Mannie Fresh’s much welcomed return came about by a simple phone call. “I’ve always had a good relationship with Ross…we just reached out to him and he got on the song,” says the influential former in-house producer of Cash Money to VIBE. And that’s how the two-fisted Juvenile track “Power,” a song that features omnipresent rap behemoth Rick Ross fueled by the futuristic sounds of Fresh, came about (listen here). Yes, the Internet is still buzzing following the surprising Tuesday leak of a record that many fans call a welcome return-to-form for Juve—the grizzled, one-time Cash Money franchise and the affable, legendary beat man who has hammered out classics for everyone from Lil Wayne to T.I. And according to Fresh, the rather matter-of-fact manner in which “Power” was unleashed online was all by design.
“I just leaked the song out there,” explains Fresh, who recently discussed his groundbreaking 20-plus year catalogue for VIBE’s Full Clip series. “Because seasoned artists are programmed to think that you still have to wait for that machine; that you still have to have a record company and have somebody that pushes buttons. That was the conversation I had with Juve when we were recording new music. He was like, ‘Man, I have to do what everyone else is doing, right now.’ And I’m telling him, ‘Yeah, music has changed…but you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Just give them something they can accept. Let’s throw this song out there and see what happens.’ And the response has been great.”
One curve ball component of the positive fan reaction to the Fresh- produced “Power” was the inclusion of Ross, who for the most part has garnered his street-infused notoriety by rhyming over creeping, ominous, bass-rattling, synth-fueled assaults. The more up-tempo and conceptual “Power” artistically represents a direct departure for the Bawse.
“I knew all of the songs Ross are on now are very street…very 808 orientated,” Fresh explains. “But I think Rick Ross is a very good lyrical artist. I wanted to do something that was different with him that still had that old feel but could still rock today. It was more so me going against the grain. Ross is one of the hottest dudes out there right now. I’m like, ‘Why do what everyone else is doing?’ Let’s go left.”
Fresh adds that he is currently working on more music with Juvenile and former No Limit soldier Mystikal. “I never went anywhere,” he muses of his time away from the spotlight. “But a lot of people personally didn’t know what was going on with me. Some people thought I disappeared and said fuck hip-hop [laughs]. But I’ve always known I was going to be back.”—Keith Murphy (murphdogg29)