There’s an air of desperation to Juvenile’s Rejuvenation, which is being branded as a resurrection. His last two efforts were critically panned and generally ignored, with the rhythms of Southern hip-hop ceding to a baroque operatic style that doesn’t leave much room for his laconic drawl. These factors mean that Rejuvenation finds Juvenile playing catch-up, experimenting with a variety of styles and approaches, hoping to find something that clicks.
Juvenile gets some essential aid from longtime collaborator Mannie Fresh, the Cash Money producer whose organic, R&B-inflected beats made albums like 400 Degreez surprisingly lush, redolent of Stevie Wonder’s slinky clavinet funk. Fresh helms a handful of songs here, and serves up a strong lead single in “Power,” one of the few tracks that sounds like it’s trying to foment a trend rather than chase one. Granted, this is done by copping part of the hook from Snap!‘s similarly named hit from 1990, along with its percussion style, but it’s still the obvious standout here. Rick Ross makes an appearance, in the album’s only big-name guest spot, but his verse is flat and unenthusiastic, a gesture that feels like the current boss paying a respectful, obligatory visit to a former equal.
This shabby quality continues with weak efforts from other producers and uninspired lyrics from Juvenile himself. “Lost My Mind” envisions a night of freewheeling excess, with Juvenile floating the bill, but it sounds tacky and low-rent, less like a club blowout than a visit to the local Chili’s, splurging on boneless wings and rounds of appletinis. Other songs probably reveal more about his current circumstances than they intend, like the aspirational “Imma Get Rich,” which finds Juvenile lusting over the wealth and prestige of former cohorts like Jay-Z and Diddy. Lacking their business sense, he’s forced to try to stay afloat by constantly releasing new material, an effort that’s stymied by his lack of creativity, which results in slogs like “Say Hello,” a repetitive rip-off of a five-year-old Jay-Z track. Rejuvenation may aspire to a comeback, but it’s a lukewarm effort from an MC who likely has nowhere to go but down.