Three 6 Mafia
Three 6 Mafia
Local DJs Juicy J and DJ Paul have dominated the underground Memphis hip-hop scene since the early 1990s. The two eventually paired up, along with Juicy J's brother, MC Lord Infamous, and began recording a style of rap music that eventually helped define the "dirty South" style of hip hop music. With controversial lyrics and hostile, menacing beats, the group, originally calling themselves Backyard Posse, created a style of music that was rooted in gangsta rap but tipped on its edge with sluggish music, and heavy beats on top. In their early days, Three 6 Mafia, along with artists like Detroit's Esham, was part of the underground rap scene called horrorcore.
After renaming themselves Three 6 Mafia the group released the independent album Mystic Stylez in 1995. The band's lo-fi beats and Lord Infamous' sinister vocals and horror-inspired lyrics started a buzz in Memphis. The following year Three 6 Mafia played down a bit of the scarier aspect of their music and instead revved up the violence. The success of 1996's Da End, released on Prophet Recordings, and the notoriety of DJ Paul and Juicy J's production talents led the group to sign a deal with Relativity Records.
In November of 1997 Three 6 Mafia released Chapter 2: World Domination, their first widely distributed album. The ominous group began to get attention outside of just the South, causing The Village Voice's Kelefa Sanneh to call the group, "a loose-knit, vaguely satanic, rabidly anti-commercial group." That didn't stop Three 6 Mafia from coming back even stronger with their 2000 release When the Smoke Clears. The new album, which began a turn away from horrorcore and began to heavily dip into a slowed-town, dirty South, Southern style of rap, debuted at number six on the Billboard charts before going platinum.
The memorable song "Sippin' on Some Syrup" was one the standout tracks from When the Smoke Clears. The songs spread the secret gospel of drinking cough-syrup as drug of to an entirely new audience. Though the band claims the song could be about any extra-sweet party drink, those in the know, knew it was all about cough medicine. "It's a woozy celebration of prescription-strength NyQuil, with a tuneless, staccato synth beat that sounds practically prehistoric," wrote the Voice's Sanneh. The track became an instant underground hit that began to leak to all part of the United States.
After signing to Columbia Records in the summer of 2003, Three 6 Mafia released Da Unbreakables to much success. Pumped by the popular single "Ridin' Spinnaz," featuring Lil' Flip, Three 6 Mafia proved that they could produce songs for both the underground South and mainstream rap fans. "… A lot of people go through the same thing," Juicy J told VH1.com. Three 6 Mafia knew how to speak to the masses too. "Right now, that's the thing. Rims that spin is the shit," Juicy J continued. "You look around TV or just in the neighborhood you see young black and white kids, Hispanics, everybody riding spinners. We talking about something that everyone can relate to."
With Da Unbreakables, the members of Three 6 Mafia continued to sing what they knew about. "Memphis is a dark city, it's grimy. It's a small city, there ain't a lot of people got money," DJ Paul told XXL about their song's inspiration. For the next few years Juicy J and DJ Paul took time away from Three 6 Mafia to work as a production team for a myriad of popular stars including Ludacris, Mike Jones, and Young Buck. The duo and their group was often credited for creating or propelling the Southern hip-hop movement that began taking over Top 40 hip-hop/rap friendly radio stations. "We ain't gone say we started it, but we are a part of the down South movement," Juicy J said in their official biography. The South and its unhurried way of life is an integral element to Three 6 Mafia's music. In an interview with VH1.com, Juicy J credits their influences, "DJ Spanish Fly and another guy by the name of Sonny D were like the Memphis pioneers of rap music," he said. "I looked at them as mentors. They did their own music and put their mix tapes out. Especially Spanish Fly, he used to rap on his own tapes and put his own songs out in the clubs. He made his own stuff hot. We followed in the footsteps of those guys."
For their 2005 release on Columbia, Three 6 Mafia titled the record Most Known Unknown; a play on the fact that the group had serious credibility and notoriety in the rap world but received very little mainstream attention. The average American wasn't quite ready for Three 6 Mafia yet, but Most Known Unknown sold well and the single "Stay Fly" became a hit.
For the Record …
Members include DJ Paul (born Paul Beauregard); Juicy J (born Jordan Houston); Lord Infamous (born Ricky Dunigan). Former members include Crunchy Black (born Darnell Carlton, left group, 2006); Gangsta Boo (born Lola Mitchell); Koopsta Knicca (born Robert Cooper).
Group formed in 1995 in Memphis, TN, by core members DJ Paul, Juicy J and Lord Infamous; debuted with the independent album Mystic Stylez, 1995; earned reputation in the rap style of horrorcore; signed to Relativity Records, released Chapter 2: World Domination, 1997; When the Smoke Clears, 2000, evolved into a style called dirty South or Southern rap; signed with Columbia Records to release Da Unbreakables, 2003 and Most Known Unknown, 2005; won Academy Award for Best Original Song, 2006.
Awards: Academy Award, Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" (from the film Hustle & Flow, 2006.
Addresses: Record company—Columbia Records, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CCA 90494. Website—Three 6 Mafia Official Website: http://www.triplesix.com.
Later that year film producer John Singleton asked Three 6 Mafia to write a song for his upcoming movie Hustle & Flow. The film and the track Singleton wanted was to be about the struggles of a Southern pimp who aspired to be a rapper. Written by DJ Paul, Juicy J and associate Frayser Boy, the song "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp," became an integral and memorable moment to the 2005 film Hustle & Flow. In a surprise to everyone involved, the song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2006 Academy Awards. As the first rap performers in Oscar history, Three 6 Mafia wowed the stuffy audience with their authentic performance of "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp." Later that night, Three 6 Mafia won the Oscar, being only the second rap act ever to win an Academy Award (Eminem won in 2003). Due to their astonishment of success at the Academy Awards Three 6 Mafia quickly had higher profile than they could have ever imagined. Three 6 Mafia quickly became one of the most popular rap groups that few people had ever heard of before. The single "Poppin' My Collar," from Most Known Unknown soon moved to heavy rotation on radio stations.
In an interview with online magazine Pitchfork Media, Juicy J summed up their career and their impact on Southern rap. "Three 6 Mafia have been around for a long time; we've made a lot of music," he said. "Anybody's music can influence anybody. I've heard people say that our music has influenced such and such, and it could be true and it could not. My music could have a certain type of sound, and some of his music could sound a little bit like mine, but with a twist. I would take the credit for just being a produce out of the dirty South. I wouldn't say we was the creators of the Memphis sound, but we a part of the Memphis sound and the dirty South sound as a whole."
Mystic Stylez, Select-O-Hits, 1995.
Da End, Prophet Records, 1996.
Chapter 2: World Domination, Relativity Records, 1997.
When The Smoke Clears, Relativity Records, 2000.
Choices: The Album, Relativity Records, 2001.
Da Unbreakables, Columbia, 2003.
Most Known Unknown, Columbia, 2005.
"Interview: Three 6 Mafia," Pitchfork Media, http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/interviews/t/three-6-mafia-06/ (June 15, 2006).
Three 6 Mafia Official Biography, Sony Music Website, http://www.sonymusic.com/artists/Three6Mafia (June 15, 2006).
"Three 6 Mafia: Apocalypse Now," VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com/artists/interview/1475898/08062003/three_six_mafia.jhtml (June 15, 2006).
Village Voice, http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0025,sanneh,15793,22.html (June 15, 2006).
XXL Magazine, http://xxlmag.com/Features/2005/nov/36mafia/index.html (June 15, 2006).
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