Three 6 Mafia (formerly known as Triple Six Mafia), is the first hip hop group from Memphis, Tennessee to go platinum, the second hip-hop act to be nominated for and win an Oscar. They are the originators of certain types of crunk music. The group currently has four core members — DJ Paul, Juicy J, Lord Infamous, and Project Pat and once included Koopsta Knicca, Gangsta Boo, and Crunchy Black all of whom have left, or have been kicked out of the group. They commonly feature members of their extended collective of rappers, referenced to as the Hypnotize Minds (as well as other names), in their projects.
Without compromising their dark image as a malevolent rap group from the South, Three 6 Mafia quickly evolved from a humble underground rap collective to a commercially successful dynasty by retaining their raw qualities and releasing countless albums under a number of monikers. Representing Memphis, TN, the group's six core members -- Crunchy Black, Gangsta Boo, Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca, Juicy "J," and DJ Paul -- give the group its dark image, vividly rapping about drug use, violent aggression, pornographic sex, and anything else remotely evil. Furthermore, group leaders Juicy "J" and DJ Paul's cinematic production perfectly compliments the group's theatrical rapping, causing many to call them the South's Wu-Tang Clan, as both groups are led by in-house production, feature a closed roster of rappers, and also release innumerable affiliated solo and compilation albums. After releasing their first official album in 1995 and their first major-label album in 1997, Three 6 Mafia soon found themselves on the verge of superstardom; once When the Smoke Clears debuted at number six on
-Billboard's album charts in summer 2000, it became evident that Three 6 Mafia no longer were an underground group.
Before Three 6 Mafia became a sprawling slew of loosely connected side projects, DJ Paul began his musical career as a popular Memphis DJ around 1990, creating mix tapes at home with his brother, Lord Infamous. In 1991, DJ Paul met up with another hot local DJ, Juicy "J," who was a fan of his mix tapes; the two began producing tapes with them rapping over beats and they eventually began integrating local MCs into their music. After Juicy "J" and DJ Paul honed their beats to the point where they had developed a trademark sound (later showcased on Underground, Vol. 1, a collection of their early recordings from 1991-1994), they began officially collaborating with local MCs; these resulted in their first underground release as Triple 6 Mafia, Smoked Out Loced Out. After an enthusiastic response within the South, the group changed their name to Three 6 Mafia and put out their first official album in 1995, Mystic Stylez.
At this early point in their career, the early Three 6 Mafia camp prided themselves on being as raw as possible, rapping explicitly about sex, drugs, and violence. While these topics weren't exactly MTV material, they did garner a considerable cult following -- quite similar to what Esham was doing in Detroit at the time -- and the group used controversy to further fuel their growing popularity via the media by releasing an EP, Live by Yo Rep, which took lyrical shots at Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. After following up their debut and EP with a second album, Da End, Three 6 Mafia signed to Relativity Records. Having released their early albums on the group's independently run Prophet Entertainment label, their first major-label release, Chapter 2: World Domination, found the group polishing up their production and tweaking their image a bit. They also reprised "Tear the Club Up" from Mystic Stylez as "Tear the Club Up '97" and found themselves with a respectable anthem that made its way out of the South.
At this point in the group's evolution, having signed to a major label and having scored an admirable hit single, group leaders Juicy "J" and DJ Paul began extending their brand by releasing group member solo albums (Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca), non-group member solo albums (Project Pat, the Kaze), and also compilation-styled albums (Tear da Club Up Thugs, Hypnotize Camp Posse). Similar in approach to Master P's No Limit Records at the end of the '90s, a glut of Three 6 Mafia-affiliated albums soon flooded the market. Though even the most diehard fan couldn't possibly keep up with every release, these many albums did help bring increased awareness about what was going on in Memphis. This became evident in summer 2000 when the long-awaited "official" Three 6 Mafia follow-up to 1997's Chapter 2 album, When the Smoke Clears, finally hit the streets. Aided immensely by the surprising national success of the lead single, "Sippin' on Some Syrup," in a few non-Southern markets, the album debuted at number six on ~Billboard's album charts. Following the success of this album (which received no MTV and little national radio rotation), began work on the direct-to-video film Choices and on affiliated solo albums. ~ Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide ";
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