It’s going down, you know what time is! Seriously though, when discussions regarding the rap game take place, you will come across many individuals who favour a variety of rap; gangsta rap, mainstream rap, trap rap and so on. Three 6 Mafia has done a lot for both underground and mainstream rap artists throughout the years. Although it is overdue, it is time to discuss who Three 6 Mafia are, their beginnings and rise to stardom, as well as the influence they have had for other rappers and the rap game itself.
Backyard Posse – The Beginnings
In 1991, proudly representing Memphis, when the group got together and slowly started up, they went under the stage name of “Backyard Posse”. The members consisted of DJ Paul (Paul Beauregard), Juicy J (Jordan Houston) and Lord Infamous (Ricky Dunigan). Originally, the group worked with record company “Prophet Entertainment” which was very popular in the Memphis area at the time. The group decided to change and go under the name “Three 6 Mafia”, sometimes referred to as “Triple 6 Mafia”, as they started with three members (mentioned above) and ended up with six. Who were the new three members? They were Koopsta Knicca (Robert Cooper), Gangsta Boo (Lola Mitchell), and Crunchy Black (Darnell Carlton).
Unbeknownst to many, Three 6 Mafia consisted of some family members. DJ Paul and Lord Infamous are half-brothers, while Juicy J and Project Pat, although he was never officially a member but instead a frequent collaborator, are brothers. Most, if not all of Three 6 Mafia members attended the same high school, Northside High School in Memphis and began friendships and writing raps together.
Three 6 Mafia Influence and Style
Although many have come and gone from Three 6 Mafia, the group has influenced many rappers, ranging from Indo G, Gangsta Blac and The Kaze, to more popular artists such as A$ap Rocky. They were widely known for bringing a dark beat with violent and aggressive lyrics to the rap game. Many have described their music as “dark and eerie, supported with a bass-heavy beat and haunting sounds”.
Three 6 Mafia’s style has been widely seen and interpreted as horrocore and crunk rap, also combined with themes regarding the occult as well as dark lyrics. They are responsible for coining the term and genre of “crunk rap”. They are also synonymous with “Dirty South Rap”. Having an absolute raw style of rapping, Three 6 Mafia gained a lot of attention and slowly, they began to get mainstream attention, however they did prefer to remain underground. Although they have had many successful releases, their first radio-played song was “Da Summa” which spoke about the greatness of summer and how Three 6 Mafia spent their summers in Memphis. Even Lord Infamous, who is well known for his many vulgar and “murderesque” lyrics, kept it cool and kept his verse clean, aside from a slight reference to him carrying dangerous weapons. The song got air time and many began to really look into Three 6 Mafia and their discography. The group is also well known for their song “Stay Fly”, which came out in 2005. Followed by many, another mainstream song by Three 6 Mafia is “Feel It” which featured DJ Tiesto, Sean Kingston and Flo Rida and was released in 2009.
It is important to note that Project Pat, La Chat and Lil Wyte were among the most frequent collaborators of Three 6 Mafia, but were never officially apart of the group. I find this key to mention because they also brought their own flow to the table and it gelled well with Three 6 Mafia, but it is clear that they were not dark lyricists, but instead smart integrations, although Lil Wyte did have some horrorcore references occasionally, but very infrequently.
On a more individualistic level, I would like to quickly discuss each rappers flow and style, and how they, combined, brought greatness to their fans.
Beginning with DJ Paul, he initially focused more on producing beats and DJ-ing, while his older half brother Lord Infamous rapped on the tracks. Many of his lyrics are hardcore and hostile, but also he is seen as less of a “verbally-savage” rapper of the group.
Juicy J, arguably the most popular at the moment, was also relatively aggressive in his early days with Three 6 Mafia, when he needed to be. His verse in hits such as “Tear Da Club Up” and “Let’s Plan A Robbery” were threatening, but nothing over-the-top dark and scary, if you will. He does rap about drug use in songs such as “My Own Way” and “Demons” which Tech N9ne featured Juicy J and DJ Paul on. His approach varied depending on the song message, but he was consist in his flow and delivery.
Lord Infamous, the darkest, most hostile, threatening, unpredictable and loose rapper in the group. The only thing you could predict about Lord Infamous, was that he was going to make his presence felt. Making many references to the devil, weapon and drug use, murder and torture, he quickly established himself as someone who should not be taken lightly. His lyrics gave those listening a sense of fear and some distraught, while many had to step away from his music for a little. He often portrayed himself as someone who will not stop and will continue to show no mercy. He has been given title of “King of Horrorcore” which I would agree with. His flow, delivery and lyrics are jaw dropping, mind-blowing and eye opening. Lord Infamous also went by the nickname “Scarecrow” and made reference to this in various songs. In my opinion, nobody can match his rap style and he remains, the most underrated rapper of all time and he does remain “King of Horrorcore”.
Koopsta Knicca, a perfect follow up to Lord Infamous, considering Koopsta was very raw and released many demonic driven verses himself, also touching on horror and murder in his lyrics. I find he was not talked about as much as he should have been – as his dark style approach was maybe not as hardcore as other, but still proven to be intense. I thoroughly enjoy his verses on tracks and find his somewhat unclear, mumble and hard lyrics to be a great fit with the group. It was evident that he appreciated the group and loved to be aggressive and hard on his tracks.
As if the group had not already distinguished themselves as being unique, hard and strong, they made a very smart move by adding Gangsta Boo to the group. Not only was having a female touch appropriate, but having Gangsta Boo’s touch was unlike any other. She herself had no problem being surrounded by all these hardcore male rappers and became a crucial part of the group. She also had no problem rapping about dark subjects as she once referred to herself as the “devil’s daughter”. She was so gangsta, and a really underrated rapper in general, female or not.
Crunchy Black, initially known as a Hype-Man, became comfortable to have relatively short verses but raw lyrics while apart of Three 6 Mafia. This fit in perfectly and fans came to know him as the rapper who will have a quick, solid delivery while also establishing himself as hardcore. He is also infamous for his “g-walking”, which he did admit not being the originator of and never took credit. He can be seen in various music videos doing this dance.
Despite all their satanic references, dark, threatening, and barbaric lyrics, the group did mention they believe in God and are Christian. They are also all capable of rapping without mentioning any horrorcore topics, which is evidenced by various hits such as “Poppin’ My Collar”, “Baby Momma” and “That’s Right”, which featured Akon.
Also worth mentioning, DJ Paul and Juicy J created a record label under Sony Entertainment referred to as “Hypnotize Minds” in 1994 that eventually had manhy other rappers signing to it.
Academy Award Winners
2006, a memorable year for the horrorcore group as they won an Academy Award for their theme song to in the movie “Hustle & Flow”. They were also the first ever rap ground to perform at the ceremony. Many were quick to judge and dislike the fact that they had won, however, it was also said that many were very pleased for the group considering Three 6 Mafia could barely contain their excitement upon receiving the award. This award also brought notice and attention to underground rap and gave hope to other artists.
Mystic Stylez, the first album ever released by the group was released in 1995. This album consisted of early favourites such as “Break Da Law 95”, “Da Summa” and “Live By Yo Rep”. The song “Live By Yo Rep” was actually a diss track towards “Bone Thugs and Harmony”, a rap group from Cleveland that Three 6 Mafia believe stole their style and flow of rap. It was later revealed by Three 6 Mafia that there really was no need for any issues and that the whole “beef” was a misunderstanding and overblown situation. The two groups have no problems with each other and some have gone as far as to even collaborate together.
Following Mystic Stylez, in 1996 Three 6 Mafia released “Chapter 1: The End” and in 1997 released “Chapter 2: World Domination”. This album saw the massive rise of “club banging” music when the song “Tear Da Club Up” was played in night clubs all throughout the USA. 1999 saw the release on CrazyNDaLazDayz, which was the only studio album released by Tear Da Club Up Thugs, a side project undertaken by Three 6 Mafia at the time. From there, “When The Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1” was released in 2000, followed by “Da Unbreakables” in 2003. The year 2005 saw even more success for Three 6 Mafia with the release of their album “Most Known Unknown”. The album had well-known songs such as the mentioned “Stay Fly”, “Poppin’ My Collar”, and “Side 2 Side”. This brought even more attention to the group and increased their mainstream music on radio’s and at night clubs. In 2008, the “Last 2 Walk” album was released and that was also a success. This features such songs as “That’s Right” which featured Akon, and “My Own Way” which featured Good Charlotte. An interesting collaboration considering it was between a hardcore and dark rap group and a rock band. However, this proved to be successful and Three 6 Mafia continued to change and influence the rap game. Their last official album release came in 2015, when they became Da Mafia 6ix, and the album was called “Watch What U Wish…”. Not having as much success as previous releases, it featured various songs and reminded other artists and fans that Three 6 Mafia is still in the game.
Three 6 Mafia Separation
Sadly, Three 6 Mafia experienced the same fate as many other famous groups – they began to slowly separate.
Beginning with Crunchy Black in 2006, it was released to the public that he was leaving Three 6 Mafia. Apparently, he was leaving to make a solo album – an album that both Juicy J and DJ Paul had put off for years, in his mind. It seems Crunchy had paved the way as shortly after his departure, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca and Lord Infamous went on hiatus and the group consisted of only Juicy J and DJ Paul.
Juicy J found much success and began to become more mainstream as a solo artist. He did join Wiz Khalifa’s “Taylor Gang” and remains a frequent collaborator. In various songs, he does mention his love and appreciation for Three 6 Mafia though, which I can appreciate – never forget where your from and how you came up. Juicy J, having collaborated with more mainstream artists such as Wiz Khalifa and Katy Perry, brought attention to not only himself but in turn, Three 6 Mafia. Many were unaware of who he was and his rise to stardom. Having heard more and more of him as a solo artist, many began to research him and his back story, finding out that Three 6 Mafia was indeed his beginnings.
DJ Paul has found success as well, but remains more on the DJ side of things and also remains underground. Although it remains a rumour, it is said that he and Post Malone are collaborating. Considering Post Malone seems to be a hot topic, he, in my opinion, is making the right choice getting to work with DJ Paul – he will bring in more fans and informs his fans in turn that he knows where the game was enhanced from.
Da Mafia 6ix
In 2013, many Three 6 Mafia fans got their wish, hearing that the group was getting back together and getting back in the studio. However, the group did announce that Juicy J would not be with them and with him not being apart of it, they decided to alter their name from Three 6 Mafia to Da Mafia 6ix. DJ Paul spoke about this and mentioned that they cannot call themselves Three 6 Mafia if Juicy J is not apart of it. Da Mafia 6ix consisted of DJ Paul, Crunchy Black, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous and Gangsta Boo. Having all of these rappers back together, many were excited to see what they planned on releasing.
Having released their first mix tape called the “6ix Commandments”, this mix tape featured highly-successful featured hits such as “Go Hard” which featured Yelawolf, “Been Had Hard”, “Break Da Law” and “Remember” which featured Memphis rapper and frequent collaborator Lil Wyte as well as 2 Chainz, in the chorus only.
Unfortunately, the group suffered major blows. In 2013, Lord Infamous suffered a heart attack and passed away while at his mother’s home. The year 2014 saw Gangsta Boo leave the group and this prompted DJ Paul to inform the public and media that they got together and did their thing, but it was a gut-feeling that separated them once more, nobody was mad or forced out, these were mutual decisions – according to him. More pain and heartache followed unfortunately, as Koopsta Knicca passed away in 2015 of a brain aneurysm.
They may have gone under many nicknames, call them what you like, but Three 6 Mafia will continue to live on in the rap game and continue to have a strong influence on all genres and other rappers. Their flow, lyrics and approach to the game was unlike any other and they reached the top together as a unit.
Three 6 Mafia remains an example of what dedication, hard work, sacrifice and support can do for you. They created something out of nothing and made themselves known world-wide. It is unfortunate that they are not necessarily all together but it is encouraging that they do continue to produce beats, music and remain in the music industry. Each rapper brought something unique to the table and they executed this properly both in their delivery in songs and in media portrayal.
May those who have passed rest in piece and I appreciate you all sticking through this posting. I may have not covered every single intricate detail regarding both the rappers individually or the group themselves, but I did want to post about a group that many may have forgotten about or may have been quick to overlook initially.
Three 6 Mafia, Hypnotize Minds, its going down, you know what time is!
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