Local rap leaders stay fly, crack jokes, employ parolees. 

There's a reason why Three 6 Mafia are the most hated -- and the most revered -- group from the Dirty South. Three 6 has had North Memphis on lockdown for the last decade, controlling the scene with fertile minds and iron fists. Creatively and politically, they're unavoidable if you want to rap in this town, and as a clique that claims talent like Project Pat, Lord Invincible, Lil Wyte, Frayser Boy, and Young Buck, along with masterminds DJ Paul and Juicy J, they often prove unbeatable as well.

Most Known Unknown marks Three 6 Mafia's 10th year in record-store bins, and it's the group's most exciting, evolutionary album to date. It opens with a sampling of the group's past hits -- songs such as "Two Way Freak," "Slob on My Knob," "Tear Da Club Up," "Ridin' Spinners," and "Get the F. Out My Face," which launched the Dirty South phenomenon yet somehow failed to catapult the group to the same level of success as fellow Southern hardcore rappers like the Ying Yang Twins and Lil' Jon's Eastside Boyz. The next track on the record, "Stay Fly," virtually explodes from the speakers, proving the point: Three 6 Mafia are major-league players stuck in a farm league.

"Roll With It" (which includes the most hilarious rhyme of 2005: "A playa drinkin' Megas, Makas, cranberry vodka/Wearing a mink coat that's furry as Chewbacca/I saw ya main girl and a playa had to stop her/Her name wasn't Silkk but her face was the Shocker"), "Knock Tha Black Off Yo ***," and "Body Parts 3" star Project Pat, recently liberated from the federal pen, while "Swervin'" and "When I Pull Up at the Club" open the field to Houston's Paul Wall and Mike Jones. Like Three 6's past releases, Most Known Unknown gives plenty of bang for your buck. It boasts 21 tracks (including one skit), and there's hardly a clunker in the bunch. -- Andria Lisle

Grade: A-



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