Juvenile's current single, "Rodeo," finds the New Orleans rapper in a familiar position: gazing adoringly at a nubile young flesh-peddler. But while the dynamic is familiar, the attitude is different. Where Juvenile's earlier booty songs cast him as a drunken, raggedy hustler belligerently demanding a lap-dance, "Rodeo" cunningly reconfigures him as a tipsy young playboy suavely requesting a lap-dance. Of course, some rough edges persist. When Juvenile "jokingly" promises the object of his affection that he'll "stalk that ass," it's hard to say whether she should feel flattered, or contact relevant authorities. The music suits the more upscale vibe as well, with Cool and Dre laying down lush hyper-soul fueled by a sample tweaked to make R. Kelly sound as soft and seductive as a young Michael Jackson.
But while "Rodeo" suggests a promising new direction for Juvenile, the rest of his new Reality Check doggedly sticks to the formula that's made him one of Southern rap's most consistent hitmakers. Mannie Fresh only contributes one beat, but damned if Juvenile didn't hook up with rising beatsmiths who, judging by their work here, desperately want to be Mannie Fresh when they grow up. Synthesizer gymnastics and drum machines are the name of the sonic game, while Juvenile's lyrics continue to touch upon such topics as his famous appreciation of female flesh, gunplay, and selling drugs. Juvenile can be predictable in his lyrical concerns, but he's adventurous stylistically, regularly experimenting with new flows. And he can be funny, sometimes even intentionally so. He offers vitriolic commentary on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina on "Get Ya Hustle On," but Reality Check is otherwise apolitical. Fear Of A Black Hat fans will be particularly disappointed to learn that the song "Loose Booty" is not, unfortunately, an elaborate political metaphor about the need for social change.