans youth – would be sadly mistaken. However the public chooses to remember Juve, a question remains: how have the aforementioned events affected Juvenile as an artist?

The Cocky & Confident title track serves as a tremendous introduction, with an up-tempo and energetic Juvenile re-establishing dominance on the mic: “J-U, V-E/ No breed, no other like me/ Fans like, ‘Is he really gonna drop that?/ 400 Degreez, you ain’t never gonna top that!’/ He ain’t the same, nigga still got flow/ Guess I gotta flow just a little bit mo’/ it’s gonna be a Juvynation/ Call it rejuvenation.” Astute listeners will even catch what might be a not-so-subtle barb. Any way you slice it, the track knocks.

“Gotta Get It” switches things up by slowing things down with a screwed hook and some minimalistic organs. The track begs to be bumped in the whip, and Juve’s slick talk will inspire even the laziest hustler to get up and get it. “Back Back” follows in suit – and three tracks in, Cocky & Confident is one of the hardest-hitting albums of the year. The heavy southern flavor is felt in “We Getting Money,” “My Money Don’t Fold” and “Feeling Right” (B.G. sighting!). Things get a little lighter as Juvenile takes it to the bedroom with the adequate “Make U Feel Alright” and the infectious “It’s All Hood.” “All Over You” is the weakest of the lighter cuts, as featured singer Kango Slim provides an atrocious hook, and Juve’s lackluster delivery doesn’t help much.

While it starts out very strong, as Cocky & Confident carries on, it becomes increasingly apparent that lots of fat could have been trimmed. Coming in at a robust 19 tracks, the album could do without “I’m Shining,” a club anthem that falls flat due to unimaginative, synthed-out production. “Everything” also falls in the filler category, with former DTP crooner Bobby V unable to provide much of an assist. The second half of the album isn’t all for naught, however, as “I Say” takes it back to the days of “Ha,” and “Hands On You” is a surprisingly solid R&B banger.

Cocky & Confident may sound like it’s all money and women, and for the most part, that’s true. In fact, there’s significantly less social commentary here than on Juvenile’s previous effort, Reality Check. It’s clear that, at this stage in his life, Juve isn’t quite prepared to spend an album reflecting on his losses or the ills of the world. He does, however, close out the album with an introspective offering in “Listen.” That it’s a cover of ’80s hairspray anthem Roxette’s “Listen To Your Heart” adds a bit of a cheese factor, but the knowledge Juve drops for his son cannot be denied: “Make sure you keep yourself surrounded by all the right people / Take advantage of all the little things that life teach you / Every dog got a day, we all equal / Follow your heart and prepare yourself for the sequel.” While he may not be ready to let go of his partying days, it here that Juvenile affirms that he has indeed matured through all the drama – as a person, and as an artist.

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