Juvenile’s “Vax That Thang Up” Is a Public Service Announcement

The New Orleans hip-hop legend told VICE why he felt a responsibility to turn “Back That Azz Up” into a new message for pandemic times.
Ashwin Rodrigues
Brooklyn, US
July 8, 2021, 8:28pm
Juvenile’s “Vax That Thang Up” Is a Public Service Announcement
Photo Provided by BLK

Juvenile’s 1998 multi-platinum hit “Back That Azz Up,” featuring Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne, was already a public service announcement, its purpose concisely described in the title. 

In 2021, the track has been repurposed for pandemic times, as “Vax That Thang Up,” complete with a throwback music video shot in Atlanta that pays homage to the original, with a new health-focused message. Featuring new verses from Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, and in the place of Lil Wayne, No Limit Records rapper and the “Mama of Southern Gangsta Rap,” Mia X, the song makes an appeal that vaccination can improve the dating experience, rather than shaming listeners into submission. Some highlights: Juvenile makes it rain COVID-19 vaccination cards, and Mia X says “go get the shot” if you want to hook up with “some dude named Scott.” 

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“The idea was to remix ‘Back That Azz Up’ and use it in a way to put out awareness to people that look like me to go out there and get vaccinated.” Juvenile told VICE. “If you want to go out there and date, I think the person that you're dating—especially if you want to use an online service—I think you might want to make sure if they're vaccinated or not.”

The idea for the song came from Majority, an ad agency co-founded by Shaquille O’Neal, and BLK, a dating app for Black singles, featured prominently in the music video. (The BLK app is where you can find some dude named Scott.) The two companies want to appeal to the young adult population, which is trailing in vaccination rates compared to other age groups. 

“If I'm gonna use my song for something, why not use it for something positive to get to help out people that I see every day?,” Juvenile told VICE of rebooting the classic track. “I really owe [it to] them to be that person to step out there first and say, ‘Look, I got vaccinated. I think it's a good idea for me to go get vaccinated.’”

Juvenile anticipated some pushback for making a pro-vaccine song, but he’s already dealt with the debate in his own life. “I’ve been having this argument with a few people already before [BLK] called me to do the vaccination campaign,” he said. 

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The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. is over 605,000 people, and the global pandemic death count exceeds 4 million people. Data from the CDC shows that Black people and other people of color are far more likely to die from coronavirus, which is part of the reason Juvenile wanted to pitch in. 

The people that's getting affected the most, are people that look like me,” he said. “So I felt it's time for me to step up and be in the forefront and be the person to tell my folks, ‘Hey man, when you were a kid, when your mama got ready to take you to school, we all had to get shots.’ That's why I went on and got the shot. My family got the shot. And we're all living and moving around very well.”

The 46-year-old rapper, who received the Moderna vaccine, also hopes the song can help change some minds or at least encourage people to learn more. “I would be really satisfied if they just get educated on it.”

In a statement, Mannie Fresh shared the sentiment. “I did this project because I wanted to educate my people, and I wanted us to live.” 

Aside from a civic duty to spread vaccine awareness, creating the video was also a hit of nostalgia for Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, and Mia X. Juvenile noted similar details from both videos, like the water-slicked asphalt, which took him back. 

“It reminded me of when we shot the original ‘Back That Azz Up’ [video]. It came out great, man. We feel like we're the old-schoolers, there's so many Millennials out here right now. We just enjoyed ourselves.”