The Legend: Juicy J, Three Six Mafia and Beyond

The year is 2011, I just downloaded the soon to be legendary mixtape Blue Dream and Lean mixtape based on the hits on Rubbaband Business 2. As I listen, I’m blown away by how Juicy J rebranded himself. He made himself relevant and relatable, sounding fresh while still staying true to his original rapping style.

Blue Dream & Lean Mixtape Artwork

A tweet made me write this, “ Juicy J is the only rapper with 3 rap careers.” I knew exactly what it meant. Juicy’s success can be broken down into 3 sets, Early Triple Six Mafia, the Oscar-winning era, and his vitalizing solo career.

The story of Three Six Mafia

I wasn’t there during the early stages of Triple 6 Mafia. One reason is that I’m not from Memphis, another being that they originally formed 2 years before I was born. Of course, I went back and found out about those cult underground classics like “Smoke a Sac” “Mask n a Gloc” and Neighborhood Hoe”. I remember my older cousins playing this type of music, in the smoke room they kicked the kids out of. Three 6 Mafia has different time periods within itself. If I’m breaking down Juicy J’s career I have to mention a very big part of his success, Three Six Mafia’s story.

1991–1995: the Memphis underground mixtape era.

In the late 80s, Memphis signature rap sound was starting to take form with acts like DJ Spanish Fly and DJ Squeaky. The scene would turn even darker into horrorcore with the emergence of Triple Six Mafia.

The group would get its start from Dj Paul. He used his love for horror films to create a dark and demonic style with the help of his cousin, Lord infamous. They named the duo “Da Serial Killas” In the same city, Juicy J would also start to Dj, and rap. He took inspiration from the “reality raps” of NWA and the Geto Boys with that dark Memphis twist. DJ Paul and Juicy J met in 1991 and hit it off playing off each other’s production style. With Juicy in the picture, Da Serial Killas would be the “Backyard Posse” the precursor of Triple Six Mafia.

Young DJ Paul & Lord Infamous as the “Da Serial Killaz”

Triple Six Mafia started off with numerous members and associate acts. These acts included Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Lil Fly (later Playa Fly), The Kaze Klan and Project Pat. Throughout the Sixteen volumes of underground tapes and numerous collaborative projects, only 6 members made the transition into the major label deals. The original members are DJ Paul, Juicy J, Lord Infamous, Gangsta Boo, Crunchy Black, and Koopsta Knicca.

Triple Six Mafia Underground 1991–1994 Mixtape Cover

1995–2000: Label Deals & Bigger Business

That mixtape grind finally paid off, In 1995, The group’s debut album came in Mystic Styles and the EP Live yo Rep where they responded to Bone n Thugs and Harmony for calling Memphis a “bunk ass town” and accuses them of stealing their rapping style. These projects earned Prophet, their independent record label based out of Memphis a distribution deal and the group released their first non-lo fi album Chapter 1: The End. After that release, things at Prophet Entrainment did not work out due to creative differences with a co-owner so Juicy & Paul formed their own record label Hypnotize Minds.

Three 6 Mafia’s Debut Mystic Stylez
First Professorially recorded album Chapter 1: The End

In 1997, Three Six Mafia would sign a deal with Sony and release their first Gold selling album, Chapter 2: World Domination that spawned the infamous “Tear the Club up” smash. This would be the first time people outside of the south would hear about Three Six Mafia. Juicy and Paul have many interviews where they promised not to perform the song in the club but they did it anyway and the fans would actually tear the club up. Most credit this song for being one of the first hit Crunk songs. A Lot of people say that Crunk was started in Memphis, not Atlanta, but that is another story for a different day.

Tear Da Club up 97 single cover
Hypnotize Minds Three Six Mafia’s Indie Label

One thing that caused Three Six Mafia to have underground acclaim and mainstream success simultaneously is that while they had their major label deal with Sony, they owned an independent label, Hypnotized Minds. Sony would release Three Six Mafia official albums. Hypnotized Minds was an extended family and allowed the group to experiment and clique up in different ways as well as release solo albums. The Hypnotize Camp Posse’s album (that contained the most known version of Juicy’s “Slob on my Knob”) featured members Lil Wyte, Project Pat and LaChat.

Koopsta Knicca’s solo album Da Devil Playground was released independently through Hypnotized Minds as well as Project Pat, Juicy J’s older brother. Though he was never an official member, Pat appeared on the underground tapes of the early 90s. He served several years in jail while the group was becoming major. In 1999 he was released from jail and his very underrated debut album Getty Green would drop on Hypnotized Minds.

Koopsta Knicca Da Devil’s Playground 1999
Project Pat Ghetty Green 1999

2000–2005 Peak success of Three Six Mafia

2000 was a big year for Three Six Mafia, they would release their first platinum-selling album When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1. This album was my first personal memory of the group with their big hit with UGK “Sippin on Some Syrup.” This album showcased an ongoing shift in Three Six Mafia’s signature sound from the gritty, dark horrorcore of the 90s to the shinny bling-out crunk of the 2000s.

When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 album cover from 2000
Project Pat: Mista Don’t Play: Everythangs Workin 2001

My other favorites would come that following year “Baby Mama” would come on the soundtrack to the Tyrese starting Baby Boy and “Chicken Head” would come on Project Pat’s second album, the highest selling album from Hynponized Minds label, Mista Don’t Play: Everythangs Workin.

By 2001, Koopsta Knicca voided his contact and was forced out of the group because of legal problems, and Gangsta Boo left due to creative differences. The group pushed on with the release of their first movie Choices and of course it had a dope ass soundtrack.

Just when it looked like the group would leave its dark underground roots in the past, DJ Paul and Juicy J would re-master 2 underground mixtapes, Chronicles of the Juice Man, and Underground Volume 16: For da Summa. This would be the last mention of the Memphis underground sound in the mainstream until the 2010s.

Juicy J: Chronicles of the Juice Man 2002
Underground Volume 16: For da Summa 2002

In 2003, the group would drop Da Unbreakables album featuring the classic trendsetting song “Ridin Spinners.” That next year, they released the sequel for their movie Choices and then would strike a deal with legendary director John Singleton to produce music for another film.

Video Shoot of “Ridin Spinners”

2005–2008: The Oscar-Winning Era

2005 is one of my favorite years in music, Three Six Mafia was part of the reason. By this time the group dwindled down to 3 reminding members. DJ Paul, Juicy J, and Crunchy Black. Lord Infamous had left before they recorded their most commercially successful album Most Known Unknown. “Stay High (Fly)” “Poppin my Collar”, “Side to Side” all were high charting singles from this album.

Stay Flay Video Shoot
Hustle & Flow Movie Poster 2005

Then while in the middle of the height of their most successful album, Hustle & Flow premiered in movie theaters, and everybody; the streets, and both the music and film industry loved it. That movie elevated everyone’s career, especially Three Six Mafia’s, causing them to win an Oscar, a Hip-Hop first.

Adventures in Hollyhood 2007

Their success, large personalities, and big party antics made them prime candidates for a reality show Adventures in Hollyhood. After all the success, Crunchy Black decided to part ways from the group in 2007 due to money issues. The group that was several members deep just a decade before was now officially a duo. Last 2 Walk The last official Three Six Mafia album was released that following year.

Last 2 Walk album cover

2009- Present: Juicy’s Solo Career

By 2009, DJ Paul and Juicy J had appeared to have gone their separate ways and hung up the Three Six Mafia flag. They were rich and during the time they spent partying after the Oscar win the years started to pass them by but of course they still made music. Dj Paul reunited with Lord Infamous in 2009 and started to dabble in EDM. Juicy was linking with his brother Project Pat who introduced him to modern-day mixtapes.

Juicy J had put out several mixtapes by the time Lux Lugar hit him up about producing a joint mixtape. This would be the first time Juicy stepped outside of Three Six Mafia for production, but he made the right decision to collaborate with Lex on Rubbaband Business 1 & 2. This is how Juicy initially pulled in the younger audience to listen to him. When Blue Dream and Lean came out and flooded the streets. Every party I’ve gone to in the early 10’s had Juicy J part of the soundtrack. He had made himself relevant again 15 years after his first emergence in the industry. At the same time in the early 2010’s, new age underground rap artists started to sample early Triple Six Mafia as well as other Memphis artists’ works. This how people like me know about the underground tapes before “Tear the club up 97”

Juicy J & Lex Luger RubbaBand Business Vol:1
Juicy J & Lex Luger RubbaBand Business Vol:2

2013: Da Mafia 6ix

In 2013, DJ Paul was able to gather all original Three Six Mafia members except for Juicy for the making of Da Mafia Six which was described as a whole different group instead of a Three Six Mafia reunion by Paul. However, 5 of 6 members together for the first time in 12 years seemed like a reunion to fans. By this time, Juicy J was red hot and was the newest member of Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang imprint. He was on promo for his first official album since his reemergence Stay Trippy which featured the 2012 smash “Bands will Make her Dance.” Juicy J blames his absence from the project on his very busy schedule at the time.

Juicy J’s 3rd official solo album Stay Trippy artwork

A month after the release of Da Mafia Six project Da 6iX Commandments Lord Infamous would tragically die from a heart attack. Gangsta Boo would leave 6 months later. Dj Paul would release another project with the remaining members but after that, Crunchy Black would get arrested and spend several months in prison and Koopsta Knicca would pass away from a stroke in 2015. I can only imagine how legendary the Da Mafia 6 project would have been if Juicy J participated. Added to the book of Hip-Hop’s what-ifs next to Dr Dre’s Chronic album and The Child Rebel Soldier Supergroup.

RIP Lord Infamous RIP Koopsta Knicca

Juice the Renaissance Mane

From 2015 to now Juicy continues to have high profile collaborations with artists such as Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Rae Shreumed, Wiz Khalifa, and Young Thug. He also released a mixtape produced by the Suicideboys, a group that was highly inspired by the early works of Three Six Mafia. (who are now being sued by both Juicy and Paul for taking too much inspiration).

Juicy J with the SuicideBoys
Megan Thee Stallion’s Fever project Executive Produced by Juicy J

In 2019, he executive produced Megan Thee Stallion’s Fever project. It came right after her break out hit “Big ole Freak.” It was critically acclaimed and further cemented her in the path for stardom. Now Juicy is out of his Colombia deal and now has a brand new deal with Entertainment One, Juicy J is not done yet, he might have a 4th career.

From Chicago, strong passion for Hip-Hop music. Artist development & music discovery for 10+ years. Writer of Culture. Writer|Artist|Manger|DJ

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