Rewind '99: A 25th Anniversary Retrospective of BG's 'Chopper City in the Ghetto' Album

The LP featured the critically acclaimed single "Bling Bling," which helped drive the bounce music movement in the South.

When the Cash Money Millionaires burst onto the rap scene in the mid-90s, they didn't just make waves – they unleashed a seismic shift that reverberated through the entire genre. In a landscape where Southern Rap had already begun to carve out its niche, this Nola-bred crew brought a unique energy and style that set them apart. Their influence on hip-hop culture has been nothing short of transformative, offering a powerful generational co-sign that celebrates the intersection of grit and glamour. As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of B.G.’s "Chopper City in the Ghetto" in the second installment of “Rewind ‘99,” we delve into a pivotal moment in music history that continues to shape the sound and ethos of contemporary rap.

In 1999, B.G. dropped his fourth album, unleashing a sonic powerhouse that catapulted Southern Rap onto the global stage, firmly establishing its presence alongside the titans of the industry coast to coast. Yet, the journey to this groundbreaking debut had begun years prior, its roots digging deep into the fertile soil of Southern musical innovation.

In 1991, Birdman (formally known as Baby during this time and whose legal name is Bryan Williams) and his brother Ronald "Slim" Williams founded Cash Money Records. Five years later, they signed fellow New Orleans natives B.G., Lil Wayne, Juvenile, and Turk. Although these artists were solo acts, they also collaborated as a team, forming the Hot Boys. Shortly after, popular Nawlins DJ Mannie Fresh was introduced to the team, serving as the label's producer.

With the group's rising success and solo projects, B.G.'s fourth album, "Chopper City in the Ghetto," dawned on April 20, 1999. The LP boasted 16 tracks trumpeting not only B.G.'s individuality but their status as a collective with their unapologetic anthem to live life to the fullest depicted in "Bling Bling." That track crystallized their undeniable star power in the rap game, making them a force in the South.

Before B.G. released the album, Weezy had already started using the term "bling bling" in his vernacular, and the crew quickly caught on. With B.G.'s thriving street credibility, Mannie Fresh considered the influence "Bling Bling" could have on the industry heavily dominated by artists from the West and East coasts.

"Originally the song was a Big Tymers song but B.G. was so street that we decided to give the song to him because it was like, “How do we get the masses to like this album?” It was gonna be a family song on the Big Tymers album," he explained to Fader in 2017 of the group that featured himself alongside Baby. "But after I listened to B.G.’s album, I was like, “This s - - t is so heavy and dark you need at least two songs that’s completely different from any of that.”

Not only did Mannie Fresh's vision come true, but that track helped the group's notoriety soar to the top.

"Chopper City in the Ghetto" debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 chart, and "Bling Bling" made its presence known on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the 36th spot.

The album also sold one million units that year securing its platinum status by the RIAA.

In 2002, "Bling Bling" was also included on the label's Platinum hits album, as reported by Billboard.

"For a long time it was just all about the East Coast and all about the West Coast," B.G. told MTV after "CCITG" was released. "The South just was overlooked. So, you know, now it's just... our turn to shine, man. And people are like, 'Man, you know, we've been looking over these people for the last decade, and you know, it's really gone down down there. They really got talent down there, you know? We gonna get them up here, and... see what's going to happen.' And now we on the scene and we just taking over the scene."'

On the clean version of "Bling Bling," Turk is noticeably missing from the track because he missed the recording session. "The truth of the matter is I was high, and I ain’t used to want Baby and them to know," he confessed to the outlet. Due to his absence, Tunchi was added in his place.

The song largely illustrated the freedom and wherewithal to live carefree, but for these up-and-coming rappers, it was more profound than that. This was their ticket to cementing their rightful place in the competitive music industry, like other Hip-Hop artists vying for bragging rights.

As the song opens, Birdman unleashes Southern twang while flaunting the depths of his fortune.

"Woadie, I'm tattooed and balled up / Medallion iced up, Rolex bezelled up / And my pinky ring is platinum plus / Earrings be trillion cut and my grill be slugged up."

"I be that nigga with the ice on me / If it cost less than twenty it don't look right on me / I stay flossed out all through the week / My money long if you don't know I'm the B.G." raps B.G. in the song.

The song's addictive parlance rapped by Lil Wayne reverberates a gambol that fans and peers in the industry quickly subscribed to.

"Bling bling, every time I come around your city / Bling bling, pinky ring worth about fifty / Bling bling, every time I buy a new ride / Bling bling, Lorenzos on Yokohama tires."

"We were just trying to find our making in hip-hop. What I’m saying is you had Slick Rick who was the storyteller, Public Enemy who was educating on whatever was going on in the black neighborhood, and you had the gangsta rap which was NWA. You had West Coast sound, East Coast sound, and then you had Cash Money. We had categories," Mannie Fresh said. "It wasn’t a bad thing that the category was like, “OK, they’re kinda flamboyant.” It was just something that fit in hip-hop. We had no choice but to think that way, you know? How do you get out of something like, Goddamn, this shit is crazy? Sometimes it’s a fantasy of, like, "S - - t, I want this so bad. That’s why everything is big."'

While the song is on B.G.'s album, he has always felt inclined to share the credit of its success with the rest of the crew.

"I ain’t gonna say I did that, but we did that. You know what I’m saying, ‘cause I mean, it was my song, it was on my album, I had everybody featured on it. Even though the situation is how it is right now, I give all the credit to Mannie Fresh, you know what I’m sayin’, me and Mannie Fresh."

Riddled with a toast to living the good life while remaining tied to their community, the music video reinforced brotherly love, solidarity, and pride for beating odds stacked against Black men in the ghettos of America.

The rappers are captured in the visual, balling out of control in luxury vehicles and above ground in a helicopter. One scene shows them enjoying the ocean while on a yacht, and at another point, they are parlaying at a dining table in the front yard of a mansion. As the rappers self-indulge, they are also accompanied by bikini-clad women.

Ostentatious behavior by parading jewelry and wealth has existed since the beginning of time, but the concept was taken to new heights when "Bling Bling" arose. Cash Money accomplished what they never thought possible; they changed the world.

Nowadays, it's common for people everywhere to refer to the finer things in life as "bling bling." From luxurious whips to flashy multi-million dollar homes and even extravagant weddings or birthday celebrations, people are obsessed with glitz and glamour, even if they are not celebrities.

Cash Money took one word, added some swag to it, and evolved the way people perceived wealth across the globe. Whether on the Forbes certified billionaire list or a blue-collar worker, "bling bling" is for everyone.

In 2003, the word "bling" was added to the dictionary.

As a sign of the times, if social media were alive during this moment, these fellas would have been one of the first persons to go viral from the phrase. B.G. –released from prison in 2023 after spending 11 years behind bars– said he is still shocked it took off the way it did.

"Yeah, it’s in the dictionary, man that shit is crazy. For a n - - -a like me who comes from nothing, from the hood, and I be going through the airports and s - - t sometimes… as a matter of fact, a flight attendant the other day said, “I like your bling bling” and I just started laughin’ because s - - t be funny, she ain't know who I was and I wasn’t gonna tell her who I was, I don’t even wanna be trippin' like that, but s - - t is crazy," he told the outlet of the virality of the phrase.

"Sometimes I get tired of hearing it, I ain’t gonna lie, but then, then it make me feel good about myself, they lettin’ me know, like, d - - m," he continued.

Following the honor Cash Money gained due to this song, Southern Rap became unshakeable. Since 1999, the region has had a continuous stream of artists whose influence stems directly from New Orleans's pride and irrefutable flair.

After nearly three decades and the evolution of Cash Money Records, B.G.'s magnetism, along with the original members, continues to march throughout the music industry while their hits maintain their standing on playlists from throwback fans and newly minted ones.

Although the Hot Boys parted ways in 2001, as reported by Vibe, their influence has sustained the test of time, as foretold in "CCITG's" track "Cash Money is an Army."

"Cash money is a army nigga / A navy nigga / So if you ever try to home nigga / It ain't gravy nigga," the chorus echoes as B.G. raps. "My click is the Hot Boys best believe we so hot / And dangerous if we in to deep will clear the whole block / No fake nuts at all nigga we roll to deep / With AK's off safety knockin' niggaz off their feet."

While others have tried to duplicate their style, no one can underestimate the power that B.G. and the Cash Money enterprise has had that continues to drive the music industry forward.

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