Five years ago, when Juvenile was selling 4 million albums and telling girls around the globe to "Back That Azz Up," we could've sworn that the thick-accented New Orleans native had armored trucks backing up to the bank. After all, he was on hip-hop's flossiest label, Cash Money Records, and his whole crew was blinging and ballin' out of control. Little did we know that it was all an illusion.
"You always miss the good times, but there were really a lot of bad things that people don't know about," Juvenile said a couple of weeks ago in New York about why he's been gone from the Cash Money fold the past three years. "It was a lot of business that wasn't being taken care of. I would say things to [the Hot Boys] like, 'It's cool we on TV and everything, but we need the money.' Nobody wanted to stand up, so I had to stand up and be the one to say, 'Hey, I got to move and do me.' That's what separated the Hot Boys. Me leaving messed the whole group up."
Juve said that shortly after the successful Cash Money/ Ruff Ryders tour in 1999 he realized, after going through his contract more carefully, that he was being jerked by his label. For the record, Cash Money's CEO, Baby, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing with regard to Juvenile, B.G. and Turk, who also left the label (Turk, Juve and Lil' Wayne all just appeared in the video for the Big Tymers' "This Is How We Do") and will tell you that Juve never left.
"I was paying attention," Juvenile explained. "I saw stuff happening to me. Situations like you realizing that 'Yo, this paperwork was never right!' So ain't no trust there no more, we can't be friends. Because if we was friends you would have came back and tried to straighten it out before I even found out. When that never happened, that changed everything."
Even though Juve left the ranks of Cash Money physically and in spirit, he was still technically signed to the label and even put out an album of material he had in the can two years ago.
It's been three years since he bolted, but Juvenile says that he's finally gotten the money he felt Cash Money owed him and is ready to put out his first official LP since 2001's Project English. In the interim, he's been doing shows, producing up-and-coming acts and making guest appearances here and there. Early last year, an album filled with bootlegged material called 600 Degreez surfaced on the streets but was never officially released. His main focus has been independently releasing music from his crew UTP (yeah, that's a UTP tattoo Juve shows off in the video for "Ha").
"The whole thing for this is business man," he clarified about why he decided to get back down with Cash Money. "I'mma be honest, it's a money situation. If it was up to some of UTP, probably some of this would not be happening."
Juvenile, who already has an album in the can with his UTP crew, says he's pretty sure that his LP Juve the Great, due December 23, is the last you'll see of him on Cash Money because he wants to build up UTP Records. "It's a 90 percent chance that this is the last one," he said. "It's me using the system. I been away from the game for three years, in order for me to just leave and start all over again it would be a big step. So I just used the system and make whatever move I can make."
With his business and career in order, Juve now has to focus on getting his personal affairs straightened out. Earlier this month, police in Gwinnett County, Georgia, issued an arrest warrant for the rapper because they say he hasn't been paying child support for his 6-month-old daughter.
Juve says it's not a matter of him ducking payments; rather, he's not sure if the child is in fact his, and he plans on taking a blood test to determine the truth.
"I was supposed to take a blood test," he said. "My lawyer never received a date on that. After the DNA test, we'll know the truth. [The woman] went to the press on that. The way she did that was so foul. It's a lot of people looking for the light, maybe that was her way. She don't know when you do things like that, you degrade yourself. Especially when you're proven wrong."
Juvenile has been proven to be in the right the last few times he's been in court, most notably in May when he won a federal copyright lawsuit against Take Fo' Records. He wasn't as lucky in February when he pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated battery, battery of a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence stemming from a March 2001 incident (see "Juvenile Arrested After Fight In Mall").
"It's like this — I been through it," laughed Juve, who was sentenced to 75 hours of community service. "I'm from the projects. I ain't gonna say I'm an animal and attack people, but if you try me, dog ... I have good days and bad days. If you close up on me and tell me the 'f' word right to the grill, that's a fight."
Juvenile's new single, "In My Life," which was produced by and features Mannie Fresh, is currently on radio and the video just started airing.