Juvenile committed his first lyrics to record in 1995, back when he was still running around with hip-hop boy band the Hot Boys (of which Lil Wayne was also a member), which means that Rejuvenation comes after a full 17 years of the MC’s complete submersion in the world of pop music. You’d think the decade-plus of club-bound vacuity, or the destruction of his hometown via natural disaster, or the fatal shooting death of his daughter by his adopted son, might have dampened Juvenile’s passion for hip-hop clichés, or at least granted him lyrical grist of a bit more melancholy and depth. But this, of course, has not been the case. The strangest thing about Rejuvenation is how it reiterates Juvenile’s weird anti-talent for rapping about only the most superficial of subjects.
Juvenile’s tenth studio outing, Rejuvenation culls its musical constituent from a variety of producers, favoring the gangster shorthand of Mannie Fresh, but making way on occasion for pop-techno (“Ain’t What You Want”) and brassy swagger (“Ahh Haa”). Despite the ample time Juvenile spends talking about partying, his record seems split as to whether it belongs in the Cadillac or the club. Although “Ain’t What You Want” approaches the level of auditory narcotic exemplified by Travis Porter, Rejuvenation lists regularly toward the Southern swagger found on Juvenile’s earlier work, particularly 2006’s Reality Check.
If Juvenile’s name weren’t on the cover, it would be possible to confuse Rejuvenation for a parody of vacuous gangster rap. The album’s first six tracks include a few instances of chest-thumping wit, but these disintegrate just as quickly into, “I smokes on the best weed / Your bitch on my testes” (“Mardi Gras”), or “I got them hos and they drinkin’ like a water fountain / Pops in the corner mad at me I got his daughter bouncin’” (“Lost My Mind”).
Rapping about partying isn’t a sin in and of itself, but Juvenile lacks 50 Cent’s talent for dressing his exploits in irresistible hooks and Lil Wayne’s inborn ability to pepper his bacchanalian swagger with intimations of desperation. Despite his unending passion for bottle service, partying with Juvenile just isn’t that much fun.
Three years ago, while doing press for his appropriately named Cocky and Confident, Juvenile mentioned that his previous album, Reality Check, had been recorded while he was “mourning Katrina,” but that he had since returned to his initial career as a swaggering club-hound. While far from a lyrical opus, Reality Check did contain a sense of righteous indignation absent from almost all of Juvenile’s recordings before or since. Seeing as it took the wholesale destruction of an American city to push Juvenile toward something resembling lyrical depth, I shudder to think what would be required for him to come out with an honest-to-God opus. However, the man has intimated his capacity for just such a coup, and with that knowledge in hand, albums like Rejuvenation can’t help but seem dismissible.