Comeback king Juicy J relies on pop chart toppers to pivot his career 

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Juicy J has been priming the pump for his next album, Pure THC: The Hustle Continues, for some two years now, letting an original target date for release in September 2014 come and go.

He's not being lazy. In fact, in a recent phone interview, Juicy J says he's worked harder on this album than any of his previous releases. And as far the man whose birth certificate reads Jordan Michael Houston is concerned, the album could come out pretty much at any point.

"I always say it's done. But I also could go back into the studio and record like eight or nine new songs," Juicy J says. "I'll take my time with it. I just dropped a new single, 'For Everybody,' so we're going for adds on that [now]. But the album is pretty much done."

That song, which features guest appearances by Wiz Khalifa and R. City, is the latest in a series of singles Juicy J has dropped since winding up his touring cycle behind the 2013 album Stay Trippy. Juicy J is also keeping his fans supplied with new music by putting out a new mixtape, Blue Dream & Lean 2. The 17-track release is a sequel to his 2011 mixtape, Blue Dream & Lean, and features the song "All I Need (One More Drank)," which was originally released as a single.

Juicy J hopes Blue Dream & Lean 2 will help sustain the momentum he built with Stay Trippy, an album that returned him to the front ranks of the hip-hop scene after a few down years.

He first came on the scene a decade and a half ago as a member of the Memphis-based rap group Three 6 Mafia, which created a gritty style of hip-hop the group called "crunk." That group made history when "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song – becoming the second hip-hop song to receive that honor (after Eminem's "Lose Yourself," from the film 8 Mile).

But following that achievement, Three 6 Mafia started to pull apart, and Juicy went solo in 2009. He had little success until he released the original version of "Bandz A Make Her Dance" on Twitter in 2012, and saw it take off on the web and in clubs (especially strip clubs).

He then recorded a new version of "Bandz A Make Her Dance" with guest spots from Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz and got signed by Kemosabe/Columbia Records. That label released Stay Trippy with "Bandz A Make Her Dance" as the lead single, followed by another hit, "Bounce It."

Juicy J topped off his comeback with a guest rap on Katy Perry's song "Dark Horse," a tune that became a chart-topping pop hit. Thus, he joined Perry at the 2014 Grammy ceremony to perform "Dark Horse" for a worldwide audience of millions.

Clearly unsatisfied by his accomplishments so far, Juicy J's longer-range dream is to become president of a large record label. In fact, a main theme of Pure THC: The Hustle Continues revolves around Juicy J ascending to a CEO level and showing how to succeed in the music business while also enjoying the fringe benefits of being a hip-hop star – in other words, partying, relaxing and having the company of the fairer sex.

"It's very personal," Juicy J says of Pure THC: The Hustle Continues. "It talks about where I came from and where I am now, how long it took me to get where I am. It's a lot of different things. I'm talking about a lot of things. I'm talking about what me and Three 6 Mafia went through when we were just out in the streets hustling, trying to get on. So it's a very personal album. I've definitely got some kicking stuff in there, too, because my life is a party. But it's still a business, too, at the same time. I kick it when I kick it, but I definitely take care of business. I make sure everything is tight: My finances are tight, my family is tight, my friends are perfect."

While he waits for the right time to release the new album, Juicy J heads out on tour, playing a set that will include material from Stay Trippy, Blue Dream & Lean 2 and maybe a song or two from Pure THC: The Hustle Continues. One thing that will be very different from earlier tours will be how the music itself is presented.

"There will be a live band with me this time," Juicy J says. "I feel like with a live band it gives people more of a visual and it definitely gives it more of a bigger sound. Like you hear it on a record, when it went through a computer or whatever, and it sounds one way with a DJ. But when you get that live sound and a DJ, it's like, wow. It's a rock & roll show."


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