It’s easy to pinpoint when, exactly, Juicy J and DJ Paul, the driving forces behind Three 6 Mafia, became a total joke. It was when Jon Stewart, after Three 6 Mafia won their infamous Academy Award, took a long, hard look at the camera, sighed, and said, “For those of you who are keeping score at home, I just want to make something very clear: Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars; Three 6 Mafia, one.” At that moment, American culture decided that Three 6 Mafia needed to be punished. Their Oscar needed to be invalidated, any artistic credibility they ever had stripped from them in the only way American culture can do such a thing: Three 6 Mafia were given a VH1 reality show.
For those of you who don’t remember, Three 6 Mafia’s Adventures In Hollyhood was probably the worst thing ever to hit television. It was designed with one purpose and one purpose only: to make Three 6 Mafia look like total fools. Those looking for proof of this claim can look no further than the show’s fourth episode, when Big Triese, an ancillary member of their crew, flew his girlfriend Sugarfoot out to the boys’ mansion to celebrate their recent engagement. I’ll spare you the exact details, but I’ll say this—if you’re introducing foods to your sex life, Sugarfoot would strongly recommend you consider mixing up some ranch dressing and sugar up together and see what happens.
However, here’s the thing. Three 6 Mafia unequivocally give zero fucks about what we think. The joke is on us, America, because Three 6 Mafia got paid millions of dollars to live in a mansion and do whatever they wanted for six weeks, and we watched them do it. DJ Paul and Juicy J both have Oscars. They made “Stay Fly.” They introduced the world to Lil Wyte, and the world was much more tolerant of Lil Wyte than I would have thought. They can basically do whatever they want from this point out, and their legacy is secure.
With that in mind, it should be noted that the music of Three 6 Mafia was getting stale as fuck. At their peak, they had been a six-strong (Seven-strong? Thirty-million-strong?) collective of angry alcoholics screaming about how they were going to get buck on your bitch ass, but the gang was periodically winnowed down to just DJ Paul and Juicy J. And while that duo has always been the heart, soul, and almost pathologically aggressive medulla oblongata of the Three 6 Mafia brand, two angry alcoholics screaming about how they’re going to beat the shit out of you sounds awfully like something I see every day on a street corner in Brooklyn.
And so, in hopes of making their partnership stronger by division, DJ Paul and Juicy J split up. DJ Paul teamed up with production wunderkind Lil Lody and the unfortunately-named Ya Boy for a tape that sounds more like Three 6 Mafia than Three 6 Mafia has sounded in years. Good for him. That mixtape is totally okay.
The member of the duo who’s enjoying an almost terrifyingly fruitful renaissance, however, is Juicy J, who has pulled a complete 180 in the reputation department, turning himself into the most awesome alcoholic ever. I recently saw him perform at the Fool’s Gold Day Off, and he was literally the best. He wore a T-shirt that said, “WE TRIPPY MANE” on it, drank half a bottle of Bombay gin, was openly drinking lean onstage, and had the energy of performers half his age. He proved this when he brought out ASAP Rocky and SPACEGHOSTPURPP, two rappers who are literally half his age, to incredible fanfare. While Rocky performed a short set, Juicy looked on with pride watching the next generation of weirdo rap tap into the ineffable Crunk Force, like some sort of really drunk Yoda.
That performance prompted me to revisit Juicy J’s recent mixtape work, the excellent Rubba Band Business series with Lex Luger, the Cut Throat series with Project Pat, as well as the Young N—a Movement tape with V.A.P.B., Luger’s new crew (As you can see, Juicy J really likes Lex Luger). Throughout these tapes, he’s worked to develop what he calls, well the “Young N—a Movement.” He’s been working with a group of young bucks who he’s surrounded himself with who have the same spark, fire, and topsy-turvy sense of innovation that led DJ Paul and Juicy J to record Smoked Out, Loced Out in 1993. But while DJ Paul has been looking for collaborators to help recreate the Three 6 sound of yore, Juicy J has been trying to find talent who can help him recreate his attitude of yore.
It’s been working. Rubba Band Business Vol. 2 is one of the best recordings of the year, taking the same sonic template of Waka Flocka’s Flockaveli and turning it on its ear, Lex Luger’s beats becoming things of exuberance and joy in Juicy J’s hands, where he uses them to brag about how he’s “twenty years in and still weird,” and in the particularly odd “Celebration,” discuss how he wants to play volleyball with a group of strangers. On the tape, he invites a murderer’s row of new talent to showcase what makes them each great in their own way, including Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, Machine Gun Kelly, Mr. Don Trip, and Casey Veggies, who provides by far the best verse of his nascent career, justifying his rise out of the Odd Future periphery to the cusp of mainstream success.
Juicy J and DJ Paul are reportedly hard at work on a new album, with rumored production exclusively by Lex Luger. That could be great, if Juicy J brings all of his new school friends to the party and makes them hang out with DJ Paul (who, after all these years, still loves terrible jokes about talking muffins), and Project Pat (Juicy’s brother and one of the most underrated Southern rappers around). The results could make Three 6 Mafia respected all over again.