I first saw the video for Juvenile’s “Ha” on Rap City in, maybe, October 1998. I was sitting on my couch in my house on the west side of Atlanta, partaking of the free cable that my cousin had temporarily procured for the entire neighborhood. Rap City, back then, was a staple source of hip-hop consumption. Then the video came on. Probably no more than 30 seconds into it, I remember thinking to myself, “What the fuck am I watching?” It was sooooo hood. I was fixated on the television. I’d never seen a video that was so “real” to speak. Juvenile was somebody I was vaguely aware of—my older sister had a friend from New Orleans who used to make her tapes and a few of them were bounce tapes—but I’d never seen him before. And until that point I didn’t even have a real sticking, reference point for New Orleans, which is odd because I’m from down south and we were up on Master P. But something about this video was different, it turned New Orleans into a compelling character.
The gutter-ness of it was like a mini-documentary. Juvenile brought us right into the C.J. Peete Housing Development, and forever etching the Magnolia Projects (how they were locally known) into hip hop consciousness. No Limit brought us the Calliope, but Magnolia became legend.
Also, despite being put out by a label called Cash Money Records, this video looked poor as fuck. Everybody looked poor or hood rich. There was no middle ground. Juvenile looked hot as fuck. Whatever they were trying to capture with the video, they did with tremendous results. As soon as the video ended, I remember calling one of the homies to tell him what I’d just seen and that I’d never seen anything like that before. This video, and Cash Money created some sort of mystique out of New Orleans that really never let up. Even watching it, I knew we were on the brink of something big, and true to form, Cash Money took over the for the 99 and the 2000.
Even watching the video now, I’m transported back to that moment I first saw it; I was genuinely enraptured. The only other time I remember seeing a music video that was so compelling I needed to tell other people so they could watch it was 50 Cent’s “Wanksta.”
When I first saw the Straight Outta Compton biopic, I remember thinking that the first 2 minutes of that movie were like the realest two minutes of a movie I could remember seeing; that’s how I felt about this video. And still do, and that is iconic.