Three 6 Mafia

By Jordan Selbo

Predicting the winner of this year’s best song at the Oscars was easy—how could a Memphis horror-core group with foundations in…

Predicting the winner of this year’s best song at the Oscars was easy—how could a Memphis horror-core group with foundations in quasi-satanic goth-rap not win over Dolly Parton and those other lames? Oh, you didn’t know that Three 6 Mafia (now 15 years deep) used to be known as Triple 6 Mafia (as in 6-6-6)? The only cats to make an almost phobic avoidance of innovation…well, innovating.

To say Three 6 has a distinct style is an understatement on par with “George W. is a dummy.” Even if the moniker now masks their horror-core roots, increasingly claustrophobic beats and relentless flows damn sure don’t. DJ Paul and Juicy J combine wall-to-wall organs set to creepy minor keys and weeded violin strings, all on top of skittish hi-hats on helium and basslines syruped up something awful (“sippin’ on some siz-erp”). Lyrically the 6 keeps to, ahem, familiar material—though getting older, these three cats are still pimping, spliffing, syrup sipping and Henni mixing, collar popping and big billing Memphis representers—in other words, the laundry list of tired gangsta clichs, more or less.

That’s why the first few listens left me with vague feelings of emptiness and discontent. To be fair, I’ve recently been knee-deep in classic joints, my love of (and hope in) Hip Hop reinvigorated by everyone from the Jungle Brothers to Edan. These Three 6 dudes just sounded like aging gangstas unwilling to elevate creatively (or too comfy to care—Ice Cube, anyone?). But dutifully, I gave the album a few more spins, and wouldn’t you know…the 6 grew on me, respect due. Cause for all their tired truisms, there're just as many grown-ass man truth-telling sermons (and by sermons I mean violent verbal beat downs). <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Most Known… is simply more Three 6 than any other Three 6 joint has ever been. That means that on "Knock Tha Black Off Yo Ass," they manage to become the first people in history (besides your pops) to make the song's title phrase sound more menacing than silly. It also means that "I think they better call Bushcause it’s a natural disaster/ when I unleash my pistol grip Bushmaster” is as political as you’re gonna get (or for the Democrats, there’s: “do me like Bill Clinton girl, take it out ya mouth/ we’ll shoot it right there on your dress”).

The Three 6 essence also means the unofficial motto, provided by Eightball on the banging single “Stay Fly” (read: “Stay High”), could be “smoke all night, sleep all day/ that’s to me, the American way.” Seriously, these cats are making it hard for me to honor my temporary vow of celibacy towards Mary-Jane (not be confused with my main girl Jane-Marie, what up!). There’s just something about woozy nihilism that makes me want to get tore up from the floor up and stagger to the nearest club to scuff some Air Force Ones…and I don’t even like clubs!

And that, kiddies, is why the 6 are the Most Known Unknown. Haters call it a particularly vile form of creative bankruptcy, but I’d label it self-assured and intoxicating resilience. Three 6 know they’re the shit (“and if you don’t know, now you know”). Once it gets real hot (say, August), I’ll be able to play this joint on my porch, pretending I’m in the hot sticky mess of Memphis, spliffed up and ice grilling elderly passersby. Like the 6, it may not be pretty, but it’s sho’ nuff true.

Final verdict: 2.5 joints (out of 4)

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