Juicy J makes it perfectly clear what he is all about from the start of Stay Trippy. “Stop It,” the opening track, is a warning of sorts for potential listeners: If you don’t like money, drugs, strippers or murder, you should turn this album off. Quickly.
Though now in his late 30s with two solo albums to his name, Stay Trippy serves as Juicy J’s proper reintroduction to a new generation. Founder, producer and longtime member of the legendary southern group Three 6 Mafia, Juicy has managed to reinvent himself in recent years as the mentally unstable, drug using, strip-club endorsing, simultaneously hilarious and frightening hype man to Wiz Khalifa.
On Stay Trippy, Juicy attempts to strike the perfect balance between his traditional southern roots with his recently developed Khalifa-sponsored identity. This is not to say, however, that Juicy J or any of the music he makes is by any means complex. Instead, Juicy has nearly perfected his unique blend of “ratchet” music, and though the lyrical content can drop towards the abysmal, there’s no one you’d rather bring to a house party.
The unexpected smash-hit lead single, “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, is likely the reason the label green lit the album. The song, a menacing ode to strippers complete with a chanting chorus and hand claps, is the new Juicy J at his best, and finds him uttering the most bluntly vulgar and hysterical lines in years: “You say no to ratchet pussy / Juicy J can’t.”
There is a clear distinction, then, between the somewhat tailored-for-radio songs and the classic Juicy J tracks. On Stay Trippy, the former is found on the “Bandz”-imitating “Show Out” and “Bounce It,” as well as the two collaborations with Wiz Khalifa, which sound like passed-on leftovers from Khalifa’s last album.
The latter can be found throughout Juicy’s extensive mixtape catalogue, which featured titles like Blue Dream & Lean. Tracks such as “So Much Money,” “Money A Do It,” “All I Blow Is Loud” and “If I Ain’t” could’ve easily been plucked off any of his past mixtapes, as they share threatening, drum-heavy beats filled with violence, drugs and money. At least one or two of these songs should have been cut — the album is 16 tracks long, and at points the monotonous lyrics and rhyme patterns make it feel endless.
Nonetheless, there is a noticeable difference between Juicy’s mixtapes and Stay Trippy. The beats here are more cinematic — think John Carpenter’s legendary score to “Halloween” — and the guests better placed. The latter is integral to making the album work. Since signing with Khalifa, Juicy has become somewhat of a perennial guest feature. On Stay Trippy, however, the spotlight is on Juicy, and he expertly establishes himself as the lead artist on “Smokin’ Rollin,’ ” “No Heart No Love” and “Gun Plus a Mask,” which feature the late Pimp C, Project Pat and Yelawolf, respectively. All three tracks wait until the last minute to unleash the guest artist, which not only allows Juicy to get most of the attention, but also gives all three guests the chance to spit 40 seconds of pure aggression.
Juicy probably could have left off the somewhat forced The Weeknd sample on “Smokin’ Rollin’ ” and instead kept the excellent and venomous “One Of Those Nights,” an actual collaboration with The Weeknd that is inexplicably relegated to a Best Buy bonus track.
The most interesting collaboration comes on “The Woods,” produced by Timbaland and featuring Juicy’s fellow Memphis resident, Justin Timberlake. Though it’s not his strongest production, Timbaland’s late-90s hyperactive beatboxing and eerie piano licks carry Juicy’s flows nicely. Timberlake drops a sex-laced chorus, singing, “Release the animal / Hear my mating call,” and while there’s no way this track would ever appear on either Timberlake or Timbaland’s solo projects, it’s good enough for Juicy’s simple rhymes about spoiling his “trippy chick.” Placed awkwardly between two intense partying and money-counting songs, “The Woods” is nonetheless a refreshing break from the rest of the album.
The main flaw of Stay Trippy is, for Juicy diehards, its greatest attribute. Juicy J’s songs, for the most part, have no conceptual direction, no sense for lyrical diversification or even an attempt at breaking form. And that’s OK. Juicy is a guilty pleasure of sorts, a certified entertainer who seems to be somewhat aware of his own absurdity but nonetheless embraces it with everything he has.
Stay Trippy is a step forward for Juicy — it proves he’s capable of floating by himself on a major-label album. Though lyrical purists might shudder to lines such as “Bad bitch want me / Give me head like lice,” Juicy is doing what only Juicy knows how to do. And that’s to stay as trippy as possible.