Juvenile, B.G., and Wayne. Back together at last!
For the record, Vice published the first-ever definition of the expression “bling bling” and we got it straight from the horse’s mouth. The year was 1999, and the interviewee was B.G., slang innovator and member of the world’s only gangsta boy band: The Hot Boys. Back then, and probably much to their surprise, these tattoo-covered and bandanna-clad teenagers had become MTV heartthrobs. Of course they had nothing short of a winning formula: Their ages, ranging from 16 to twentysomething, corresponded exactly to that of the record-buying public; their label, Cash Money Records, had just scored a $30 million distribution deal with Universal; they were under the strict tutelage of visionary svengalis Ronald “Slim” and Bryan “Baby” Williams. But most of all, backed exclusively by veteran electro-wiz Mannie Fresh, they produced some of the greatest music ever to come out of New Orleans. All bases were covered: Juvenile was the jovial older brother with an irresistible country drawl, B.G. was the chinky-eyed thug who recorded five solo albums by the age of 19, Young Turk was the ever elusive lyricist, and Lil’ Wayne, the baby of the bunch. Think New Edition after ten years in a juvenile detention center.
However, shortly after the new millennium, the Cash Money Army collapsed. Juvenile and B.G. left following bitter contract disputes. Turk got sent to jail, accused of having shot a cop. Even Mannie, the label’s backbone, recently announced that he’s taking his 808s elsewhere. The only star left on the roster is Lil’ Wayne, forever pledging his allegiance to Baby even though Jay-Z was dying to sign him a year ago. Evidently, what New Orleans needs now, more than ever, is a Hot Boys reunion. On paper it looks unlikely. Juvenile is busy concocting follow-ups to his 2004 smash “Slow Motion,” B.G. is being courted by G-Unit, and Wayne mysteriously morphed into the best rapper alive. But the streets are talking. Rumors are surfacing. Despite some animosity, the following concurring answers reveal kindred spirits dying to reunite.
Vice: On “I Miss My Dogs,” Lil’ Wayne expressed undeniable nostalgia for the Hot Boys days. Tell us a little bit about the golden years. Juve: Man, that was a wonderful time. I remember going on tour, doing shows, being onstage together. We was young cats, having fun together. Plus having Mannie’s beats brought us even closer. You can’t take away those memories and you can’t take them for granted. But niggas is supposed to treat you right. If you come to my house, I tell you I got some food cooked for you but I only give you bread, and when the next person comes I give them the whole dinner, how you gonna feel? So I had to look at the situation like this: I did my years with Cash Money and now I gotta do my own thing. Wayne: I remember the camaraderie. Everybody was real buddies and that made every single thing we did better. When I see some of my family members, I be like, “Wait, how old are you?” I see what they’re doing and how small their lives are compared to what my life was like at that age. Like, they live for basketball. When I was 14, the only time I could play basketball was when the tour bus stopped at a hotel that had a basketball court. I got memories for days, man. If I ever lose my voice or lose all the feeling in my body, I could just sit down and think back about those years. I was 11 when I signed to Cash Money. My momma let me drop out of school and chase that dream, so, for the most part, I was a student of Cash Money. Then I became an alumni, and now I’m the principal of that same school. B.G.: I been with Cash Money since ’92 and I left in 2001. Baby raised me, really. He was my daddy. I was 12 when I first spit for him, at 13 he saw that I could rap and the rest is history, you heard me? He took me from my momma. My daddy was gone and the streets had adopted a nigga. So Baby took a nigga under his wing, put a nigga in the studio, and that was my calling. I remember being in the studio when Cash Money was first starting to groom me. UNLV, Lil’ Slim—them niggas was grooming me. I was just watching and learning, writing raps all day. If Fresh played me four beats, I wrote four songs. I was in there from 12 to 12. Cuz when I wasn’t in the studio, I was in the hood with my moms. My daddy got killed when I was 12—I’m 25 now—so we was living off of social security. My moms would take half the check to pay the bills and I’d flip the other half. I was a child hustling and running with the big boys, you heard me? KEEP BOUNCING
You mentioned UNLV and Lil’ Slim, the first generation of Cash Money artists. People seem to forget that what the Hot Boys popularized first and foremost was New Orleans bounce music. Juve: I’m one of the pioneers of bounce music, you heard me? I was bouncing around in middle school, doing my thing. The world wasn’t ready for it back then. But when you hear what Lil’ Jon and the ATL cats are doing now—what they call crunk—all they’re really doing is bounce music. Back then niggas couldn’t hear that coming out of New Orleans. That’s why I had to revamp my style. There’s still a little bounce on my new album though, for those that want to hear that old Juve on that bounce, you heard me? B.G.: Cash Money was a bounce label. I turned them into a gangsta label, cuz what I was doing was gangsta rap. I changed the whole game. But what be killing me, what I be finding funny, is all this shit coming out of Atlanta right now. All that “Laffy Taffy.” New Orleans been doing that since ’93, ’94. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Atlanta cats for putting themselves on the map—it’s all love. I fuck with that, but UNLV really started that movement. So I want to get all the originators from back home and show them how to really do it. Show them how they could get 10 to 15 Gs a show for a song like “Laffy Taffy.” Wayne: Bounce music is a major part of New Orleans itself and it’s still popular today. Every time I come back to the hood there’s a new bounce song that’s a hit. The latest bounce song I heard was about FEMA. I never really got into it myself, I never once did a bounce rap. But maybe I’ll have to fuck with it and introduce it to the world the right way. BOYS TO MEN
What’s the biggest difference between now and the Hot Boys era? Wayne: I just matured. When I started rapping my influences were what I listened to in my tape deck. Then my mind expanded and I discovered Jay-Z with In My Lifetime Vol. 1. After that I did my research and I heard Reasonable Doubt. Then Jay made me do the same with B.I.G. cuz he loves B.I.G. so much. So Jay and B.I.G. became these two shadows over me. See, before my method was “How would Baby and Slim react to this verse?” Juve and B.G. didn’t have to worry about that cuz they were men. I was young, so I always wondered, “Will Baby and Slim like this?” Once I became a real artist, I started listening to other rappers. Mixtapes became my lyrical workout. I started asking myself, “If B.I.G. hears this, or if Jay hears this, what do I have to make it sound like? How would Jay react to this verse if it was me sitting in front of him, kicking an a cappella?” He definitely reacted. B.G.: I relocated to Detroit. I got family up here. After the hurricane, I was really emotionally destroyed. It be hard for me to talk about that sometimes, you know? If you were born and raised in New Orleans, put yourself in my shoes. I thought it was the end of the world. But my ghetto pass is worldwide, I can walk anywhere with my jewelry on, you heard me? I done been up and I done been down. Now I’m up again. I got like five companies flashing six figures in my face, and the truth is, I don’t know which one to take. Everybody wanna know my next move. I kept in touch with Fresh, he produced my new single. I kept in touch with Juve and I sent Turk some money last night. Me and Wayne was cool until I read a magazine where he made a statement that made me feel real disrespected. I know he ain’t built like that, so I put him in his place and it’s a wrap. I love him, that’s my little nigga, but he let the people around him boost him up. I could hit him up, smack him up, and let him rap about that. Juve: Right now my mind frame is just feeding my people. I wasn’t getting paid before, so now I gotta do what works for me. Let the lawyers deal with my past situations and move on. I started hustling again. I got with Mannie Fresh again. I called my album Reality Check in reference to what happened after the Cash Money situation. Cuz back then there was reality but there was no check. WHOADIE ALLEN
Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter II is out on Cash Money Records, Juvenile’s Reality Check is out on Atlantic, and B.G.’s The Heart Of The Streets, Vol. 2 is out on Chopper City Records.