Mannie Fresh Breaks Down The Making Of Juvenile’s Biggest Hit

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Just over 20 years ago, on November 3, 1998, Juvenile released his third album, 400 Degreez. The Cash Money Records release would go on to achieve quadruple platinum certification, becoming the label’s most commercially successful release. Like all the CMR releases at that time, the entire effort was produced by Mannie Fresh.

While “Ha,” initially put Juvenile and 400 Degreez on the mainstream map, second single “Back That Azz Up” (embedded below) cemented the success. Although he had songs chart higher (including 2004’s #1 “Slow Motion,” featuring the late Soulja Slim), this is the song that has become iconic. Undoubtedly, it was played across the country and the world on dance floors this weekend. Twenty years ago this month, the second single from the LP became an everlasting focal point for Juvy’, Mannie, and Bounce music.

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In a recent “Deconstructed” video for Genius, Mannie Fresh breaks down the iconic beat. To open, Mannie expresses the song’s relevance to Hip-Hop at the time of its release. “Twenty years ago, ‘Back That Azz Up’ coming out, that was the introduction to Bounce music to the world. A lot of people don’t know it was met with, ‘Nah, maybe the world not ready for it.’ Like, ‘We get it. It’s New Orleans. We get it.’ Fast forward 20 years later, it stood the test of time. I don’t see it going nowhere.” After all, a little over a year ago, Big K.R.I.T. tapped Mannie to pay homage to the record with video single “1999,” featuring Lloyd.

Then, Mannie explains his personal approach and how his influences shaped Juvenile’s Bounce hit. “I would say the way I produce is definitely from a club DJ’s perspective because I like it when people dance. I like it when they move. I notice certain sounds, the way certain drops happen in songs, and the way [DJs] format it made a difference on the dance floor.”

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Fresh then follows by explaining how his father played a significant role in becoming a DJ and ultimately, meeting Juvenile. “The way I got started in music, my dad was a DJ. My Christmas gifts was always DJ equipment. Other kids got bikes and all that kinda stuff. I got one turntable one year, mixer the next year. So, it was my dad, definitely. That was the influence.” An old baby picture of Mannie holding a 45 is included for effect.

Mannie continues, “Before I met Juvy’, Juvy’ used to actually rap at some of my dad’s DJ things. Meeting him brung out the best in me. His wordplay was so unorthodox, something you had never heard where you’re just like, ‘How does the beat catch up with this dude? How do you figure this out?’ But basically, he was doing it off of breakbeats. And I was like, ‘What if we really put some music to this? And put some structure to this?'”

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Subsequently, Mannie dives into the song’s more intricate details. “When I started ‘Back That Azz Up,’ you know, most people know the intro. That’s an awesome feeling man, like, to have a song that’s still 20 years later and the intro to the song says ‘From the 99 to the 2000 and it don’t bother nobody,’ and when that comes on, people wake up. It starts off with a string line… I’m thinking orchestra. I’m like, let’s find a whole bunch of keyboards with orchestra sounds and let’s make ’em hood, make the baseline something that the hood would rock to.”

In his description, Mannie plays the song’s memorable introduction sound-for-sound, with Bounce snares, triplet hi-hats, and crash beats. He expounds the history and purpose behind the instrumentation. “The reason why I even liked putting crashes in songs, Ice-T’s ‘6 ‘N The Mornin.” You know, it had that iconic break, you know, every time it went around… So, I just took a lot of elements from songs that I thought like, ‘Okay, these are the reasons why people like these songs.’ All of that has to be a part of the kit.”

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As Byron Otto Thomas continues to dissect the record, he reveals what he feels is the most important ingredient. “What to me is the most iconic sound of ‘Back That Azz Up,’ the thing that drives the song, the thing that makes girls shake they ass, is the string line in it.” He plays the notes, then continues, “That’s what kept it going when it came in and it dropped out. A lot of people don’t know that one of the UGK albums came from New Orleans. The whole [Slab] sound was New Orleans. There was a song where they had that string line in there [similar to ‘Back That Azz Up’]. But it was the same way. They was like ‘Dude, I don’t know where I heard it, where you heard it.’ But, I never had to clear any samples or nothin’. Even when we did this, the only thing we sequenced was the string line. That string was the final sound in it.”

After playing a sample of the record with all of the instruments layered in full, Mannie Fresh explains his role as an MC in the third verse to Juvenile’s smash hit. “People had got used to me saying shock value stuff on record. So, Juvy’ was just like, ‘Bro, you gotta do the third verse.’ He just didn’t want it to be, I guess, any kind of way politically correct. He was just like, ‘I want it to be raunchy.’ And [Lil] Wayne immediately was just like, ‘Sh*t, I’m getting a piece of this. There’s no way in the world this song is going out without me being on it.’ And he did his part, same thing, first take.”

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Finally, Mannie wraps it all up, expressing his feelings on his role as a producer to the song. “I know as producers we wanna go wild and say like, ‘Oh, I’m so creative. This is what I can do.’ This song to me was about simplicity. Sometimes you just gotta move around and try different things. And this song was about trying different things when I did it. I’m super, super happy to have a song 20 years later that’s going strong. That’s what a producer, or like I said, anybody that’s in music’s dream of having.”

#BonusBeat: Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up,” featuring Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne: