How Juvenile’s “400 Degreez” Started the Cash Money Empire

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-through Rashad D. Grove

When Juvenile said that “Cash Money records take over for 99 and 2000It was a bold announcement that seemed to be imbued with blind ambition and artistic naivety. The daring of an aspiring rapper who is not from the birthplace and epicenter of hip hop, but from the New Orleans to say such a thing. As history would come to prove, however, that Juvenile’s prognosis would eventually come true. His bold prediction signaled that a seismic change was occurring that would forever transform the The music industry. Juvenile and the Cash Money team didn’t come to kneel before the icons of hip hop and the New York throne, they came to claim their place at the table and change the game forever.

With the cloud of controversy hanging overhead Cash Money Records in recent years due to their questionable business practices, it’s easy to forget the transformational movement they introduced into hip hop public consciousness. It was the entrepreneurial vision of brothers Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Robert “Slim” Williams that led them to establish Cash Money in the Magnolia Projects, as the hub of the New Orleans rap scene in 1991. Under the appearance of a 2-man operation which focused on the rap and bounce scene, Cash Money was meticulously building an empire in the south.



In 1995, the label signed teenage rappers BG, Turk and Lil wayne as the future building blocks of the Cash Money business. Regionally, Terius Gray aka Juvenile was also starting to make a name for himself. He had been part of the young rebound and rap music scene since the early 1990s and had achieved some local success on his own. He has already released his first album To be myself on the Warlock files. As his popularity began to increase, he signed to Cash Money and released his second LP, Solja cloths, which has gained traction in the New Orleans rap scene. The received album national exhibition as drawn on the Billboard Hot R & B / Hip-Hop Songs chart. Upon Juvenile’s arrival on Cash Money, they immediately formed the Hot Boys supergroup and released Get how you live, which continued to give more impetus to the label.

After regional success as an independent entity, Cash Money’s breakthrough came in 1998 when executives at Universal Records learned about the Hot Boys and the lucrative opportunities to provide major distribution, marketing and promotion for the boutique label. That same year, Cash signed a $ 30 million distribution agreement that included a $ 3 million advance agreement with Universal. This was an unprecedented deal that ensured that Cash Money would receive 85% of its royalties, 50% of its publishing income and ownership of all masters. The wheels were in motion for the boys of the Magnolia projects to become actors on the national stage. They had a lot to do on their first release on a major label. 400 degrees and Juvenile as a flagship artist.



On November 3, 1998, after years of grinding, 400 degrees has been freed. It’s only fitting that Juvenile’s debut took place in 1998, arguably one of the greatest years of hip hop music. Instead of shrinking or settling into an alien place, Juvenile has carved out a significant space for himself in the game that has brought Cash Money and himself onto the world stage. 400 degrees was one of the most important releases of the year.

The album main single “Ha” immediately took the hip hop world by storm. This immediately generated a buzz that spread from the 11th and 12th neighborhoods of the Magnolia projects to every block, in every neighborhood across the country. Marc Klasfeld, who directed the video for “Ha,” captured the raw simplicity and unwavering honesty of street life in New Orleans. “Ha” was the quintessential representation of New Orleans culture and rap music. Each line of “Ha” asks a question about the ups and downs of bustle, which showcased Juvenile’s unorthodox style. “Ha” peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot R & B / Hip Hop Singles & Tracks charts and No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a more than respectable first single for the Cash Money camp. JAY-Z – who enjoyed his first round with platinum success – recorded his own remix without Juvenile’s knowledge, as the seal of approval. This validated Juvenile and Cash Money as the next big move in rap music. “Ha” was a decisive introduction by Juvenile and Cash Money to the masses. It’s a classic street anthem and one of the most heralded rap songs in the past 20 years. “Ha” positioned Juvenile as a prominent voice in southern rap music.

While “Ha” was the anthem of the streets, “Back That Thang Up” was a certified club banger who electrified dance floors everywhere. Even today, whenever “Back That Azz Up” is played, pandemonium ensues. Overture with haunting strings and Juvenile’s announcement of The takeover of the game by Cash Money on hold, “Back That Thang Up” was a huge success. It climbed to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Video was ubiquitous on BET, MTV and many other media throughout the year. “Back That Thang Up” propelled Juvenile and Cash Money from the streets of Magnolia into mainstream American popular culture.



400 degrees is a project full of gritty and sinister street stories about murder, stampede, paranoia, loyalty, and the day-to-day task of trying to stay alive in New Orleans. Despite all the existential realities of project life, Juvenile finds a way to enjoy the fruits of his labor in the hood. There is the charm and bravado of “Flossing Season”, the uplifting tales of “Ghetto Children” and the mesmerizing flow and cadence of “Follow Me”. Each song is a remarkable track that showcased Juvenile at its best. Juvenile’s propensity for delivering melodic lyrics, catchy hooks, graphic storytelling and her signature sing-songy flow give the album a uniqueness and authenticity that sets it apart from all other albums who were released that year.

The magic of 400 degrees is not just the provocative street tales of Juvenile and Company, but the production genius of Mannie Fresh. Son of a DJ, Mannie incorporated Crescent City bounce-funk which included live instrumentation with funky guitar riffs, signature brass sections, punchy basslines, boogie-influenced keyboard work. and the gospel sound of the Hammond B-3 organ. With all of these influences, he created a sonic gumbo unlike anything that came out at the time. Mannie’s contributions as sole producer and in-house curator of the Cash Money sound make 400 degrees a convincing sound album to listen to.

400 degrees is by no means flawless. With 18 tracks covering almost 73 minutes, there is bound to be some filling. But, the larger-than-life personalities of Juvenile and the Cash Money team partly make up for the album’s monotony. 400 degrees is an invitation to discover Juvenile and Cash Money Profits From Success that they worked so hard to achieve it. The project is the soundtrack of an extraordinary moment, as Cash Money announced its arrival in the rap music landscape. It’s more than an album, it’s an event. It’s a celebration of a team that defied all odds for success.



400 degrees took the music world by surprise. The album reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Top R & B / Hip Hop Albums chart, as well as No. 9 on the Billboard 200. 400 degrees also elevated Juvenile status in hip hop, as he landed guest appearances as a prominent guest on JAY Z In my life Vol. 3 and the Ruff Ryders Ryde of Die Vol. 1 in 1999. These are the first appearances of the artists of Cash Money on New York based rap albums. 400 degrees forced the hip hop hand to take seriously the emerging sound and culture of New Orleans as a new expression of hip hop. The LP was proof of the growing influence of southern rap music.

It is because of the revolutionary impact of 400 degrees that the world learned later Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj – three of the most successful artists of all time. Those Young money stars all built on the foundation that was laid by Juvenile in Cash Money Records.

400 degrees established Cash Money as one of the oldest, profitable and recognizable record companies in the history of hip hop. Without question, 400 degrees is a historical work that ushered in a new era in hip hop.


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