‘Stay Trippy’: Three 6 Mafia’s impact on pop culture comes full circle

theGRIO REPORT - It’s hard to overlook Three 6 Mafia’s and Juicy J’s influence on music and culture as the north Memphis, Tennessee native’s third solo album, 'Stay Trippy', hits shelves...

Rapper Juicy J’s having a moment and it’s been two decades in the making. Oscar win aside, his hit “Bandz  Make Her Dance’” puts Juicy J, one of Three 6 Mafia’s most prominent members, back in the middle of the mainstream.

As the north Memphis, Tennessee native’s third solo album Stay Trippy hits shelves, it’s hard to overlook Three 6 Mafia’s and Juicy J’s influence on music and culture.

Look no farther than the former Hannah Montana star’s headfirst dive into hip-hop culture. Juicy J made that happen. But before co-signing the twerking-challenged Miley Cyrus, he had been busy been making a name for himself. He has been an elite producer since the 90’s though often underrated. He’s worked with everyone from Nicki Minaj to Ludacris; from Quincy Jones to Wale.

Before Atlanta’s own Mike Will Made It produced “Bandz Make Her Dance”, “Beach is Better” or Miley’s hit “Can’t Hold Us”, there was Juicy J. The strip club anthems dominating radio today all have some traces of Three 6’s DNA and their sound has since transcended hip-hop.

Three 6 Mafia’s beginnings

The influence of Three 6’s original members—Project Pat, Juicy J, DJ Paul, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black and Gangsta Boo— is not lost on music heads. Prior to the group’s shocking Oscar win at the 78th Academy Awards for 2005’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” music’s mainstream had slept on the group that called itself “The Hypnotize Camp.”

People paid attention once they made history as the first hip-hop group to win an Oscar for Best Original Song. While “Stay Fly,” became Three 6’s biggest hit, the Oscar expanded their visibility to a never before reached audience.

Southern hip-hop fans were “turning up” to Three 6 before the phrase “turn up”  became a main stream catch phrase.

Songs like “Testin’ My Gangsta” and “As* & Ti**ies” were car stereo system staples back when people bought  12 or 15 inch speakers for the trunk so the bass knocked hard and loud. The Three 6 influence can be heard in artists like A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa and even Justin Timberlake.

Yes, that Justin Timberlake. He’s also from Memphis. Timberlake was exposed to Memphis’s blues and jazz roots but, he was also a fan of his fellow hometown hip-hop camp and featured them on FutureSex/LoveSounds’s “Chop Me Up”.

Seven years later he returned the favor by blessing  Stay Trippy’s “The Woods.”

Hip-hop lives in the south

Even hip-hop’s elite has noticed the southern style of beats and rhymes infiltrating rap. After Kendrick Lamar dissed everyone on “Control” with the now infamous competitive line telling his peers he wanted to be the best, Talib Kweli asked via Twitter, “Y’all NY rappers ready to stop rapping like y’all from the south yet?” It was a thought east coast hip-hop heads (particularly New Yorkers) had been whispering for a few years.

The southern “trap music” style once rejected by the mainstream has been popularized by southern rappers and has dominated hip-hop for the last decade. Bass heavy production—made perfect for obnoxiously loud speakers—owns radio waves with hits like A$AP’s “F**king Problem” and French Montana’s “Pop That.” The “slow” speed once relegated to southern and maybe Midwestern regions became a national phenomenon reaching as high up the music charts as pop star Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” from her seventh LP Unapologetic.

Lyrically, Three 6 was never Mos Def or Outkast—nor was that their aim. For that reason they weren’t always taken seriously in New York, a market where Outkast barely made it through. Meanwhile Project Pat (the star of the group in its heyday) and Three 6’s albums were classics as far as the south was concerned. Culturally southerners understood the group wasn’t making music to philosophize about society.

It sounded good to the ears of those whose lived experience understood exactly what it meant when Juicy rapped, “Everybody let ya spinwheels spin like a spinmill/Juicy J on certain pills, cruisin’ down to Knoxville/See them thangs shinin’ sparkin’ like a diamond/Bumpin’ the Alpi-ne, why you’s a lyin.’”

Southerners respect lyricism, but also judge songs based on how it sounds in the car. To this day “Slob on My Knob” or “Tear Da Club Up” or “Who Run It” will get a southern club insanely crunk. What was hot to southerners as early as ’97 saturates the market today as if it were a new sound.

Early listeners of “Stay Trippy” have crowned the album a banger. Did those same listeners even hear a Three 6 or Juicy J album prior to 2005? “Stay Trippy” goes hard because it reminds those of us who grew up on southern rap how Three 6 provided a soundtrack for our teenage and college years. Juicy J ain’t new to this. Homage is long overdue. His and Three 6’s influence in music is now heard every time you turn on the radio, in the rare occasion that you do.