In an era of instant fame, Instagram models and Vine stars, there’s a dwindling number of artists who are willing to pay their dues in order to break into the recording business.
In a recent interview on the No Jumper podcast, DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia broke down the crew’s mixtape hustle as high schoolers, explaining how their underground work ethic helped them land their first distribution deal.
After his first attempt at releasing music in 9th grade - Portrait Of A Serial Killer EP with Lord Infamous - Paul started to release $2 TDK cassettes, but he could only fill one side due to budget constraints. “I would sell ‘em at school during lunch," Paul explained. "The TDK tapes back then were 60 minutes, 30 minutes per side... and I only did one side. I would sell it at school for $2.”
Demand continued to grow, however, and Paul began doubling his output, making $4 mixtapes and teaming up with stereo stores to meet the growing demand for his crew’s music. Three years later, Paul had banked $50k in local, hand-to-hand sales.
According to Paul, after releasing 16 volumes of the mixtape, their sound naturally evolved into the Three 6 Mafia soundscape we know and love today, all while selling thousands of mixtapes locally between 16 and 18 years of age. Their tireless mixtape hustle also lead to their first distribution deal with Select-O-Hits, a local record company headed by Sam Phillips, the record executive who discovered Elvis Presley, allowing for the release of Mystic Stylez and the birth of one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all-time.
Hearing a detailed account of the work and sacrifice that went into the creation and distribution of their music helps to easily explain Three 6's lasting impression on the culture and should make us all the more appreciative of their continued success as an entity and as individual members.
God bless the mixtape hustle, and remember: nothing happens overnight.
By Brent Bradley. Ask him about his first job on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram