You can’t mention pioneers within the Memphis and Southern rap scene without name-dropping Three 6 Mafia. One of the most legendary Southern rap groups in history, the collective has sold millions of records throughout the years by delivering hit after hit. The group even made history as the first rap group to win an Oscar for penning the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" for the Memphis-based film Hustle & Flow.
Originally a six-member collective consisting of DJ Paul, Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous and Crunchy Black, the group went through some lineup changes throughout the years due to members withdrawing to pursue their own careers. The group is currently composed of original members DJ Paul and Juicy J, who also co-own the record label Hypnotize Minds and have been successfully making music for more than two decades.
DJ Paul, one half of the Oscar-winning and Platinum-selling group, took time out to speak with me about his latest album/DVD A Person of Interest, working on a new mixtape with fellow Memphis artist and producer Drumma Boy, stepping back into the DJ-ing realm, creating his own barbecue rub and sauce, the potential for a new Three 6 Mafia album, and much more.
There’s been a lot of coverage on fellow Three 6 Mafia member Juicy J and his new endeavors with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang imprint, but can you give readers out there an update on what you’ve been up to lately?
Just DJ-ing man. Still doing my live performances obviously, but I’ve been doing a lot of DJ performances as well. I’ve got the new album out. It came out the end of last year. I’m still promoting that. I’m shooting videos from that. And we’re finalizing a new mixtape called Clash of Da Titans. It’s me and Drumma Boy. We’re making a mixtape together.
You released your solo album, A Person of Interest late last year. What are your thoughts on the album?
It’s my favorite solo album that I’ve done. I loved the Scale-a-Ton album. A lot of people loved that. I actually like this album more than I did the Scale-a-Ton album, because I think it was a lot more raw than the Scale-a-Ton album. I like the piano solos that we put in the album, because I’m a fan of piano solos. Like at the end of “Witha Shit” and all of the orchestrated intros. I love the hell outta this album.
You’re back DJ-ing now as apart of the group S.I.M. (Sex is Mandatory) DJs. Isn’t DJ-ing how you got your start with music?
Yeah, I used to DJ in [Club] 380 Beale, and I had a couple clubs myself. That was how it all started. That was originally how I learned how to use my studio equipment. I just wanted to be a producer. I didn’t want to be a rapper. So I would make beats for Lord Infamous, and [he] would rap. But as a way to get extra money, I would take the equipment I bought, which was a keyboard, a turntable, and a four-track recorder, and I would make mixtapes and sell them in high school. But then I got slick with it. I would start mixing my artists’ songs in between it. You know like sneak it in and kinda introduce the song. So I might be playing like some LL Cool J, then I throw in some Skinny Pimp in the middle of it, and then come out of it into some N.W.A., Geto Boyz, or whatever the case was. And I eventually started making mixtapes with more of our songs on them until the mixtapes turned into just our songs, like mixtapes are now today.
Memphis can take the credit of being the creator of the format of the mixtapes that are out these days, because that’s what we did. Mixtapes, back in the day, was just a mix of people’s favorite songs. Like if your uncle or whatever would take his favorite O’Jays songs, his favorite Staples Singers songs, and put them all on one tape, so when they have a party, they could play all of their favorite songs instead of sitting up there, putting a needle on a record and going back and forth to [a particular] song.
That’s what traditional mixtapes were. DJs back in the day would just mix different songs off different albums, but then Memphis took it a step further. Like with DJ Spanish Fly. I would say he’s the first person I heard put his own songs on his mixtapes. So that’s what me, DJ Squeeky, and Juicy J would do. We would put our own songs on our mixtapes. That’s what people do today, but we were doing that back in ’88.
What made you return to DJ-ing?
The reason why I’m back in it today is because, well, I look at it two ways. One way is, obviously, I’m getting older around here. I’m trying to think, I can’t predict the future, but I can’t imagine that somebody is gonna want to see me bounce around a stage at 65 years old talking about ‘Tear Da Club Up,’ ‘Sippin’ on Sizzurp,’ and I got a glock in my drawers and shit like that. So I’m just prepared for the future. It’s easy to sell and play somebody else’s hits than to be sitting up here, 55 years old, trying to write your own, because ain’t nobody gonna believe that you’re still sippin’ on sizzurp and you still sittin' on the block selling rocks.
And it’s fun to get up there and DJ. You got all your boys in the DJ booth with you and your girls. You travel state-to-state and country-to-country, just playing records, rocking the crowd, and still get on the mic and do your own songs.
And then it’s something that I always liked. When I’m at the house and I throw parties, I have a DJ booth set up in my living room with the speakers that go out all over the house — to the theater room upstairs, to the swimming pool outside. In my living room, I got disco balls lights and all that. You’ll think you’re in the club when you’re in my house. I be up in there just DJ-ing. It’s something that I do at the house anyway, so I was like shit, I might as well start back doing it in the club and get paid for it.
It's been several years since Three 6 Mafia released their last album, Last 2 Walk. Is there anything in the works to be dropped for the future?
Naw, there ain’t nothing in the works right now. You know, both of us are doing our solo thing. He’s doing his thing with [Taylor Gang] right now, and I’m doing my thing with Drumma Boy and the DJ-ing and all that, so we really haven’t had time to do anything together. We still talk about the next project and this and that, but we haven’t physically recorded anything. But in the future, we’re definitely going to do something.
You’re in the process of creating the Clash of Da Titans mixtape with Drumma Boy. What can listeners expect from that?
Us being two of the hardest producers to come out of the South, we thought that it would be cool if we come together and make one. Both of us are producing and rapping on it. We’ve got features on it. We’re gonna drop it on 7-11 (July 11th).
Who are some artists that DJ Paul is listening to right now?
I like Waka Flocka. I like A$AP Rocky. I like Kendrick Lamar. I don’t listen to a lot of rap to be honest. I listen to more shit like David Guetta and Diplo. I like a lot of the EDM [Electronic Dance Music] cats like Skrillex. I listen to a lot of 80s and 70s music.
I’m getting into listening to a lot of music from the '70s and early '80s era, which is referred to as 'Pimpin’ in Memphis. Who are some good artists from that era that you recommend for me to check out?
Aw yeah, the pimpin’ man. You gotta go with some Al Green, some David Ruffin, Willie Hutch. He’s my number one favorite. I actually worked with him in Memphis before he passed away. And you gotta go with some [Bobby] Womack. The Isley Brothers are good. Rick James. Man, I could go on for days, but your core dudes is going to be your David Ruffin and your Willie Hutch. That’s the underground cats. They’ve got songs that weren’t on the radio all the time.
Over the years, you’ve had the opportunity to work with a large catalog of people. But who are a couple people you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I want to do a song with A$AP Rocky. I like him. And I worked with Waka [Flocka], but I want to do another one with him. There are a lot of other guys out there I would like to work with. I would just have to think, but I could go for days. Dr. Dre. We’re trying to keep it realistic around here.
Outside of music, you’re heavy into the barbecuing culture and recently developed your own barbecue rub and sauce. How’d that come about?
What happened was, in 2006, [Three 6 Mafia] moved to Cali. We still kept our places in Memphis but we got the houses in [Los Angeles]. Living in L.A., obviously I was missing my Memphis barbecue. So what I would do every time I went to Memphis, I would take two suitcases — one for clothes I was going to be traveling with and one bag to bring back the seasonings, [from places like] Rendevous, Corky’s and all of that. I got sick of doing that, plus it got expensive, so I was like, ‘Man, I can just create my own rub because I know how to do this.’ I knew I liked the taste. So I sat down and created my own rub and let my neighbors taste it. And my neighbors loved it. They were like, ‘You oughta sell this stuff. You oughta bottle it up and sell it.’ I was like, ‘You’re right. I oughta bottle it up and sell it to your ass. Instead of giving it to you for free.’ And then I bottled it up and started selling it, and it started doing good for us. I made the rub first. About nine months later, I made the sauce. It took a long time to get the sauce together because it was liquid, so it’s harder to match what I made in my house. And now I’ve got two more seasonings coming out. I’ve got a buffalo wing seasoning, a garlic butter seasoning, and I’ve got a hot sauce coming out.
And you’re creating a cookbook as well?
We’re working on a cookbook now. It’s going to be more than just a regular cookbook. It’s gonna have stories in it. It’s gonna tell how I got into all of this and how I came up with each recipe and why and a little info about me. It’s going to be a fun little cookbook.
Is the cookbook going to be strictly for barbecuing?
Naw, it’s everything. You’re gonna have Italian in there. Asian, which is my favorite. Some of everything is gonna be up in there.
What are some of your favorite barbecue spots in Memphis?
I have a bunch, man. Rendevous. Corky’s. A&R. Tops. Those are my favorite ones.
I read that you’re also involved with the relaunch of the liquor, Sizzurp. Can you briefly explain your role in that endeavor?
It came out in 2000. Even though it was ours, Sizzurp, the company, from what they said, well I don’t know how it originally went down, but Jim Jones and Cam’ron [bought the brand]. They were my boys, so I wasn’t trippin’ if they had it. It was cool. Jim Jones actually brought us in and broke some bread with us to help promote it and we shot the “Sippin’ Sizzurp” video with them.
That deal went away that they had and new people came in to run Sizzurp. Once the new owners came in, they called me and they were like, ‘We remember that you were the original guy to create the Sizzurp and this and that and we want you to be a part-owner of [its] relaunch’ and I was like, ‘okay, cool.’ So we relaunched it. It’s out in stores right now. I think it launches in Memphis next month and in Las Vegas. It’s already in Florida. It’s already in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, a lot of places. We’re slowly getting the distribution through. We’ve got a big event in Orlando, Florida on the 28th-30th [The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America 70th Annual Convention & Exposition]. It’s a liquor convention down there. All the brands go down there and set up down there in the [Grande Lakes] hotel. You go from suite to suite tasting new brands. We’re gonna have a suite down there.
I noticed on your website that you emphasized Sizzurp is a lot safer than trying the actual purple drank concoction that consists of promethazine/codeine mixed with soda.
Aw yeah, of course. This is overseen by the government. This is real liquor. That’s drugs that they be drinking. This is real liquor. It’s safe as hell. As long as you don’t drink and drive ... you drink responsibly and make sure you don’t get so drunk that you don’t use a condom. Other than that, it’s pretty safe.
What’s next for you? Are you working with any new artists?
The only artist I’m pushing right now is my nephew Locodunit, who’s from Memphis. And I’ve got a Mexican artist from L.A. named Kokoe, and that’s all I’m messing with right now. You can’t do too much at the same time, because you want to be able to focus on the ones you got. You don’t wanna have your hands full with a bunch of artists and you can’t do nothing for all of them at the same time. The only things you can do at the same time is women.