Three 6 Mafia
|Origin||Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.|
Three 6 Mafia is an American hip hop group formed in 1991 from Memphis, Tennessee. Their music has been variously described as Southern hip hop, Crunk, hardcore hip hop, horrorcore and gangsta rap. The group released their debut album Mystic Stylez in 1995 through Prophet, a record label they co-created but later relinquished control of in favor of a new label that they also created but had full ownership and control of, Hypnotize Minds. Their musical style--which initially featured dark, menacing beats with equally gritty lyrics--gradually moved to a less dark, more "Crunk" style. The group is widely considered as being a primary influence both of early "horrorcore" hip-hop, and "crunk" music of the 2000s, and the sound of modern underground hip-hop.
Two of their albums are RIAA-certified Platinum: When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 (2000) and Most Known Unknown (2005), the latter featured their well-known single "Stay Fly", which itself achieved 2x Multi-Platinum (Double Platinum) RIAA certification status. The group's latest studio album, Last 2 Walk, was released in 2008. Three 6 Mafia's worldwide album sales stand at 5.5 million as of 2016.
Three 6 Mafia's founding members began to develop their own respective musical crafts at young ages. In 1988, DJ Paul (Paul Beauregard), at age 11, was taking piano lessons, and his older half-brother, Lord Infamous (Ricky Dunigan), age 15, was a singer practicing bass and electric guitar. Paul could play piano and drums, Infamous sang and played bass and guitar. With that, the two would compose songs together.
At the same time, on the opposite end of Memphis, Tennessee, their hometown, Juicy J (Jordan Houston), at age 13, was learning how to DJ as well as rap. He had initially wanted to be a singer, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s he fell in love with the gangsta rap style, and he, like his future founding group members across town, wanted to make music like popular artists at the time such as N.W.A. and Geto Boys.
In 1989, DJ Paul and Lord Infamous formed the duo "Da Serial Killaz". It was at this time that they started distributing their own mixtapes of popular songs at the time at school, and Infamous had started rapping with his signature triple time flow. Juicy J was also creating his own mixes by this time, but was not putting his raps on tapes just yet.
By 1991, DJ Paul, had already begun to make a name for himself in the local hip hop scene through DJing at local clubs, such as Club 380 Beale, where he got his first opportunity to perform. His mixtapes, which were gradually evolving to include more and more original content of "Da Serial Killaz", also helped spread word of his talents. At the time, the hip hop scene in Memphis had not taken a fully fledged form yet, but early works by artists such as DJ Spanish Fly and DJ Squeeky were hinting at what was to come. DJ Spanish Fly heard of Paul's production skills, and recruited him to help make a beat. Paul's work with Spanish Fly allowed him, still just 14 years old, to quickly get his name out beyond the reach of his South Memphis neighborhood, and squarely into a more established circle of the Memphis hip-hop scene. Meanwhile, Lord Infamous was still rapping and evolving his lyrical style. Up in North Memphis, Juicy J was slowing building a name for himself as well, now that he was making his own songs and distributing them with his mixtapes, as well as DJing at local clubs with his mentor.
That same year, DJ Paul and Juicy J first crossed paths after Juicy sought out Paul in 1991 for help making beats. The two quickly grew fond of each-other's musical styles and the two subsequently teamed up with Lord Infamous to form the group "The Backyard Posse". Paul and Infamous still continued work as "Da Serial Killaz" by themselves, and in 1992 released the first legitimate original recording to come out of the eventual Three 6 Mafia camp, "Portrait of a Serial Killa". Featuring dark beats by Paul and horrorcore-styled lyrics from Infamous and Paul, this tape is recognized in its raw form as a pioneering work of horrorcore hip hop. Juicy J in the meantime released his debut hard copy mixtape, Volume 5, that same year, as well as his seminal track in its original form, "Slob on My Knob".
While Paul, Lord, and Juicy had all been making music in some capacity for about five years, it was in 1993 when they began to legitimately establish the unique, distinctive sound that would ultimately become synonymous with Three 6 Mafia. The first notable release from members of the group that dropped in 1993 was DJ Paul & Lord Infamous's Come With Me to Hell, which featured original forms of future Three 6 Mafia hits such as "Tear da Club Up" and "Porno Movie". Paul's "DJ Paul Volume 12" mixtape was also released at this time. That same year, while recording music for "The Backyard Posse", Lord Infamous famously rapped a line referring to his crew as the "Triple Six Mafia". Paul and Juicy loved the name so much that the group adopted it, seeing that the name more closely matched the bleak and dark imagery of their music.
Juicy J had yet to release a notable work of his own at this point, but in 1994 that would change with Vol. 9: It's On and Vol. 10: Chronicles of the Juice Manne. Similar to Paul and Infamous's works the previous year, these tapes featured what would turn out to be some of the framework of future hit songs.
Also in 1994, the group added its fourth official member, rapper Koopsta Knicca (Robert Cooper Phillips). Following the addition, the group released their first unified release with the mixtape Smoked Out Loced Out, which featured fellow budding local rappers Gangsta Blac, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Lil Fly, 211, K-9, Lil Glock & S.O.G. That same year, Koopsta Knicca recorded the original version of what would become his first solo album, Da Devil's Playground.
1994 also marked a significant milestone for the group, when Paul and Juicy, alongside local entrepreneur Nick Scarfo, formed Prophet, their first imprint. Through the label, the "Prophet Posse" was born, which was a looser collective that consisted of several local Memphis rappers who associated closely with Paul and Juicy J and ultimately signed onto the label, but were not members of Triple 6 Mafia. It was at this time when Juicy J's older brother, Project Pat, emerged with his debut, Solo Tape.
In 1995 the group filled out when it officially added rappers Crunchy Black (Darnell Carlton) and Gangsta Boo (Lola Mitchell). It was later this year when the group shifted its name to "Three 6 Mafia" and released their landmark debut album Mystic Stylez through Prophet. The album got them widespread recognition locally and in the southern underground hip hop scene, and as a result, Prophet landed a distribution deal with Select-O-Hits, the popular Memphis music label responsible for the rise of local artists including Elvis Presley. The group's first song on the radio was "Da Summa", a track on Mystic Stylez which represented a notable contrast to the group's typical lyrical style due to its relaxed lyrical nature.
In 1996, the group released Chapter 1: The End, their first non-Lo-Fi record. At the helm of Prophet, DJ Paul and Juicy J would produce and release a handful of albums of some of the label's other acts, including Gangsta Blac's Can It Be? and Kingpin Skinny Pimp's King of Da Playaz Ball in 1996, The Kaze (trio of Project Pat, M.C. Mack and Scan Man)'s Kamakazie: Timez Up in 1997, and the Prophet Posse's Body Parts in 1998. At the end of 1996 however, DJ Paul and Juicy J had a fallout with Nick Scarfo and a lengthy legal battle ensued between the two sides over Prophet. It was at this time when Paul and Juicy laid the framework for Hypnotize Minds, their own independent label which would become the powerhouse for Three 6 Mafia music for the next 11 years. In 1997, Three 6 Mafia would ink a deal with a major record label for distribution, and their ascension into the national spotlight would begin.
In 1997, after forming Hypnotize Minds, the group signed a deal with Sony and began working on what would become their first RIAA certified album, Chapter 2: World Domination. Polishing up their darker sound for a more palatable aesthetic while still retaining their authenticity, Chapter 2: World Domination went on to reach RIAA Gold status, selling over 800,000 copies in the United States. The album included their most successful song to date, the club anthem "Tear Da Club Up". At this point in the group's evolution, group leaders DJ Paul and Juicy J began expanding their brand and focused on developing Hypnotize Minds. Along with the Three 6 Mafia act, they brought along several artists from Prophet in their transition to Hypnotize Minds, creating "Hypnotize Camp Posse", the successor of "Prophet Posse". Over the next few years, the new label would put out Indo G's, Angel Dust, group member Gangsta Boo's Enquiring Minds (her debut solo album), Project Pat's Ghetty Green (his debut album), and Hypnotize Camp Posse's self titled album (Three 6 Mafia Presents: Hypnotize Camp Posse).
In 1999, Tear Da Club Up Thugz, a subgroup of Three 6 Mafia members in the founding trio of DJ Paul, Juicy J, and Lord Infamous, released CrazyNDaLazDayz, which is recognized as one of if not the first album made entirely in the "Crunk" production style. The album included Juicy J's notorious solo track, "Slob On My Knob", and went on to be certified Gold by the RIAA. Later that year group member Koopsta Knicca's debut album, Da Devil's Playground: Underground Solo, was released independently, though like all the Hypnotize Minds albums, was still produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J.
In 2000, the group soared to new heights in the "Crunk" music genre, carried by their most successful album to date, When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6 Sixty 1. The album went on to achieve RIAA Platinum status, a first for the group, and spawned the single "Sippin on Some Syrup" (affectionately known as "Sippin on Some Sizzurp"), which featured UGK and Project Pat. This marked Three 6 Mafia's ascension into the limelight as a premier hip-hop group of the south.
Despite the great successes and newfound national stardom, 2000 represented a troubling year of sorts for the group. The Prophet Posse, which to this point had still been working closely with Hypnotize Minds in an auxiliary-type relationship, broke up, and its members who had not made the transition to the Hypnotize Minds imprint ceased making music with Three 6 Mafia and the rest of Hypnotize Minds. Moreover, group member Koopsta Knicca was forced out of Three 6 Mafia due to ongoing legal issues which culminated with his 2000 robbery incarceration, which voided his contract with Sony and forbade him from recording with the group. Koopsta was notably absent from the album cover of "When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6 Sixty 1" and the music videos that accompanied tracks on the album due to his being incarcerated, despite still being a member of the group at the time of the album's release.
Despite losing Koopsta Knicca from its ranks and cutting ties officially with Prophet, Three 6 Mafia and company were heading nowhere but up. In 2001, the group dropped the soundtrack to the DJ Paul and Juicy J-produced film, Choices. The soundtrack was released as a studio album and (Choices: The Album), kept the Three 6 name and Hypnotize Minds brand growing to new heights. Moreover, Juicy and Paul successfully positioned Project Pat to become the new star of Hypnotize Minds, with his Mista Don't Play: Everythang's Workin' hitting #4 on the Billboard 200 and certifying Gold by the RIAA, being thus far the only Three 6 Mafia affiliate to release a Gold RIAA-certified solo album. The album was released in 2001. 2001 also saw Gangsta Boo leave Three 6 Mafia following the release of Choices: The Album, citing a variety of reasons including group dynamics, religion, and her desire to pursue a solo career.
In 2002, Juicy J and DJ Paul re-released their remastered and dramatically updated "Vol. 10" and "Vol. 16" albums respectively as Chronicles of the Juice Mane: Underground Album, and Underground Volume 16: For Da Summa. These albums represented their solo studio album debuts and the last breadth of some of their older sound giving way to full on Crunk.
In 2003, the latest incarnation of Three 6 Mafia, in DJ Paul, Juicy J, Lord Infamous, and Crunchy Black, released their album Da Unbreakables. Spawning hit singles such as "Ridin' Spinners" and "Testin' My Gangsta", the album was a success, certifying Gold by the RIAA. In 2004, Three 6 Mafia began to mobilize for what would become their domination over hip-hop. They were working on a sequel to their 2001 movie, with it another studio album, and DJ Paul, Juicy J, and emerging Hypnotize Minds affiliate Frayser Boy, were about to ink a deal with the directors of Hustle & Flow to write an original track for the film that would ultimately result in Three 6 Mafia's ascension into the limelight.
In 2005 it had been 10 years since Three 6 Mafia had dropped their Mystic Stylez. During this time many members had left, and with that even more affiliates, but into the fold other acts such as Project Pat, Frayser Boy, and Lil Wyte cropped up as successes to keep the camp moving forward. This moving forward reached its zenith in 2005-2007 for Three 6 Mafia, wherein they became superstars of hip-hop. Firstly, they dropped the sequel to their Choices movie, Choices II: The Setup, and a studio album to go along with it that sold 400,000 copies. Secondly, they released the most commercially successful album of their careers with Most Known Unknown, which charted at #3 on the Top 200 and went on to sell 1,600,000 copies in the United States, becoming their second album to go Platinum and their best selling overall. Also in 2005, they released an additional film, the comedy, Clean Up Men.
Three 6 Mafia's rise came to a head in 2006 when they became the first hip-hop group to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song with "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" (which they co-wrote with Frayser Boy) as one of the theme songs for Hustle & Flow. They were also the first hip-hop artists to ever perform at the ceremony, which they did with Hustle & Flow actress Taraji P. Henson reprising her chorus. It was the second hip-hop song (and the first Crunk/Dirty South song) to win an Oscar, after Eminem's "Lose Yourself" in 2002 from his film 8 Mile, and only one other hip-hop song since then has won an Oscar - Common and John Legend's "Glory" (from Selma) in 2015. Right before presenter Queen Latifah announced that they had won, she chuckled and sang the refrain from the song. The energy from DJ Paul, Juicy J, Crunchy Black, and Frayser Boy's on-stage presence and acceptance speech was infectious, causing that year's Oscar host Jon Stewart to quip "How come they're the most excited people here tonight? Why is that? They're thrilled! They're thrilled!.... That's how you accept an Oscar!"
On June 7, 2006, Sony announced the departure of Crunchy Black. He stated his primary reason for departing was to make a solo album that DJ Paul and Juicy J had allegedly put off for years, with much of his material that he'd wanted on his solo album having being used for Most Known Unknown. Crunchy also later cited frustration over alleged financial mismanagement. Thereafter Three 6 Mafia consisted officially of DJ Paul and Juicy J.
In 2007, DJ Paul and Juicy J landed their own reality television show, Adventures in Hollyhood, on MTV. The show focused on the pair balancing fun and studio work after their Oscar win. Three 6 Mafia-affiliate rappers Project Pat and Lil Wyte along with hometown friends Big Triece & Computer co-starred. The show premiered on April 5, 2007 on MTV & aired for one season.
Three 6 Mafia released their 9th studio album Last 2 Walk on June 24, 2008, after multiple delays. The album featured collaborations with Akon, Good Charlotte, Lyfe Jennings, UGK, and 8Ball & MJG among others.
After leaving Three 6 Mafia a number of years prior, Lord Infamous was featured on DJ Paul's second solo album Scale-A-Ton, which was released on May 5, 2009. Lord Infamous was featured on 8 tracks. Juicy J's second solo album Hustle Till I Die was released on June 16, 2009. The album featured his brother and frequent collaborator Project Pat and other rappers such as V-Slash, Gucci Mane, Webbie and Gorilla Zoe.
In 2011, DJ Paul and Juicy J starred in VH1's cooking show Famous Food together with seven other celebrities and eventually won first place. In an interview, published in July 2011 DJ Paul cleared up some controversy from the show, involving Ashley Dupre, best known from the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.
By the end of 2012, Juicy J had moved completely away from Three 6 Mafia work to focus on his solo career. During this time he released a number of solo mixtapes such as Rubba Band Business and Blue Dream & Lean. He also had begun frequently collaborated with Wiz Khalifa, appearing on a number of his mixtapes.
After a number of mixtapes, DJ Paul released his third solo studio album A Person of Interest on October 22, 2012. He announced that the album was a mix of gangsta rap and crunk music, with it also incorporating influences from dubstep and electronic dance music. The album featured past collaborators Lil Wyte and Gucci Mane, and also came with a bonus DVD including a self-titled short movie, music videos and behind the scenes footage.
On November 26, 2013, DJ Paul released Volume 16: The Original Masters, a remaster of his 1994 mixtape 4 Da Summer of '94, on iTunes. After releasing a series of singles, including the chart topping "Bandz a Make Her Dance" which featured 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, Juicy J released his third solo studio album Stay Trippy under Taylor Gang Records, Kemosabe Records and Columbia Records on August 27, 2013. Juicy J has since stated that he would still "love to" participate in a Three 6 Mafia album in the future.
In 2013, it was announced that 5 of the 6 original members of Three 6 Mafia - DJ Paul, Crunchy Black, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous and Gangsta Boo - were reuniting to form a new group, to be known as Da Mafia 6ix, with plans to release an album which was scheduled for a March 2014 release. At the time of the formation of Da Mafia 6ix, DJ Paul clarified that the collective was "not a Three 6 Mafia reunion" and described it as "a totally new group". The new group opted for a style reflecting their roots, focusing largely on the horrorcore foundations of their early works. Recording began in Las Vegas in late 2013. On November 12, 2013, Da Mafia 6ix released their first mixtape 6iX Commandments. The tape was almost entirely produced by DJ Paul and featured Yelawolf, 8Ball & MJG, Krayzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, SpaceGhostPurrp and old HCP affiliates Lil Wyte, Kingpin Skinny Pimp and La Chat, among others. Juicy J and Project Pat also appeared as surprise guests on the posse song "Body Parts", being credited just as "& more" in the track listing. The mixtape was supported by the lead single "Go Hard" featuring Yelawolf. The mixtape also received a retail release and debuted at number 34 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The group is managed by DJ Paul's management team, TBA Worldwide.
Gangsta Boo would leave Da Mafia 6ix in May 2014. DJ Paul explained it saying, "It was what we thought was going to be best for everybody. It just happened. Nobody forced nobody. It was a gut feeling." The reunited group's debut album, Watch What U Wish..., featured the three remaining members of the group as well as Lord Infamous, who appeared on a handful of tracks through several verses he had recorded prior to his death. The album was released on March 17, 2015. A month later, Crunchy Black was arrested for drug possession in Las Vegas. He had an outstanding arrest warrant stemming from a domestic violence charge and was sentenced to a total of 7 months in prison.
On October 9, 2015, Koopsta Knicca died after several days in urgent care following a stroke and brain aneurysm. At this point, with Crunchy Black's ongoing legal troubles, DJ Paul was once again by himself and the Da Mafia 6ix experiment effectively ended.
Three 6 Mafia never officially expanded beyond the six original members of the group. However, many artists ultimately featured on the Three 6 Mafia-created and sponsored labels (first Prophet Entertainment and then Hypnotize Minds) emerged and rose to prominence with the group, several contributing heavily to Three 6 Mafia's ascension. Prophet Posse and Hypnotize Camp Posse were the names used for what amounted to the broader or "expanded" version of Three 6 Mafia.
|2006||Academy Awards||Best Original Song||"It's Hard out Here for a Pimp"||Won|
|BET Awards||Best Group||Three 6 Mafia||Nominated|
|MTV Video Music Awards||Best Hip-Hop Video||"Stay Fly"||Nominated|
|2007||BET Awards||Best Group||Three 6 Mafia||Nominated|
|2008||American Music Awards||Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Band, Duo or Group||Three 6 Mafia||Won|
|2009||BET Awards||Best Group||Three 6 Mafia||Nominated|
|2010||International Dance Music Awards||Best Hip Hop Dance Track||"Feel It"||Nominated|
|2012||Memphis Music Hall of Fame||Inductee||Three 6 Mafia||Won|