By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
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Indeed, they now seem light years removed from their days as mixtape DJs and crunk trail-blazers who combined the dance-floor spirit of Miami bass with the dark themes of Geto Boys. In the early '90s, Paul would make beats at home and test-market the bassy, pounding results that night at his club, Paul's Playhouse. The music once sparked a melee in the lobby involving dozens of people, he recalls, with someone whipping out a gun. Paul later found a man lying under a bathroom sink, shaking. "He had been shot through his side, and then it went into his heart. He died right in front of me."
Such gruesomeness figured heavily in their early horrorcore music, which featured shout-outs to Lucifer and rowdy tales of conflict and dismemberment set to sinister beats. Paul collected a Time-Life series on serial killers and kept it in the studio; the group went by "Triple Six Mafia" until changing it to their less-Satanic-sounding current moniker. However: "We do not worship no devil, man," says Juicy. "People ask me that shit every day. There's no way you could have had our success worshipping the devil."
Affiliates including Juicy's brother, Project Pat, Lord Infamous, and the rare female Southern MC Gangsta Boo came and went, eventually whittling Three 6 down to a duo. Early in the aughts, they pivoted definitively toward the mainstream, hitting big with tracks like the Oscar-baiting "Pimp," the deliriously upbeat "Stay Fly" (featuring both Young Buck and Eightball & MJG), the boilerplate Auto-Tuned jam "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)," and now the Tiesto collaboration "Feel It," which all but demands a glow stick.
Juicy brags that he used to be Eightball & MJG's back-up DJ at the local skating rink, but naturally isn't pleased to hear of his mentor's sell-out charges. "If someone said, 'If you do this song, you can make 10 to 15 to 20 million dollars,' would you be like, 'Nah, I'm gonna just chill with my hardcore fan base and nickel and dime here and there'?" He adds that Three 6's recent solo albums, mixtapes, and Laws of Power street singles have been marketed to an urban, rather than an international, audience. "We got so much stuff coming out that sounds like the old Three 6 Mafia," he contends, correctly. "Yeah, we got some pop stuff that our underground fan base wouldn't understand, but it's all good when you see the $20 million check in the mail."
As to the charge that their post-Oscar move to California has changed them, DJ Paul doesn't buy it. "I still do the same shit in L.A. that I did in Memphis," he says. "I still barbecue on the weekends, drink Bud Light beer, and piss outside."