You know that scene in Hustle and Flow? The one where Terrence Howard is in his homemade studio, egg cartons stapled to the wall, the summer heat turning the room into an oven, and they start writing Whoop That Trick? At first they’re only chanting the chorus, then the beat begins to build, one bass kick and snare slap at a time. Then DJay, in a fit of desperate inspiration, starts spitting rhymes until suddenly a track so raw it’s still breathing is born. That’s what I picture a Three 6 Mafia recording session is …
DJBooth Album Review
That’s what I picture a Three 6 Mafia recording session is like. Well, not exactly. I’m sure their studio is nicer, and they probably don’t employ pregnant prostitutes to sing their hooks (probably), but I bet that energy, that often destructive musical force that Southern hip-hop is known for and Hustle and Flow portrayed so well, is the same.
Much like their cinematic counterpart, Three 6’s history is a tale of coming up on the block. Once known only in their Memphis home, they’ve built their name into a national brand, starring in a reality show and, shockingly, winning an Oscar. While a lot has changed since their early days, only DJ Paul and Juicy J remain from the original group, one thing’s remained constant - the music. You know what you’re going to get when you pick up a Three 6 album, and with their latest effort, Last 2 Walk, they deliver another almost epic compilation of speaker rattling beats and neck-breaking choruses.
Three 6 Mafia first made national noise with Sippin On Some Sizzurp, a.k.a. Lil Wayne’s theme song. Sippin’ set the blueprint for a Three 6 hit single, anthem hooks laid over addictive production, and eight years later they’re still following their formula to perfection. I dare you to blast On Sum Chrome through the speakers of your ride and not nod your head. It can’t be done. Let’s pause for a moment to get something out of the way. Paul and Juicy aren’t particularly impressive rappers, I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise, but in a way that’s a good thing. Their music would lose its power if it were clouded in metaphor and wordplay. Their style works for them, and that just means when they bring in some lyrical firepower, like UGK on Sum Chrome or the late-great Pimp C on I Got It, the results are even sweeter. Listen, no aspiring MCs are spending their nights breaking down the lyrics to Weed, Blow, Pills (it goes “weed, blow, pills” in case you were curious), but somehow they manage to transform even the most baseline of lyrics into hood operas, and by that measure Last 2 Walk is a symphony.
Those lyrics are also why more serious hip-hop heads sleep on Three Six. If you dig a little deeper than their sometimes frat-friendly verses, Last 2 Walk features some of the most innovative and complex production in recent memory. Just take Rollin', a track that flips an orchestral piano melody into an ode to pill-poppin, or Corner Man, a deeply layered track that is far more complicated than it sounds on the surface. That doesn’t mean Three 6 are always geniuses, there’s nothing complex about songs like the ill-advised Playstation or Dirty B***h, but at times Paul and Juicy J are the like Southern Beethovens when it comes to working the soundboards, and it’s about time they get respected like it.
Let’s not get carried away. At their core Three 6 is about having fun, and Last 2 Walk finds them partying with some more club-friendly forays, most notably with Lolli Lolli, a bouncing song that sounds more European club than Memphis parking lot, even thought it features, surprise, an auto-tuned chorus. It lacks your typical Three Six flavor, and it suffers accordingly, but it gets the job done. Even better is I’d Rather, an ode to the joys of oral stimulation featuring UNK that will go down in the pantheon of great Three Six songs. Despite what Juicy claims, it’s just too crude to get national airplay, but their core fans will love it, and those are the people that will buy your albums long after a smash single has faded from national memory. Three 6 will probably never have a “classic” album, Last 2 Walk certainly isn’t one, but their ability to consistently produce good music deservedly places them in some elite company. If only the Grammy committee was as open-minded as the Oscar folks.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 06/22/08
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"Act A Fool ft. Three 6 Mafia" (2006)
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