DJ Paul and Three 6 Mafia’s influence on modern rap music is more prominent than ever. From “Street Goth” being the latest fashion trend to rappers liberally borrowing the Mafia’s iconic rapid-fire flows, screwed vocals and purple drank obsession. Of course the Memphis legends weren’t the only ones to drink cough syrup and rhyme over dark production, but they undoubtedly played a huge role in putting Tennessee on the map and bringing the South to the mainstream.
Founding members DJ Paul and Juicy J helmed an empire after rising from humble beginnings slanging tapes at local stores and schools. The pair met while DJing in local clubs and later brought Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca, Crunchy Black and Gangsta Boo into their crew. Paul Beauregard used his passion for horror films to inspire the group’s trademark menacing sound that included references to the occult, heavy violence, drug use and all of the other cool stuff that would make a conservative’s head spin.
Thanks to lucrative distribution deals they released dozens of albums, kick-started several solo careers including that of Project Pat and Lil Wyte as well as making films and clothing. In the mid 2000s members began going their separate ways, which Paul attributes to their sudden fame at a young age, excessive drug use and money disagreements. One of the most classic chapters in Three 6 Mafia’s history is the group beating Dolly Parton to win a 2006 Academy Award for their song “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” off the Hustle and Flow film. They are the second rappers in history to win the award after Eminem. Seeing the awkward expressions on a mostly white audience and hearing the group shout out George Clooney for showing them love is PRICELESS.
After their win the group featured on Jackass 2, Paris Hilton’s New BFF and also had their own successful reality show Adventures In Hollywood, which wasn’t renewed. Around 2009, Juicy J and DJ Paul went their separate ways to concentrate on solo work. If you’re reading this article it’s fair to assume you already know Juicy’s affiliated with Taylor Gang and has rebranded himself for the tripster generation. DJ Paul’s not slacking either, he’s releasing three projects within just weeks – the Clash Of The Titans mixtape with Drumma Boy, the joint Black Fall EP with Yelawolf and the Mafia 6iX mixtape, featuring a re-formed Three 6 Mafia sans Juicy.
I called DJ Paul while he was running around preparing for a well deserved week trip to the Caribbean island Aruba. He was kind enough to give me almost an hour of his time despite there being a million more questions I could have asked. He also seemed more humble and friendly than a lot of other less successful artists I’ve spoken to. Instead of talking about his relationship with Juicy, which you can read about in every other recent interview he’s given, we chatted about his musical beginnings, flamethrowers at The Gathering Of The Juggalos, Pimp C, getting five members of Three 6 Mafia back together and him not knowing what an Oscar was when he first heard the news of their nomination. — Jimmy Ness
Three 6 Mafia is known for rapping about darker themes like horror and the occult, but you actually grew up performing in the church.
Yeah, I did actually (laughs). I used to play church music on the organ like Amazing Grace and different stuff and Lord Infamous would sing it.
Was your obsession with horror films a rebellion against your Christian upbringing?
No, no, no. Hell no. I just liked horror movies. It was nothing rebellious. I just liked horror movies and horror music. I guess everybody does when you think about it. I just probably liked it a little more than other kids.
What made you get into horror?
I don’t know, just as a kid with my sister and family watching Jason and Friday the 13th and all those movies growing up. We never know how we get into that kind of stuff, it could be friends, parents and older brothers and sisters, whatever. My older sister, I know for a fact, was always into scary movies cause we used to watch them a lot with her.
How did your family feel about the dark content matter? Juicy J’s dad is actually a preacher isn’t he?
Yeah, he’s like a missionary so he goes to different countries to preach. But nah, our parents didn’t trip or anything because they know how they raised us. They knew that we weren’t devil worshippers. They knew we were raised good. It was just a show you know, like Robert Deniro or Al Pacino or something like that. Well maybe Robert Deniro, Al Pacino might really be bad (laughs). But you know it’s just for show man.
Were there any protests or people trying to stop your shows because of your demonic lyrics?
No we never had a problem with any of the weird shit that follows with the cult or any of that. I guess the people that are into protests and stuff like that never got a wind of us or our songs because our songs that are on the radio that every person hears don’t have anything like that. Those are the album cuts.
Did you ever get curious and actually experiment in the occult?
No, we just made those songs about it, but it was nothing that we were into. We weren’t devil worshippers or anything like that for real. We just made records.
You were DJing around local places like Club 380 and that’s how you met Juicy?
Yeah Club 380 and some other places, that’s the first place I DJed at back in the day. He was a DJ as well, in some of the other clubs around Memphis.
I didn’t want to be a DJ, I wanted to be a producer but to get into production I had to start Djing first to kind of learn the ropes on how to use the equipment and work from there.
For those who don’t know, tell us about the influence of DJ Spanish Fly?
DJ Spanish Fly was a big influence, him and the late DJ Sonny D who just passed away from a car accident about a month ago. I still talk to Spanish Fly a lot, that’s like my brother – we got the same birthday as a matter of fact. He was a huge DJ in Memphis, he’s been super super known.
The thing that made Spanish Fly stick out so much is that he was the first DJ in Memphis to mix in his own songs, so that’s what made him so popular. That’s how we all got started. We would mix in our own songs in the club, especially with me. We would take our songs and mix them in between other people’s hot songs so I would play NWA, DMC, Public Enemy whatever and slip in one of my records.
Why did you decide to pursue music?
I grew up with it in the household and my family. My uncles had a popular gospel group and they used to teach me a lot about music. I was just always a fan of it, you know Michael Jackson, Prince and all that. Then earlier rap like Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, LL, 2 Live Crew, Geto Boys.
How were you getting your music out there early on?
I was selling cassette tapes at high school. Selling a whole lot. We were making thousands. We were selling them for nothing but $4.00 but we were selling so many of them. Selling thousands and thousands of tapes and making a lot of money. Then we took that money and put it behind going into the studio to make a real album and we put it out through Selekto, and that was Mystic Stylez.
I heard you have quite a broad taste in music.
You know being a producer and a DJ, you have to listen to everything. Especially being a producer, you got to have a broader ear with your production so I listen to everything. A lot of 70s, a lot of 80s and even some 60s. I listen to a lot of techno, EDM, dubstep. I love dubstep. I don’t listen to a lot of rap that’s the funny part about it. I listen to a lot of rock as well. Duran Duran is my favourite band.
You also sample Portishead on a few songs?
Yeah, I listen to everything man. That’s a great band.
Willie Hutch is another one of your favourite artists, plus you got to work with him?
Yup, we actually brought Willie Hutch to our studio back in the early 2000s. We redid one of his songs called “Mark of the beast” and we never put it out, but it was a great record though man. We got the chance to work with him and shoot the shit and we sampled him a lot throughout and paid him off the records. We probably sampled him on two records off every album we made and the one that hit was “Stay Fly.” He passed away like five days after that record came out and that record was huge. I had two samples from him on that album as well. That song sold I don’t know, maybe 3-4 million copies or so.
What is the music that people from Memphis refer to as “Pimpin?”
Pimpin is the 70s music, the soul music and all that. That’s what all of us grew up on, we call it “Pimpin’” in the south. That’s the straight good stuff.
How is it playing at the Gathering of the Juggalos? Is that a crazy place to perform?
Hell yeah! Craaaazy. Mad house. I love it though, it’s fun. Man I saw a guy in the audience with a flamethrower shooting fire in the air. It was fucking crazy. I was like “what the hell!” I got a little nervous man.
You’ve hung out with the Jackass crew and filmed a few skits with them. What was that like?
They are my guys man. They are just practical jokers. They some wild dudes, I like hanging with them. I was asleep and knocked out drunk, and they walked in with two trashcan tops and started banging them together. I think I didn’t wake up straightaway, but after a while I finally did. It was funny. It’s on Jackass 2.5.
Why did you decide to make the movies Choices 1 and 2?
We did it just for the fun of it. We wanted to make something like Death Row’s “Murder Was The Case” but funny, not super funny, but a little funny. We went in and made a 20 minute version of Choices and it came out good so we started thinking “man we ought to make a full movie out of it. Let’s put a little money behind it.” So we went on and made the full length one and it came out and it was double platinum in DVD sales and it did really great so that’s when we decided to make Choices 2 and go from there.
You’re also quite into cooking. Did someone teach you?
Nah I just learned it when I moved out of the house and started living on my own. I had to learn how to cook because I didn’t have my mama cooking for me anymore. So it was cool man, just having a chance to do that.
How’s your range of BBQ sauces and seasonings going?
Yeah, it’s selling pretty good. It’s not even in stores, but we sell a lot of it online. We’re trying to get it into stores once I can sit down and have a chance to focus on it a little more.
Tell us about the Sizzurp drink company you’re involved in?
It’s a liquour. It’s Sizzurp liquor, but yeah I’m part owner of that.
Does it taste similar to the real thing?
Oh nah, it doesn’t taste anything like it. One of them is a purple wine, one of them is purple champagne, one of them is a purple brandy.
Cam’ron and Jim Jones are also involved?
Well what happened was we made the song “Sippin on some sizzurp.” Then Cam’rom and Jim Jones went to a liquor company with the idea then made a liquor called Sizzurp. That lasted a couple of years, then the company went out of business because I think some inside guys weren’t getting on or whatever. They closed it down for about a year, then when they brought it back they asked me to be a part of it and I came in. I’ve been knowing them for a long time, they real good guys.
Speaking of “Sippin’ on some sizzurp,” what was Pimp C like in person?
He was the best. He was super super cool man, and a real real good guy. Rest in peace to him you know, he was my brother. We did a lot of stuff together back in the day. He was real funny man, he spoke his mind about everything. He wouldn’t hold nothing back, everybody knew that about Pimp C. He specialized in that.
When he passed away, did that put you off drinking lean?
Well you know it was never proven that was what he passed away from, but I had already taken a break because I had seen a lot of people that was getting sick from it.
You’ve said that drugs and all of you being a young age was part of the reason Three 6 Mafia broke up the first time around?
Between being young and making so much money at once and drugs and alcohol. Man that’s an explosion just ready to happen so it was bound to happen that way.
Do you still party as hard?
I party from time to time. But not like THAT. That was ridiculous. I still get down. Back then it was seven days a week. It hasn’t been seven days a week for a while.
Wow, did you feel permanently hungover?
We weren’t even really that hungover because we never went to sleep. We just stayed awake so when you stay awake you don’t get hungover.
How hard was it getting everyone back together for the Mafia 6iX project?
It was easy man, all of us were still friends for the most part. The only people I wasn’t really talking to were Gangsta Boo and Koopsta Knicca, but I had talked to Crunchy Black and Lord Infamous is my brother for real so we were in touch with each other. He was talking to Koop and Crunchy was talking to Boo and I just told them to get in touch. We talked on the phone and we just hit it off and were laughing together straight away. We went in the studio and did like 40 songs in three days.
You’ve been really busy lately. Da Mafia 6iX project, the EP with Yelawolf and your joint mixtape with Drumma Boy. Do you have anything else coming up?
Oh yeah, we released the Clash Of The Titans mixtape, which is doing real good so make sure you all check that out. Everybody loving that and um… in music there’s nothing else I’m working on. Shit I just did three projects in a couple of months that was a lot right there. Actually Clash Of The Titans I’ve been working on for a long time but I’m releasing all three of them in a month so that was a lot of work. I’m going to take a break for a week then go in and start working on this Yelawolf album. Trying to get that tight, as tight as I can get it, then after that I’m going to start working on Da Mafia 6iX full length album.
You recently released a five track EP with Yelawolf called Black Fall. Why did decide to work together?
We got connected when he came to do a feature with Da Mafia 6ix for the single “Go Hard” and he was listening to some of my beats that I was playing in the studio that had rock music in them. He was like “I always wanted to do a project with classic rock mixed with rap, and I think you’d be the perfect person to do that with.” I was like “cool, let’s do it. “ So I started sending him tracks and he knocked them out in like three days, the whole project.
Are you guys going to work on a full length?
Well, he’s got an album coming out next year called Love Story and I’m going to do some production on that.
When you won an Academy Award in 2006 you weren’t even sure what an Oscar was?
Yeah I wasn’t. It was early in the morning and Juicy woke me up and told me we were nominated for an Oscar. It was so early I was just like “oh really, ok cool” and went back to sleep. Then I was just lying in bed thinking “what’s he taking about?” Then I Googled it and I was like “oh shit, it’s the gold man” and that’s when I called him back. We were still living in Memphis at the time and we went to LA and had the meeting with the Academy. There are so many rules that they make you learn before you can even take your place in the Academy Awards.
One is if you win, you can’t sell the award. If you do sell it, you have to sell it back to the Academy. I think it’s worth like 2 million dollars or whatever. You have to sell it back to them and it just goes back in the museum.
You damaged your Oscar statue?
I was partying and I bumped heads with Frayser Boy’s one. So now mine has a little scar on its head, it’s real small and if you look closely you can see it. I’m probably the only person with a Scarface Oscar (laughs).
I bet you partied hard that night.
Actually to be honest with you, I didn’t party hard because I was too nervous I would drop it or something because I didn’t have a bag to put it in. I didn’t party too hard, I just had a couple of little wines and that was it. I wasn’t on my usual vodka and all that man.
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