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20 Years Ago Today, The World Was Forever Changed

1999 was a fucking incredible year for music. Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears went toe-to-toe with their debuts, Cher dropped “Believe” on everyone’s necks, and Carlos Santana enlisted the help of Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas to cook up “Smooth.” And as you scroll down the Billboard Top 100 for the year 1999, you’ll see banger after banger after banger. I mean Will Smith had “Wild, Wild West” AND “Miami” on the year end chart. You couldn’t be a slouch and expect for your record to get any play in ’99. But as you get towards the latter half of this top 100, you’ll find the song that has easily surpassed its contemporaries and remains as fire today as the day it was released: Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up.”

Very few songs in the history of ear drums have been able to elicit such visceral reactions like the Mannie Fresh produced “Back That Azz Up.” In fact I find it preposterous that this song only peaked on the Top 100 at 19. Even on the Hot 100 for Hip Hop/R&B, “Back That Azz Up” only reached as high as #5 and that came the week of September 18th – a smooth 7 months after the song was released.

Starting with a proclamation (“Cash Money Records takin’ over for the ’99 and the 2000″) and instantly transitioning into a breakneck fever pitch, this song still to this day has people running from the bar, the bathroom, getting up out their chairs, coming from all angels of wherever they happen to be, to get to the dance floor and turn the fuck up. There are other songs that came out in ’99 that still get people to tap their toes, sing along, become filled with joy that they are hearing such throwbacks. There are only a handful of songs ever recorded that turn a peaceful room into Pandemonium quite like “Back That Azz Up.”

By the way, that proclamation laid forth by Juvenile was 100% correct. This song more or less introduced Lil Wayne to the masses, he just performed at the fucking halftime show of the National Championship. There hasn’t been a bigger name in rap for the entire millennium than Wayne. The only person who has surpassed him during that timespan is Drake, and Drake was put on by Wayne, who was put on by Baby and Mannie and Juvie and the rest of the initial Cash Money militia.

Wayne’s verse is far from the most complex display of rapping and yet the lasting impact of “drop it like it’s hot” has no bounds. People are still instructing the masses to drop it as if it were too hot to handle. Oh yeah, to all the djs out there who play this song and cut it before Wayne’s verse: Go fuck yourself. You stink. Go home. P U. Booo. Etcetera and so forth.

Hip hop can sound very dated very quickly. The instrumental alone for “The Real Slim Shady” would get no play on the radio today. A lot of the ringtone rap from the mid-2000s deserves to stay where it is in the mid-2000s. A lot of the trap beats from today will probably sound out wildly of place in 2039. “Back That Azz Up,” despite being 20 years old, sounds as fresh today as it did when you first heard it. It is a perfect storm record: perfect producer, perfect artist, perfect city, perfect timing. And it’s able to be undeniably New Orleans while transcending internationally. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can relate to the crux of what Juvie The Great was getting at here. It is a perfect record and deserves to be celebrated as such.