Three 6 Mafia changed the game. The Memphis sextet brought a distinctive macabre, bone-crushing riotous brand of rap to the forefront in the late 1990s. DJ Paul, Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black and Koopsta Knicca’s style was so infectious and powerful that their get buck style of music, thanks to their signature “Tear Da Club” up series of songs, eventually catapulted Three 6 Mafia to platinum plaques and spawned an entire subculture of its own: crunk.
Yet in 2012, a decade after he released his first solo underground album, 2002’s Chronicles Of The Juice Man, Juicy J achieved a level of solo success beyond any other member of the crew. So while DJ Paul was working on his own projects, he decided to reunite the other four members of Three 6 Mafia, which hadn’t recorded together since 1997’s Chpt. 2 “World Domination,” for Da Mafia 6ix. On Tuesday, the crew released its 6ix Commandments mixtape, which featured Juicy J, 8Ball & MJG, among others.
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, DJ Paul and Gangsta Boo discuss how the Three 6 Mafia’s sound has been appropriated by acts who’ve watered-down its sound, how the crew got back together and the Rock-inspired mentality the Paul uses while creating his murderous music.
Gangsta Boo Calls Three 6 Mafia’s Sound Unfiltered Horror-Core
HipHopDX: Being that you’ve been in and out of the group before, what made this the right time to reconvene with everyone except Juicy J?
Gangsta Boo: I was more comfortable with DJ Paul anyway, and timing is everything. It was the perfect time. Our sound is highly anticipated, and it’s highly used, but it’s not done proper. So we just wanna put out our sound that we created back where it needs to be. There’s a lot our sound floating around out there, but it’s little filtered. So that’s why the time is now.
DX: In what way do you think it’s filtered?
Gangsta Boo: There’s a lot of people trying to do our music, but they’re doing it the soft way. Our sound is Horrorcore—like we’re Horrorcore rappers. So we got a lot of scary music themes in our songs, and a lot of people kind of take our sound and add their softness to it. I’m not saying that in a diss way, but our music is really scary. So that’s what I mean by filtered. Some people do filtered music, but I think ours is unfiltered. We talk about drugs and all kind of shit.
DX: You talked about Christian music and more positive stuff for a while. What made you want to go back to doing this?
Gangsta Boo: Well, I never did Christian Music. You can’t Google that nowhere or find it on YouTube ever. I’ve always rapped about the Devil and God. I did go down a path where I decided to try different things, and a part of that was religion. But that’s not my thing, and I decided not to do that. I’m entitled to make decisions and go through things in my life as a woman, and that was one of them…religion. I was never a Christian rapper. I’ve always rapped Biblically, and sometimes I put scriptures in my raps. I just did a verse the other day where I said a prayer.
DX: Right. But I do remember after Enquiring Minds Vol. 2, that you said you were gonna be changing things up…
Gangsta Boo: No, that was before. Enquiring Minds Vol. 1 was crispy clean—not one curse word. And I never said I was doing Christian Rap. If you find that, make sure you mark it and e-mail it to me. I wanna revisit the shit, because I ain’t never said that [laughs]. I don’t really know what you’re talking about.
Why Gangsta Boo Chose To Go Profanity Free For “Enquiring Minds Vol. 2”
DX: OK, because I interviewed you before and after Enquiring Minds and before Both Worlds: *69…
Gangsta Boo: Yeah, it was before Both Worlds *69. Then I left, and then it was Enquiring Minds Vol. 2. What you’re talking about was Enquiring Minds Vol. 2, and that was when I was like, “Do I wanna curse, or do I not wanna curse? Do I wanna start making more inspirational music?” But I was still learning and growing. I’ve got a way now that I can still make inspirational music and keep my core fans in mind. It’s about not disappointing them, but I never said Christian Rap or nothing like that.
That was a misunderstanding, because I was hanging with Mr. Del. He was a preacher in Memphis, and he was a friend of mine. He still is a friend of mine, so I can see how people got that twisted. I was going to church a lot more and trying things out. I never did Christian Rap though. I’m not against it, but it’s just not for me.
DX: What did you find by going to church?
Gangsta Boo: Uh…you know, I don’t want to get into it. I want to focus on talking about Da Mafia 6ix project that we got coming out. I don’t really like discussing politics or religion, because it’s always a sensitive subject. I don’t want to insult none of my fans that might be extremely religious. That’s not my thing. I’m more spiritual than anything.
DX: OK…gotcha. You had your role in Three 6 Mafia and as a solo artist. So what’s your role in Da Mafia 6ix?
Gangsta Boo: Just holding down the females and the Gangsta Boo side of town. I’m just playing my part the same way I did in Three 6.
DX: And what would you say is that role?
Gangsta Boo: I would say I’m the queen. Paul’s the king, and I’m the queen. I have a very strong role. My role is to make sure that my boys deliver, and that I deliver and represent for the females and the gangsta bitches like me.
DX: [Laughs] And what do you think they look for from you?
Gangsta Boo: Leadership. They look for strength, and for me to say, “Hey, if he’s fucking you over, fuck him.” They look for me to say, “Get your punk ass out the club if you ain’t gone tip.” They look for me for all kind of shit like that. I’m a Leo, and if you know about Zodiacs, then you know what the Leo sign is. It’s a lion…brings that fire.
DX: I think what you and a few other female rappers from your era did was bring strength as opposed to softness—even though you had that feminine side. What’s enabled you to kind of be a female, gangster rapper?
Gangsta Boo: Because I’m nice looking. I know I’m a tomboy, but I still got a shape and I show it when I want to. I’m just cool, and I keep it real. It’s not a gimmick, and it’s not like I walk around trying to be something I’m not. I’m really who I am. People aren’t stupid, and you can’t keep tricking people for long. I’ve been consistently the same throughout all these years, and if I do change up, my fans will know because I tell them. It’s just about being real. It’s just like Da Brat. She had her own lane, and I got my own lane. LaChat got her own lane. I’ve got my lane, but I just widen my lanes everywhere.
DX: What about spending time in Atlanta versus Memphis? What did that teach you?
Gangsta Boo: That you can live better, and you can be around a lot of successful black people. In Atlanta, the blacks are pretty much middle-class and up. In Memphis, the whites pretty much got all the money or whatever. So I moved out to The A.
DX: Are you in The A full-time now, or are you back in The M-Town?
Gangsta Boo: I’m back and forth. My mom and dad are in Memphis along with my nephew and my family. So I’m going back and forth. Oh, here’s Paul.
DJ Paul Credits Archie Bell For Three 6 Mafia’s Touring Approach
DX: Paul, earlier I asked Gangsta Boo what made this the right time to reconvene with everyone?
DJ Paul: I don’t know, it’s just a fuckin’ weird year. It’s like everybody got back together this year like Van Halen, Black Sabbath, N*Sync—I don’t know how that’s gonna work, because Justin Timberlake charges enough for a show on his own. Backstreet Boys, Goodie Mob and the Hot Boys are back too, so I guess it was just the year to get back together.
I didn’t even know all this was going on before I got our group back together. It was just a thought, but one of the main reasons that made me want to do it was living on the West Coast and going to Vegas a lot. I was watching a lot of the bands I grew up on like Toto, Earth Wind & Fire, Hall & Oates and all these groups. I was like, “Damn, all these bands that don’t make music no more still tour together and make millions for the rest of their life.”
I’ll never forget this guy named Archie Bell. He was an old singer from Memphis when Three 6 Mafia was recording in Mystic Stylez Studios. He would still tour overseas a lot, and he told me that it was all about the bands touring once you get older. I was like, “Why the fuck is Three 6 Mafia not around here touring when you’ve got fucking Kiss and all these groups still touring for the rest of their life? Why is Three 6 Mafia—one of the biggest groups of all time—not touring together?” It didn’t really make no sense to me, so I said, “We should fucking do something.” It just started out as an idea, and when everybody went crazy over it, I was like, “Yeah, we gotta do it.”
DX: Given that Koopsta was one of the first ones to walk, what was it like getting him back in the fold?
DJ Paul: It was cool, man. Koop used to live with me back in the day, so Koop was almost like a son to me. It was super cool getting Koop back into it, and we’re talking about Devil’s Playground 2 right now. Koop is like the most different rapper in the world. Koop and Mystikal always stood out to me as two of the most different rappers in the world.
DX: So how did you reconnect with him? Was it hard to find him?
DJ Paul: Well everybody knows Lord Infamous is my brother. So he got me in touch with Koop, because he’s with Koop a lot. Both of them still live in Memphis. Boo got in touch with Crunchy Black, but I see him a lot because he’s out on the West Coast. His number had got changed, so Boo got me in touch with him, and Lord found Boo for me.
Lord kind of put the whole thing together, because it started out as something I had been talking about since the Skale-A-Ton album. I was talking about doing another Come With Me To Hell album with me and Lord Infamous. But Lord was like, “You know what? I don’t even want to do Come With Me To Hell right now if you’re thinking about doing a group album. I’d rather us do it as a group.” He really fought for the group, and I was like, “Alright…cool.”
DJ Paul On Working With Yelawolf & Using Rock Music In His Production
DX: Given that we haven’t heard you guys together in a while, what made you want to put Yelawolf on “Go Hard,” since that was one of the first things people heard you on?
DJ Paul: I like Yelawolf, and Boo really put me up on Yelawolf, since she had the record with him and Marshall. Our video director, Charlie P threw out the idea [by telling us], “Yelawolf lives in Nashville right now. Y’all should reach out to him.” Boo had found him, and he had just landed in Nashville from a tour in Australia. He came through, and I wanted to put somebody on the song. I just didn’t know who I wanted to put on there. But I thought he’d be the perfect person because I like his style. He’s a rocker, and Three 6 Mafia comes from Rock.
Even though we’re a Rap group, we always kind of built the brand off Rock. Even if you go back to Da End, we had the Rock sample in it. I’ve got a guitar collection at home, and I always like to add Rock to [our music]. If you listen to it real, real deep, on the background in the hook, I’ve got a Rock guitar back there. I just kept it low so it wouldn’t scare niggas off. But I liked [Yelawolf’s] style as soon as I saw him, and I thought it would be great. He’s got the Rock crowd that he brings, and we have our crowd. So I thought it would be a great mix, because the Rock crowd always appreciated our rowdy style.
DX: Since Juice is not in the group, what impact do you think that is gonna have on how the sound is received or perceived?
DJ Paul: Well it won’t have a change on the sound, because me and Juicy J made beats. He would make a beat, and we’d switch off like this and that. The sound will still be there—he and I wrote hooks. We all wrote hooks or whatever, so the sound will still be there. The fans will look at it a certain way, and a lot of fans will miss him not being on there. But that’s just something they gotta deal with.
Gangsta Boo: Yeah, think about when I left. I was one of the biggest ones in there…
DJ Paul: Yeah, Three 6 Mafia was always kind of a situation where Koop would be around for a minute, then he wouldn’t be around. He’d go to jail or some crazy shit, so it was always kind of on and off. But the good part about Three 6 Mafia versus a lot of other groups is that everybody’s sound was different. So we could carry on and still be good solo without each other. In some groups, everybody sounds the same and when they go separately, don’t nobody want to hear shit from them. If you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all. Hence the word, “Mystic Stylez.”
How An Aborted Deal With Dr. Luke Powered Juicy J’s Solo Success
DX: So why do you think people made such a big deal about Juicy and his success? Obviously, Boo and Pat have had solo success?
DJ Paul: Well Juicy had a push. He had Sony Records and a $5 million budget…
Gangsta Boo: And, let’s just be frank, Juicy was super hot at the time.
DJ Paul: But he had everything…a power team. Sony basically took the last Three 6 Mafia deal and they did it just with Juicy. The last Three 6 Mafia records that we was making was “Shots After Shots,” which was produced by Dr. Luke. Three 6 Mafia’s last album was supposed to be kind of co-produced by Dr. Luke, but it obviously never came out. We had a bunch of hard-ass shit too, but it just never came out. I think it was kind of before it’s time, so that deal never happened. So me and Juicy just kind of fell back off of it and started doing the solo stuff. The next thing I know, they did that same deal with Dr. Luke, but it was with Juicy. And that’s not to take nothing from him, because the records are dope. But it’s just that push. If you’ve got Miley Cyrus…
Gangsta Boo: Swinging from your nutsack…
DJ Paul: [Laughs] If you’ve got Miley Cyrus tweeting out your record, then you’re gonna be good. But it’s all about that push, and he had a good team. Wiz Khalifa is a good dude, and he was behind the record. It was a lot of people behind the record, whereas everybody else just did it underground and independent.
DX: Right. We talked about this off the record when I interviewed you about the “Lollipop” record, but I wanted to get it on record. Was there a concern for you with having outside production?
DJ Paul: I didn’t care about… It wasn’t never gonna be a lot of people outside of me and Juicy making the beats. Dr. Luke was going to be the only other person making beats outside of me and Juicy. I love Dr. Luke’s beats, so that never was a problem to me. Plus we gave him some insights to the beats as well, so I was always cool with that. I loved the “Shots After Shots” record, and it worked. Every time we perform it, they fucking go crazy. So I didn’t have a problem, and it never would have been just other people doing the production. It would have always been a situation where me and Juicy are doing the meat of the album with other people just adding on to it.
DX: So what makes this project different or distinctive for the fans?
DJ Paul: The thing that makes it distinctive is that it ain’t gonna be different. We went straight back to hard, hardcore shit. It’s harder and crazier than Mystic Stylez and Da End. It’s just a crazy-ass mixtape. We dropped it November 12, and the album should be out in March of 2014 or something like that. It’s straight hard shit. You heard “Go Hard,” and you can’t name me records that sound anywhere similar to that. Now, as we speak, I’m sure somebody is making something like it. They’ll pretty much just sit back, watch what I do and take it from there. But right now, people are tweeting me, “Hey this is the hardest record I’ve heard in the last eight or 10 years.”
Like I said, it ain’t for everybody. There’s a lot of people out there that ain’t ready for hard music, and just don’t give a shit to hear it. But it’s a lot of people that do…The original fans will be happy. That’s the only people we do it for anyway. I don’t give a fuck about anybody else who is into some other shit.