Greatest Southern Artists of all Time
Words Wally Sparks / Photo Julia Beverly
THREE 6 MAFIA 5 ESSENTIAL THREE 6 MAFIA TRACKS Three 6 Mafia “Tear the Club Up” Mystic Stylez 1995 This song is considered by many to be the birth of crunk music. Every DJ below the Mason-Dixon line has a story to tell involving this record. Tear Up Da Club Thugs “Slob on My Knob” CrazyNDaLazDayz 1999 One of the greatest call-and-response records in the history of Southern rap music. Barely even two minutes long, this song has become a surefire party starter. Three 6 Mafia “Who Run It” When the Smoke Clears 2000 Three 6 Mafia at its very best: all six members rapping together over a classic menacing beat from super producers DJ Paul and Juicy J. Three 6 Mafia f/ UGK “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” When the Smoke Clears 2000 This song introduced the rest of the nation to the well-known intoxicating practice in the South: sipping on a liquid concoction of prescription codeine and liquor. Three 6 Mafia “You Scared Pt. 2” Da Unbreakables 2003 This Southern club classic is an instantly recognizable beat.
J Paul, Juicy J, Crunchy Black, Lord Infamous, Gangsta Boo, and Koopsta Knicca are the six individuals who make up the group synonymous with the soundscape of Memphis, Tennessee: Three 6 Mafia. Although two of these artists have since moved on to navigate their own solo careers outside of the Three 6 fold, the undeniable impact of this group on the Southern music scene can’t be duplicated. What started as two young mixtape DJs battling each other became a movement. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, DJ Paul and Juicy J were both staples in Memphis’ mixtape circuit. While battling each other for local supremacy, they gained respect for each other’s work and decided that it would be best for them to come together. They both had a strong following, so working together would ensure they’d be at the top of the local budding rap scene. DJ Paul and Juicy J both had their own rappers that appeared frequently on their mixtapes, so they decided to form a super group with those rappers. Thus, the legend of Three 6 Mafia began. In the midst of the Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, and Monie Love era, Three 6 Mafia can be credited as one of the first groups in the South to put out a hardcore female rapper. Touted as possibly one of the best female rhyme spitters to ever come out of the South, Gangsta Boo was the perfect ingredient to add to the Three 6 Mafia mix. Gangsta Boo earned respect from all the males in the Southern rap game and had a great influence on other female rappers. Fast-forwarding a few years into the mid-90’s, we started to see the growth of Three 6 Mafia. They’d always had a devoted fan base. They began to release self-promoted independent albums full of club classics that were riot-enticing if played in the club at the wrong time. Although Three 6 Mafia had already had several well-known local jams, nothing could prepare them or their fans for what was about to come. Spearhead-
(l to r) Juicy J, Crunchy Black, DJ Paul, and Lord Infamous
ing the “gangsta walking” and “buck jumping” craze that was birthed in Memphis, Three 6 Mafia released a song that is now considered the first crunk record: “Tear Da Club Up.” “Tear Da Club Up” was like a virus. It spread throughout the Southeast at a fast and furious pace. What made this song unique was the hypnotizing effect it seemed to have on club patrons whenever it was played. Once the DJ dropped the needle on the record, they’d do as the song instructed them to do: “Tear Da Club Up,” literally! Club owners, fearing the potential destruction of their venue, began to fine DJs for playing the record. Some clubs even banned the record.
Young Buck, the YoungBloodz, and many more. Three 6 Mafia is ready to spread their sound all over the world. Another hat Three 6 Mafia seems to wear with style is that of an independent filmmaker. Their first independent film, Choices, set a record for the best-selling independent film. The film also served as the launching pad for one of Three 6 Mafia’s most celebrated artists, Project Pat.
For many years, Three 6 Mafia’s music was limited to the Southeast. By industry standards that’s not a good thing, but for DJ Paul and Juicy J, it wasn’t a big deal. They were making money hand-over-fist selling their product independently, directly to their consumers. Three 6 Mafia always understood simple economics from day one: you create a demand, then supply the product.
As a part of Three 6’s Hypnotized Mindz camp, Project Pat also has a Three 6 Mafia-produced platinum album to his credit. Since then, Three 6 Mafia has also been able to guide the careers of artists such as Lil Wyte, Frayser Boy, and La Chat to phenomenal success in the independent market. For example, Lil Wyte’s first solo album Doubt Me Now has sold over 150,000 to date, with little video or radio airplay. Three 6 Mafia also plans to work with several up and coming artists. The newest member of the Hypnotized Mindz camp is Florida-based artist Grandaddy Souf, who enjoyed regional success with his single “Savage Journey (Fuck da Law).” His style is a perfect match for Three 6’s beats.
Rumored to be just as menacing in the boardroom as they are behind the mic, DJ Paul and Juicy J have proven that their brash declarations of “We run this independent shit” are not words to be taken lightly. Boasting over ten independently released albums with numbers totaling over 500,000 strong, that statement holds some major weight.
With a track record spanning over a decade in the music industry, Three 6 Mafia has earned their respect from artists and executives alike. They’ve left their stamp on the industry without ever compromising themselves or their music. They’ve been able to achieve the artistic freedom and the financial success that many artists can only dream of.
Major labels began to see the potential in Three 6 Mafia. They first signed with Relativity Records, then moved to Loud Records, and eventually landed at their current home of Columbia/Sony. Three 6 Mafia has earned the right to boast that they’re the first group from Memphis with a platinum album.
Crunk music, a form of Southern music which they helped lay the foundation for, has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years. Every time your favorite artist encourages you to wild out in the club, you are paying silent homage to the trailblazers, Three 6 Mafia.
DJ Paul and Juicy J aren’t limited to just CEOs and artists, either. After years of creating and maintaining the Three 6 Mafia sound, these super producers have become sought-after beatmakers in the industry. Their client list is filled with names like Ludacris, T.I., Killer Mike,
There’s many reasons why Three 6 Mafia is considered one of the greatest groups in Southern history. Their longevity, their uncompromising disposition, their shrewd business acumen, and most importantly, their music have all combined into one big pot of their mind-hypnotizing sound. OZONE APR 2005
Ozone Mag #33 - Apr 2005