Prior to 1999, southern hip-hop or southern culture, in general, was vaguely in the mainstream media. We had Outkast who broke barriers in hip-hop and fashion, as well as had some southern influences in their sounds. We had TLC, who is not only the biggest selling US girl group of all time, but the biggest group to come out of Atlanta, and had a subtle showing of Atlanta culture in their music. Still, there was no voice of the south. Even though Andre 3000 reminded us "the South got something to say!", many southern hip-hop acts that came out during the '90s didn't receive the love and fanfare they deserved until the 2000s, Three 6 Mafia is a perfect example of that. Even Master P, a college educated rapper from New Orleans with his own record label, distributed his own music, and produced his own films, had much success in the hip-hop arena (obviously), but was damn near overlooked by mainstream media, until his son, Lil'Romeo because a star in his own right. For a period of time, people didn't take southern hip-hop seriously; it was almost an acquired taste. Most of 90's hip-hop was either conscious, ran by West Coast vets Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, or the rebirth of the East Coast hip-hop (i.e Jay-Z, Nas, DMX, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown). That was going to all change those, in 1999 going into the 2000s.
Mannie Fresh, a New Orleans rapper and producer, met Terius Gray, aka Juvenile, while Juvenile performed at events hosted by Mannie's father, who was also a DJ. Impressed by his rap skills and was inspired to improve himself musically, Mannie Fresh ended up being the sole producer for Juvenile's album, 400 Degreez. When they were first working on the song, "Back That Azz Up", Mannie Fresh was nervous about working on the song at first because he was worried that people from other cities wouldn't get the musicality of the song; people in New Orleans would understand the bounce inspiration behind it, but no one outside of it. The song was produced with sounds of strings, snare drums, claps, scratch sounds, and a recreation of a beat in the song "Triggerman" by Show Boys, which has been heavily used in bounce music and in New Orleans' hip-hop. Once the beat was created, Juvenile wrote and record with verse, along with Mannie Fresh and Lil'Wayne...and the rest was history.
While the album, 400 Degreez was released in November of 1998, "Back That Azz Up" was released as a single on February 24th, 1999. The video, which featured Juvenile performing at a concert and in the street, as well as women dancing in the video, became as big as the song itself. The song was top in the Hot Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop charts and was top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, and ended up being in the top 100 by the year-end charts. This song helped 400 Degreez go 4X Platinum and is arguably the biggest song of Juvenile's career. The legacy of this song extends to way more than Juvenile.
"Back That Azz Up" and Cash Money Records made a staple in music that I believe is often overlooked. Juvenile and other artists from Cash Money Records broke barriers by being southern rappers from New Orleans reaching mainstream levels of success since Outkast; while providing a sound and lyricism that was solely created and heard in the south. "Back That Azz Up" is also the world's first introduction to New Orleans Bounce music. Before Drake, Big Freedia, and City Girls, it was Juvenile and "Back That Azz Up" that gave everyone a taste of Bounce music and really brought New Orleans hip-hop culture to the mainstream radio and televisions.
20 years later, "Back That Azz Up" is a party standard. It is still played in clubs, college homecomings, parties, festivals, and strips across America. It is the song that unites the black community from all walks of life. So this Black History Month, let's take a moment and put some respect on the Bounce song that bounced its way into our hearts. When you hear that violin intro...you know what time it is.