When I first heard Juvenile’s new single “Back That Thang Up” a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t believe he was blatantly re-upping an old hit. I turned to a friend and said, “There’s no way he’s dropping the same single twice.” I was wrong. He decided to go ahead and shoot a video for “Back That Thing Up,” cementing the argument that he has nothing to offer beyond booty bop.
While we’re on the subject, here’s Juvenile’s biggest hit to date, “Back That Thang Up”
Now, I happen to like “Back That Thang Up.” It’s a playful, funny club anthem reminiscent of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” I couldn’t go anywhere in 1999 without hearing “Back That Thang Up” or the raw version “Back That Ass Up” on the radio. “Drop That Thang,” on the other hand, is a boring knockoff that makes me want to stab my ears. Granted, the message in these two tracks are different. One’s talking about backing it up, while the other is talking about dropping it. But the overarching theme is still booty.
There’s nothing wrong with paying homage to the female form as long it’s done in a way that’s original and creative. Take Juvenile’s own “Slow Motion,” for instance. While that song was still ultimately about the fairer sex, its dreamy, jazzy soundbed coupled with Juve’s lazy flow made it the musical antithesis of “Back That Thang Up.”
It’s not so much that I’m surprised by complacency in hip-hop, it’s just that Juvenile exemplifies an approach that’s become commonplace in the game. Monkey see, monkey do. Here’s an artist who’s shown versatility in the past blatantly playing it safe, rehashing a tired formula.
Even Lady Gaga who’s somewhat obsessed with love and sex sings about these subjects in such a way that compels people to debate whether she’s really talking about love and sex. When Eminem raps about brain candy we hardly think of drugs. Nas once rapped about guns—a clichéd concept in hip-hop—by personifying it in a way that no one had done before. All I’m saying is, if you can’t find anything new to rap about, find new ways to rap about the familiar.