First Impressions: The 50 Best Album-Opening Songs in Rap History

9. Juvenile "Ha" (1998)

Producer: Mannie Fresh
Album: 400 Degreez
Label: Cash Money, Universal


Written and released at a time when hip-hop from all parts of the country was falling to the mercy of a seemingly insurmountable set of clichés, Juvenile's "Ha" seemed like an utter impossibility: A totally original and 100% individualistic approach to the rap single. With hindsight we take Juvie's charms for granted but back then this was a seriously esoteric venture. The conceit of "Ha" is that every line ends with the same monosyllabic grunt. Is it rapping or is it talking? His flow thoroughly undermines the predominant New York paradigm, which prizes (or did in 1998, at least) complexity and articulation. Can you name another national hit that is as uncompromisingly localized? The song has the blood of the Third Ward coursing through its hi-hats. Mannie Fresh's beat is a parade rhythm recast in platinum bezel but the chorus-a double-dutch rhyme for the part of the Crescent City where tourists won't roam-marks the zenith of the New Orleans bounce cadence. —Sam Sweet

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