It’s been a long journey in hip-hop for Juicy J and DJ Paul as members of the iconic hip-hop group, Three 6 Mafia. With more than 20 years in the industry, the duo might be veterans in the genre, but they’re still as hungry as any up-and-coming artist. The Academy Award-winning duo may have had numerous lineup changes throughout the years (at its most, there were seven members), but OG members Juicy J and DJ Paul are makin’ big moves with just them two.
“Since we made all the decisions for the most part, it doesn’t matter how many members we have since me and Juicy J are the main guys for the group,” DJ Paul says. “We get sh*t done a lot faster now since we don’t have to wait on the rest of the group to sober up and get their asses to the studio.” And the two have been very busy in the studio over the past three years, recording more than 60 tracks for their next album, Laws of Power, due out sometime this year if Columbia Records decides to release it.
“The album is gonna be jamming,” Juicy J describes. “It sounds like the old Three 6 Mafia, with some new flava thrown in, but it ain’t no pop sh*t. Pure street music.”
“Yeah, pure gangster sh*t,” DJ Paul throws in. “It’s gonna definitely be hard and gritty.”
Despite the ever-changing music industry, Three 6 Mafia has been able to sustain their success, keeping it as real as can be, a quality that appeals to fans and newcomers alike. Not considering themselves as changing, but rather evolving as artists, DJ Paul does mention that hip-hop has given rise to mixtapes again, a trait that defined the group’s early years.
“It’s cool for us ‘cause we started that way anyways,” he mentions. “But I feel sorry for new artists doing it ‘cause it’s hard to pay bills off of mixtapes. Actually, it’s pretty near impossible, but cats still do it. It’s hard now ’cause you have to give out so much for free since consumers don't want to pay for music anymore. We was making money off of our mixtapes and selling albums. It’s a messed up space right now for new artists.”
The album is gonna be jamming. It sounds like the old Three 6 Mafia, with some new flava thrown in, but it ain’t no pop sh*t. Pure street music.Both from Memphis, Tennessee, it was Juicy J’s and DJ Paul’s first mixtape that jumpstarted their musical careers. “We were both big DJs and decided to join forces and start DJ’ing at clubs since we were two of the hottest DJs in Memphis,” Juicy J recalls. “When we decided to start producing our own tracks and put out our first mixtape, we was like, ‘Man, we can really do this,’ since people was buying our mixtapes left and right. That’s when we decided to take music seriously.”
And since then, they’ve released two platinum albums (When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 and Most Known Unknown) and won an Oscar for “Best Original Song” for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” at the 78th Academy Awards, which was the theme song for the movie Hustle & Flow. Both see the award as a huge achievement not only in their career, but also for hip-hop in general.
“That’s a place where rap isn’t usually honored,” DJ Paul says. “That was a huge win for us and the genre. It shows hip-hop has a place everywhere. Man, that was the biggest moment of my life. We was actually getting ready to leave after our performance when we heard we won.”
“Winning that award was the biggest thing we’ve accomplished hands down,” Juicy J adds. “It’s a blessing, and we still have the longest Oscar party going on today!”
While they both await for Columbia Records to release Laws of Power, Three 6 Mafia is still hustling and keeping fans engaged with their numerous shows and tours. And to provide more excitement to their music, they’ve enlisted the help of their new drummer, Josh Villalta, who has also become one of their best friends and helps manage the guys and their marketing efforts.
“I met the guys back when my brother Isaac and I were booking shows in Louisiana,” Josh says. “We had booked them for a gig and went to pick them up at the airport and we just vibed there on. Then, when I was playing a show out in Hollywood with my band, Choleric, Paul came to a show and liked what he saw. I’ve been touring and working with them for the past three years now. My brother also works with them, helping the guys out with business things.”
With a background in rock and roll, Josh has comfortably settled in fusing hip-hop with rock-styled drumming, while also influencing the guys to add some rock elements to their sets. “The shows with Three 6 Mafia are a lot more laid back than you’re regular rock shows in the sense that everybody isn’t as serious before they go on or anything,” he shares. “With Three 6, they always have a good time no matter what and they’ve helped me remember why I started playing music in the first place.”
Besides music, the guys have also ventured into acting and have had numerous guest appearance stints and even had their own MTV show, “Adventures in Hollyhood,” back in 2007. “We actually got some film and TV projects in the works,” Juicy J says. “We about doing it all. But we’ll never quit music. That’s where we started and where we’ll finish. Even though we have our own solo things, we’re never gonna leave Three 6 Mafia behind. We’d be stupid to do so.”
“We’re going to keep grindn’ hard as a group as long as we can and continue to put out dope sh*t,” DJ Paul interjects. “It’s what we do and will keep on doing, non-stop.”
Juciy J: Trippy Mane and More
Aside from his work in Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J has been pretty busy as the vice president of A&R for Wiz Kalifa’s Taylor Gang label. The two met a year ago and because of their “great chemistry,” they’ll be making “jamming records together,” as Juicy J describes.
I want the label to be like the new Motown,” he says. “We have a heavy lineup of musical talent and it’s going to be a great year for us. We’re always looking for talent, but they’ve got to be ready to work ’cause I don’t f*ck with lazy people. They gotta be hungry and ready to grind it out.”
His solo mixtape that was released last year, “Blue Dream & Lean” was a commercial success and helped differentiate Juicy J as a solo artist, which fans have since embraced. “These mixtapes I be putting out is helping fans see me as a solo artist and it’s helped get me new fans. Right now, I’m working on an album that has a lot of people interested, but I’m more focused on finishing it first and making sure the music is good.” As he prepares his own album, Juicy J is also currently working with artists like Chevy Woods and Lola Monroe, who are up-and-coming acts on Wiz’s Taylor Gang Records. “We’re all making good music and having a good time doing it,” he says.
As he grows his musical endeavors, Juicy J is also hard at work branding the phrase, “Trippy Mane,” which he’s been using in his songs and social media updates. “I’m trying to make it a household name. Trippy Mane means that you’re doing what you want, whenever you want. It’s a person doing whatever the f*ck they want to do, so you can be trippy as a motherf*cker, you dig?”
Currently, Juicy J is getting trippy mane in his 2011 Rolls-Royce Phantom, which is his favorite ride at the moment. “I ride in it with a driver, and I’m riding this Phantom to the ground. I love to get in it ’cause it’s really comfortable, has some nice rims on it and it’s a chick puller. I’ve got many other rides, and you’ll always see me in something brand new every day of the week. It can be a Phantom one day, a Lambo the next, then an old school with 24s...it all depends on how I’m feelin’ that day.” Totally satisfied with his collection, Juicy J isn’t looking to get any new rides soon, but instead plans to invest in his own production studio. “I want to shoot my own TV shows and stuff like that right now. Cars come and go, so I’m looking to do bigger stuff with my money now.”
DJ Paul: Cooking Up a Storm
DJ Paul is also working on some solo projects and is looking forward to the success of his next mixtape, “A Person of Interest,” which will be the first rap/dubstep album ever since he’s been digging the entire dubstep movement. “I laced the old Three 6 Mafia underground and street sound with some dubstep,” he explains. “It's the future sound of music right now ‘cause it’s everywhere. Just look at how Skrillex is killing it. I like it ’cause it’s real bassy and has all these synthesized, crazy sounds that really f*cks with you. I’m slowly easing my fans into my new sound and hope to one day do an entire dubstep album, but I’m calling it ‘dubhop.’”
And like Juicy J, DJ Paul has taken an up-and coming artist under his wing, working on bringing up his new Latino artist KoKoe who’s from L.A. and provides that Southern gangster sound DJ Paul is familiar for. “He’s different from other Latino artists and his music is straight from the streets, just like mine. I think he’s hot and gonna be big in the coming year. I’m producing some tracks for him at the moment.”
But the biggest thing he’s looking forward to is his BBQ sauce and rub he’s promoting. Growing up in Memphis, DJ Paul has always been a fan of barbecuing and would try any and all sauces and rubs, combining them for the perfect flavor. After thinking about it for years, he finally pursued making his own while filming his reality TV show. “I went into the kitchen to start mixing and researching what flavors worked best for my sauce and rub. I finally came up with one I liked, bottled it and started selling it online. We’re selling it in local stores and working on a deal with Walmart to start selling it in their Southern stores.” He also plans on bringing out new flavors, with a spicy one coming out next and dropping a garlic butter after that.
Because he loves cooking and barbecuing so much, DJ Paul is also shopping a cooking show around even though he’s already been on (and won) VH1’s “Famous Food,” where he worked to open and compete for ownership in a Hollywood restaurant. But his business ventures don’t end there as he and Juicy J continue to expand their Dangerous and Skandulus clothing line.
I laced the old Three 6 Mafia underground and street sound with some dubstep. It's the future sound of music right now ‘cause it’s everywhere. Just look at how Skrillex is killing it. I like it ’cause it’s real bassy and has all these synthesized, crazy sounds that really f*cks with you. I’m slowly easing my fans into my new sound and hope to one day do an entire dubstep album, but I’m calling it ‘dubhop.DJ Paul’s car game also includes a Phantom, which is one of his prized rides. But he’s all about switching up cars based on what time of day and occasion it is. With a garage that includes Maybachs, Audis, Lambos, Benzes and more, the Phantom is DJ Paul’s showstopper. “It’s got that big grille that you can see a mile away coming down the street,” he says. It’s also a smooth comfortable ride. And even though it’s a big car, it has good pickup in it ‘cause of the V12. Man, you roll up in that and heads turn.”
He might already have tons of his dream rides, but what DJ Paul’s garage is missing is a couple of old schools, which he plans on changing very soon. “I’m looking at getting some late-’60s model rides, like a Cadillac, Buick Riviera and Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors. I like old schools ’cause these days they are cheap as hell to fix and insure.”
Josh V.: One Beat at a Time
As Three 6 Mafia’s drummer and marketing person, Josh has his hands full helping out the guys on all their business ventures in addition to growing his own musical career. When he’s not working on Juicy J or DJ Paul’s marketing and promotions, he’s hard at work with his own rock band, Choleric, and Beverly Kills, his DJ/drummer group project he has with DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit. “I’ve been interested in doing a project like this for a while, but had yet to find the right DJ,” he explains. “Finally, when I met DJ Lethal, I knew it would be a dope combination. I know there might be other DJ/drummer acts out there, but where we’re different is that we make our live shows an entire experience. We add videos to our sets and really get the crowd involved in our shows.”
He also started Fan Annex (www.fanannex.com), which makes connection between fans and celebrities closer. “I’m working with UFC fighters, Playboy Playmates, NFL football players and musicians at the moment, and am looking to make this site huge!”
Constantly busy with a full plate, Josh likes to unwind by taking either his Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, Mercedes-Benz CL550, BMW M3 or Brabus G-Wagen for a spin in L.A. Content with his Benzes, Josh’s eyes are set on a 1939 Street Rod as his next big car purchase. “That’s my ultimate purchase; nothing will beat owing the street rod of my dreams.”