As bizarre as Moonlight’s 9th inning comeback to take the Best Picture at last night’s 89th Academy Awards may have been for some, it’s still hard to compete with the fact Three 6 Mafia are Oscar winners.
The Memphis horrorcore group not only ranks high on the list of unlikeliest artists to win an Academy Award, it was the song — 2005’s “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow, performed by Terrence Howard long before the entire world knew him as Lucious Lyon from FOX’s Empire — that strengthened the urban fairytale. The group, represented as DJ Paul, Juicy J and Frayser Boy, took home the Best Original Song award at the 78th Academy Awards back in 2006.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, DJ Paul vividly recalled the wild night that accompanied the territory of being illustrious award winners. And it actually started at the Vanity Fair party right after they won.
“Salma Hayek walked up to me — who I was super in love with because of From Dusk Till Dawn with George Clooney — and said the craziest shit: ‘You know your brothers and sisters are dying over in Africa because of all this jewelry you’re wearing,’” he recalled. “Because I guess we had those big ole watches they gave us on, and these platinum necklaces. So I was like, ‘What?! What are you talking about? I don’t have no brothers and sisters in Africa!’ And like that, Salma Hayek killed my hard-on. I just went limp. I told her it was nice meeting her and walked out away from that.”
Three 6 Mafia – Its Hard Out Here For A Pimp (Live Oscars 2006)
Later on that evening, the “Sippin on Syrup” boys were hanging with John Singleton, the youngest person and first African American to have ever been nominated for the Best Director Academy Award, when they decided Prince’s party was the move.
“So we get in the limo, and we pull up to [the party at] Prince’s house at Sunset Plaza,” DJ Paul continued. “John Singleton’s like, ‘I know Prince. Let me handle this.’ So he goes to a security guard and was like, ‘I got Three 6. They just won the Oscar. Let Prince know we’re out here.’ And the security guard went up and comes back out and says, ‘He said no.’
“Singleton gets back in the car, and he’s like, ‘Hey man, he turned us down.’ I’m like, ‘What?!’ I look out the limo window, and hundreds of people are streaming up into Prince’s house. I’m like, ‘That Prince is a motherf**er! You better go in there and tell that short little purple-wearing thing how many Purple Rain albums I bought, OK?’”
There was also something about slamming the door in San Andreas actress Carla Gugino’s face, but the night wasn’t a total wash. Earlier that evening, they had prepared for one of the biggest performances of their lives.
“That’s when I started feeling better because this was the most different concert I’d ever done,” Paul said as he remembered the initial jitters. “I’m used to looking in the crowd and seeing drug dealers and gangbangers. But this crowd was out there in gowns and tuxes and all kind of shit. And I’m sober, so I’m taking everything in. My other concerts just be a blur; I would have never remembered Jamie Foxx giving me a thumbs-up at one of my regular concerts.”
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” Wins Best Original Song: 2006 Oscars
The moments leading up to Three 6’s big win are also a thing of legend.
“So we’re done performing and start walking back to the dressing room to drink the rest of the vodka,” he shared. “And a stage director was like, ‘No, stand here to the side. Just in case you win.’ I said, ‘Dude, we are not going to win.’ But just as we turned to walk off, that’s when Queen Latifah said our name.
“We went crazy.” – DJ Paul
“We turned around and started running and jumping. I think Taraji P. Henson might have run up onstage, and Queen Latifah got the awards, and she handed them to us. I named everybody in my speech except the people that had anything to do with the movie. I even sent a shout-out to George Clooney. Why Clooney? Because when you go to the Oscar luncheon, you can’t sit with the people you come with. They split us all up, and I ended up sitting with Clooney. I was a huge fan. I got all these tattoos because of him in From Dusk Till Dawn. While I’m talking to him, I’m looking across the room over at Charlize Theron, thinking, ‘I wish they’d put me at the table with that chick.’
“Everyone was nice to us at the luncheon. They loved us. Because everyone listens to rap music, you know? I’m sure they was happy to see that a rap song was getting nominated versus some big orchestra thing. Even after we won, Dolly Parton, who we were up against, sent us a letter: ‘We’re proud of you guys, and I’m just glad that the Oscar came back to Tennessee one way or another.’ She’s real cool — from Tennessee, too, you know.”
Although the Memphis collective went on an indefinite hiatus in 2008, they fully capitalized off their Oscar moment with a very short-lived MTV reality show (one season, eight episodes) with 2007’s Adventures in Hollyhood.