Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” Three 6 Mafia co-founder DJ Paul kicks back with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN to reminisce on his illustrious career and touch on his status as a legend in southern hip hop. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Paul joined forces with his brother, Lord Infamous, as well as fellow Memphis native Juicy J to form the nucleus of Three 6 Mafia and released Come With Me to Hell in 1993. Adding additional local talent like Koopsta Knicca, Gangsta Boo, and Crunchy Black to the fold in the subsequent years, Three 6 Mafia hit their stride with their 1997 release, Chapter 2: World Domination, which spawned their first national hit, “Tear Da Club Up,” and put them on the map. Building on that success, Paul and Three 6 Mafia saw further success with a string of platinum albums, most notably When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1, and Most Known Unknown — the latter becoming their best-selling album to date. In addition to their resume within the rap world, Paul and his group-mates made history in 2006 by becoming the first rap group to win an Academy award for their work on the theme song for the John Singleton-directed film Hustle & Flow. While various members of Three 6 Mafia have left the fold (Gangsta Boo, Crunchy Black), passed away (Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca), or gone on to pursue endeavors outside of the group (Juicy J), Paul remains a constant presence.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the DJ Paul episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. How DJ Paul Transitioned Into Rapping
When asked about the origins of his name, Paul reveals that he initially had no intentions on becoming a DJ and stumbled into the craft as a way to become a producer, and introduce his own music to the public. “First off, I never wanted to be a DJ,” he admits. “I was like, ‘Fuck that, I do not wanna be a DJ.’ How I became a DJ is to learn how to use the drum machine, keyboard and turntables and all of my equipment. To learn how to use it, I would just practice and just to get some extra bucks, I started making mixtapes. This is like five or six years before Three 6 Mafia, and I’m like, ‘I’ma do maybe, like, one mixtape, sell it for $2 at the school and try to do something.’ And then they liked the muthafucka and then they asked me for a second one and then a third one, and all of those is just other people’s music. When I did the fourth one, I slowly eased in our songs. Like a Lord Infamous song here or other niggas from Memphis I was producing, and I just eased them in between the hit songs like some N.W.A. or some Eric B... And by the time I got up to Vol. 5 and all that, they became just our songs because people liked ‘em. And that’s how it happened.”
2. The Role Dancing Played In Memphis’ Local Hip Hop Scene
During his sit-down with the “Drink Champs,” Paul gives insight into what the Memphis local rap scene was like prior to the ascension of groups like Eightball & MJG and Three 6 Mafia, which was powered by dancing more than the music itself. “Memphis, it was crazy,” the rapping boardsman shares. “We were doing the Gangsta Walk dance, [which] was real popular. And it was just fucking madness, the clubs was crazy, man. The dancing was just the main thing in the clubs in Memphis.”
3. How The Success of “Tear Da Club Up” Impacted Three 6 Mafia’s Reputation
Known for their raucous anthems, Three 6 Mafia’s most aggressive track may be “Tear Da Club Up,” which not only helped put the spotlight on them, but Memphis as a whole. However, due to pandemonium ensuing whenever it was played in a club or venue, the group was asked not to perform it. “Man, they was tearing the club up,” Paul remembers. “We used to have to put in our contracts that we wouldn’t perform that song ‘cause they’d know that they would really tear up and then we would just do it last. We’d get all our money up front, talk ‘em into it, do it last and tear that muthafucka a part, man. One time, we were in Memphis, man, they knocked the glass out of the door. Club 380 Beale, they were knocking the glass out [of] the fucking window and crazy shit.”
4. Three 6 Mafia’s Fight For Airplay In New York City
Southern rap artists’ fighting for respect from their northern counterparts has been well-documented, as Three 6 Mafia is one of the acts who struggled to gain traction in the five boroughs and its surrounding areas. According to Paul, the group was able to break through these barriers over time by cultivating relationships with the city’s gatekeepers and tastemakers. “That was impossible,” he says in reference to Three 6 Mafia attempt to gain favor in NYC. “I had to do a song for Funkmaster Flex, a song for this nigga, a song for that nigga. Shit, it was hard. We just had to build them relationships ‘cause one thing I found out, if you got a relationship with a nigga in New York, they’ll take care of you forever. Forever. I still got a lot of longtime friends in New York that ain’t even in the industry, just real niggas I met up with and we’re still cool. But, we had to build that connection ‘cause a friendship wasn’t gonna get it. Your remember in those days, now, everything sounds the same which it sucks in a way. But then, in a way, it don’t ‘cause everybody get a chance to get it in the radio worldwide or nationwide at least. But, back in our days, when we first started, no, nigga. New York only played New York, South only played south, West coast played west coast. And I don’t know what they did in the Midwest, I guess they played midwest guys... That’s how it was.”
5. Three 6 Mafia’s Introduction To Lean
Over the past two decades, lean has grown in popularity within rap culture with some of the genre’s biggest artists extolling its virtues on wax. While Texas rap artists are often credited with helping popularize the drug, others quickly followed suit including those from Three 6 Mafia’s hometown of Memphis. “They was doing it in Memphis back in the ‘70s,” Paul explains. “‘Cause once we started doing it, then my brother was like, ‘Nigga, we been doing this since the ‘70s.’ [I said], ‘Well, nigga, I could’ve wrote a song about this back in ‘89, muthafucka. You should’ve told me that.’ But yeah, Texas is obviously where we heard of it from and it got popular. I was a big DJ Screw fan, so that’s where we heard of it and that’s what made us start making songs like that.”
6. The Risk Behind Making “Sippin’ on Some Syrup” With UGK
One of Three 6 Mafia’s biggest hits is “Sippin’ on Some Syrup,” their 2000 collaboration with Texas rap duo UGK. The song, which became the group’s highest-charting single at the time, may have seemed like a sure-shot to the public. But, for the group members, it was a gamble. “Man, we been knowing UGK for a long, long time,” the Paul says of Three 6 Mafia’s relationship with Bun B and Pimp C. “And we did the ‘Sippin’ on Some Sizzurp,’ which was [on] our first platinum album. So, the one with ‘Tear Da Club Up’ on it, it went gold, and then the one with ‘Sippin’ on Some Sizzurp’ went platinum, which went on to sell six million or whatever. It was a risky one for us ‘cause we was coming off ‘Tear Da Club Up,’ so soon as we teach the world how to get crunk and fight and do cocaine, we turn around and make a slow song talking about sipping sizzurp. And I think if it wasn’t the fact that they found out that it was a drug, I think it probably wouldn’t have worked. I think that’s what sold it ‘cause they were so intrigued, they were curious and they were like, ‘Holy shit, this a drug’ ‘cause they ain’t know what the word ‘sizzurp’ means, they thought it was some funny shit.”
7. How Three 6 Mafia Got Involved With Hustle & Flow
Three 6 Mafia secured their place in Hollywood with their win at the Academy Awards for Best Original Song with “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow in 2006. When asked how the group was approached to provide what became its most enduring theme song, Paul points to the mutual respect between Three 6 Mafia and the film’s director, the late great John Singleton. “We’ve been knowing John Singleton for a long time. R.I.P. John Singleton. John was a fan of ours of them underground movies that we used to do like Choices 1 [and] 2, and all that shit. John Singleton told me back in 2001, he was like, ‘Man, one day I wanna come to Memphis and I wanna do one of those straight hood movies like what y’all be doing,’ [and I said], ‘Nah, man, you should do it.’ That was like 2001 or whatever, and then the guy Craig Brewer was a fan of ours ‘cause he’s from Memphis and it was the perfect combination. It was Craig, that’s from Memphis, and it was John Singleton, who was already a friend and a fan of ours, and it was perfect. I had a good time.”
8. How George Clooney Inspired DJ Paul To Get His First Tattoo
Random stories about celebrities outside of the rap world are commonplace on “Drink Champs,” and Paul delivers one of the more hilarious tales when he reveals what inspired him to shout out George Clooney of all people during Three 6 Mafia’s award speech after their Academy award win. “What happened was... I was a big fan of this movie and I was sitting up one night doing coke,” he explains. “And we were watching [the] Dusk Til Dawn movie and I was like, ‘Fuck, I want some tattoos’ ‘cause it’s like the east coast in Memphis. It rains a lot, too. So, I’m like, ‘Fuck, I want some tattoos’ [and] I didn’t have no tattoos. I said, I want something that’ll be up my neck, so you can see it when I got my coat and jacket on, and something that’ll come down my sleeve, so you can see it, as well, ‘cause that’s how he was on the movie. So, we would take a nigga an eight ball and he would give us three tattoos for an eight ball, I really only paid seventy for it, I ain’t even pay a hundred. But anyway, we got these tattoos and when I saw him at the award show, I was like, ‘Dude, I gotta tell you this funny story.’ I left out the eight ball part, but I told George Clooney the rest of the story about the tattoos and he fucking went crazy, And we talked for the longest and we actually kinda became friends for about 32 minutes.”
9. His Thoughts On The New Generation of Memphis Rap Artists
Regarded as trailblazers for Memphis hip hop, Three 6 Mafia has been succeeded by a new crop of talent from the city with artists like Yo Gotti, Young Dolph, Blac Youngsta, BlocBoy JB, Moneybagg Yo and others carrying the torch. When asked about his feelings on his city’s rising status in the rap game, Paul credits the newcomers with expanding on their sound and putting the spotlight on their area. “They bring the young attention to it ‘cause their sound is different from ours,” he acknowledges. “Even though Moneybagg Yo just redid a Project Pat song with Megan Thee Stallion, it’s a single out, but for the most part, their sound is young. It wasn’t like Three 6 Mafia’s sound, so it brought the young people looking at Memphis, too.”