Juicy J’s ‘Stay Trippy’: Album Review

Patrick Bowman | August 27, 2013 5:45 am
This isn’t exactly a startling revelation, but hip-hop has always been rife with male MCs who style themselves as unrepentant hedonists, recounting in vivid detail, song after song, how many women they have, how much money they make and how often they themselves are fucked up on drugs, alcohol or fame. And while for most rappers, this kind of bacchanalia equates to a background chattering constant (figuring out a handful metaphors for a woman’s shaking ass, for example) Memphis’ Juicy J is basically the professor emeritus of hip-hop debauchery. As a producer and MC for Three 6 Mafia — Memphis crunk legends and (!) Oscar winners — he contributed greatly to defining the dominant aesthetic of Southern underground rap, creating syrupy, stomping, horrorcore beats full of skittering hi-hats and seasick keyboards while pairing them with larger than life lyrics detailing gleeful expanses of depravity.

His latest full-length, Stay Trippy (out ), is the culmination of a two-year, semi-rescue/reclamation project for Juicy J, who, after the rapid ascension of Three 6 Mafia in the mid-aughts found himself wandering in the wilderness of a sputtering solo career, self-releasing mixtapes rehashing his greatest triumphs after his second solo album debuted in particularly limp fashion. Since Wiz Khalifa signed Juicy to Taylor Gang in 2011 (Juicy J could be considered a spirit guide for Wiz’s weed-heavy, party-only stylings), his profile has risen considerably, collaborating with Justin TimberlakeMac Miller, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus among others, while enlisting a superstar roster of talent on Stay Trippy.

The resulting album is a stadium sized version of the lean-drenched hip-hop Juicy J has churned out over his long career, balancing guest spots from a handful younger artists who have obviously been inspired by Juicy’s back catalog of proto-trap (A$AP Rocky, Young Chop) with contemporaries both living (2 Chainz, Young Jeezy) and deceased (Pimp C).

Track one, “Stop It,” is a pretty solid introduction to Juicy J’s operating procedures, featuring a self-produced, queasy funhouse stomp of a beat that has rhythmic chants of “Yeah, hoe!” punctuating each boast (“Getting high like I’m 18 / But I’ve been rich since the late ’80s”) with cartoonish grandeur. The lurching crunk weirdness of the opening track is oft-repeated throughout the album, like on the Yelawolf stickup anthem “Gun Plus A Mask,” stripper tribute/lead single “Bandz a Make Her Dance” with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz and touring diary/Marquis De Sade-esque list of sex acts “Show Out.”

When higher profile producers show up, it’s as if they fall under the druggy spell of Juicy J’s blurry worldview, catering their beats rather than trying to show up their benefactor. Frequent Chief Keef collaborator Young Chop produced “No Heart No Love” and shows how close the bloodlines between Chicago’s famed drill scene and Southern crunk really are, with the track’s saturated synths and hi-hat gunfires nestling in nicely next to Juicy’s violent verses about an amoral North Memphis warzone. Even Timbaland, on the Justin Timberlake-assisted “The Woods,” dispenses with much of his lamestream wizardry to reveal a slow burning piano-based sample augmented with metallic, grinding syncopations that wrap Juicy with a small amount of sex appeal — which he swiftly obliterates with his signature raunch: “She keep looking back at it, we keep grinding like jack rabbits / All she want is this pipe, I turn her into a crack addict.”

Along with the Weeknd-sampling “Smokin’, Rollin’,” the standout track proves to be the Dr. Luke-produced second single “Bounce It,” which is a pretty stunning marriage of modern Hot 100 house music and the slow-motion churning of Juicy J’s sticky, druggy beats. The trance-like synths and low rumbling bass lines seem to swell on the same frequency of Juicy’s cadence, forming a purple tidal wave of aural sensation that rivals his current cocktail: “Along came Molly, then came Doobie, then codeine in a styrofoam cup.”

If “Bounce It” gains some traction on the Hot 100, it will be fascinating to examine the different generations of artists Juicy J has managed to reach, including those who have collaborated with him on this record. For those fans who have admired Juicy throughout his entire career, or those who have just discovered him, Stay Trippy happily delivers exactly what it promises: a days-long, drug-soaked party that doesn’t seem to end.

Idolator Score: 3.5/5

— Patrick Bowman

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