Three 6 Mafia’s DNA can be found all over hip-hop. In recent years, the Memphis crew’s mystic style and uncensored lyrics have been sampled and interpolated by a variety of well-known artists, such as Rae Sremmurd (“Powerglide”), A$AP Ferg (“Plain Jane”), G-Eazy (“No Limit”), and Cardi B (“Bickenhead”), not-so-subtlely reminding the world that their catalogue continues to be a source of inspiration.
Dive even deeper and you’ll find their music is not only connecting with younger artists but also influencing their output. Following the release of Chicago rapper G Herbo's "Who Run It" freestyle in March, a slew of new school artists have tried their hand at the Juicy J and DJ Paul-produced record off 2000's When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1, including 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Trippie Redd, CupcakKe, and Lil Uzi Vert.
There’s no disputing that Three 6 Mafia’s music is timeless, but that doesn't change the fact that fans have been waiting years for a new album. This Sunday, June 24, marks the 10-year anniversary of Last 2 Walk, the last official Three 6 Mafia album and the only one featuring just Juicy J and DJ Paul (Crunchy Black left the group shortly after "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 2006 Academy Awards).
A mix of vintage Three 6 with mainstream ambitions, Last 2 Walk includes the hit single "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)," which peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100, and features appearances by the late Pimp C, Project Pat, UNK, Akon, Lyfe Jennings, Lil Wyte, Good Charlotte, and more.
While DJ Paul will always champion Three 6 Mafia’s legacy, after publicly criticizing Juicy for falsely repping the Mafia flag as a “pop singer” and signee to Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang, it's unlikely the longtime running mates will be getting back together anytime soon. In the meantime, though, Paul is championing Seed of 6ix, a new group made up of Locodunit and Lil Infamous—both his nephews—who have been carrying the Three 6 Mafia torch.
Over the course of two conversations, Three 6 founding member DJ Paul spoke with DJBooth about the making of and mission for Last 2 Walk. Paul touches on securing the guest features for the album, the difference between recording in Memphis and Los Angeles, the influence Michael Jackson's work had on his creative process, and Pimp C’s very last recording before his death in 2007.
DJBooth’s full interview with DJ Paul, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What was going on in your life when you were getting ready to drop this album?
DJ Paul: Shit, everything! That was after we won the Oscar. So we won the Oscar and we went straight to the reality show, Adventures in Hollyhood. [We were] touring like crazy and recording that album. There was a lot of stuff in the way of that album. That album could have been way better.
There was just too much going on. We were in a whole other city. The kind of person that I am and I’m sure it was part of Juicy as well, we fed off the energy in Memphis. You know, Memphis has a lot of negative energy there. I love my city, don’t get me wrong, [but] at one point, it was the robbery capital and it was the unemployment capital which goes hand and hand. It’s a dark city, home of The First 48.
Coming from that and moving to Bel-Air [in Los Angeles], that was totally different. We went from recording our album in our studio, which was across the street from the jailhouse in downtown Memphis, like smack dab in the hood, to recording in a mansion in Bel-Air.
That’s very different.
Yeah, very different. It wasn’t like we were in the hood of L.A. Every now and then, I would get in my car and ride through the hood in L.A. just to see some homies that I know out there and catch a vibe. I caught vibes from doing that but I didn’t do that every day. I did as much as I could. It took a while to find it out there. I would always go to the same area, that was Crenshaw Blvd. Rodeo area. They call it Rodeo over there, where the Jungle is and all that. I knew a lot of homies on Rodeo and Crenshaw. I would go from there to Slauson.
You and Juicy J are the executive producers of Last 2 Walk. Were you two making beats in the same room? How’d that work?
We always did it the same way where he’ll make a track and he’ll let me hear it. And then, I make a track and I let him hear it. And he might hear something that’d be cool to go on my track and he’ll do it. And I’d hear something that’d be cool to go to his track and I’d do it. That’s mostly how it went. Sometimes, it would stay just me or just him. Sometimes, it’d be both of us. We’d always just kind of mix it up.
Did you have anything in the Bel-Air studio for inspiration? I remember you used to have serial killer posters back in the day.
Well, the serial killer stuff was mine. That was in my personal house. The Hypnotize Minds studio, it didn’t have stuff like that. It didn’t really have nothing on the wall. You can actually see it, the studio where we recorded that at if you watch Adventures in Hollyhood. The studio that me and Juicy sitting in all the time when like Big Trice and Computer [were] walking in there singing all those stupid rhymes. Like, "Don’t step on my feet, I won’t step on yours." They had…
“Whatchu staring at?”
Whatchu staring at. We were recording Last 2 Walk seriously when all that was going on. That was the studio, that was the house we recorded it in.
What do you remember about making “Hoodstar” with Lyfe Jennings?
That song was my favorite. I love that song. I need to pull that album out just for that song. I’m a big Lyfe Jennings fan. I wonder what he’s doing right now? I tried to look him up on Instagram, but he got his Instagram private. I’m a big fan of that dude. I need to look on iTunes to see if he brought anything out recently and buy it.
How did Good Charlotte get on the album?
Good Charlotte was our homeboys. They used to be over at the house, kicking it with us. That’s how that happened. That’d be over at the house, we’d be kicking it. They live in L.A. as well. We had another mutual friend from St. Louis, he was the dude that produced all of Nelly’s first records. He was living there too at the time. And all of us just hung out together and we ended up doing a song.
“I’d Rather” featured DJ UNK. You’ve talked about crunk having a revival soon. You worked with Lil Jon recently on Underground Vol. 17, For da Summa. Why UNK?
Three 6 Mafia was big influences on the ATL. I got a lot of homies in the ATL. Tons and tons of homies in the ATL. I was always cool with Lil Jon since day one, like back in the day. Even before he came out, I was friends with Lil Jon. I met UNK through his producer and his record label. That’s how me and UNK got cool. And when I made the song, I could hear him on it. But we produced this song with his producer, DJ Montay. I shouted out Montay at the beginning of that song. Montay my nigga.
“First 48” was monumental because it featured Memphis—Project Pat, Spanish Fly, Al Kapone, and 8Ball & MJG.
That’s the posse song. That one was dope. Once we gave it that title, it was like, "Man you know, we gotta put the Memphis on here." Spanish Fly is my boy, boy. Me and Spanish Fly got the same birthday. So we celebrate our birthday together sometime. Back in the day when I lived in Memphis, we would go to the casinos together. And we had a deal, whatever the other person won, we’d split it down the middle with the other person. In which was a win-win for me cause I can’t get one worth for shit and he could, so he always won. So it was cool.
How did any of these artists influence the Three 6 sound?
8Ball & MJG, they really were just the first to blow up out of Memphis. Not really as far as the sound, but they were more influenced on the whole [thing] to come out of Memphis and to do it and to show that it was possible because they did it.
Al Kapone, man, I fell in love with Al Kapone’s music long ago. I saw him in concert. I went to this club down the street from my house when I was young and saw him perform in there and it blew my mind. With him and his boys, you just see these three, four dudes on stage shaking dreadlocks everywhere, getting crunk and wild. I was like, ‘Damn, this shit is hard.’ I started buying his music.
Funny story about Al Kapone. He gave me my first envelope of publishing forms. He told me to fill these out. He showed me how to fill out the publishing form. He helped me out a whole lot when he did that. He basically changed my life. It was him and my uncle. My uncle taught me before Al Kapone taught me. My uncle has a gospel group called the Bogard Brothers. They taught me long ago. But Al Kapone, he was the person that actually gave me the form and said, "Fill these out and mail them in." I was like, "Alright."
You also grabbed Pimp C. He’s on “I Got” and “On Some Chrome.”
[“On Some Chrome”] was the last song that Pimp C recorded. He died after that. You know what? Now that I think about it, we didn’t do that whole album at that house. We started doing that album at that house, and we finished it at our own houses because “On Some Chrome,” which is the last song that Pimp C recorded, he recorded that at my own house. Not the Hollyhood house.
He recorded that at my house and then he left my house and then he passed away at his hotel [Mondrian LA]. I gave him a ride home. He died after he left my house. That’s why it was years in the making because we started at the Hollyhood house and then we finished at our own individual houses.
So, you were in the studio with Pimp C for “On Some Chrome.” With Bun B too?
Nah, just Pimp. Just me and Pimp. It was cool. We were supposed to start earlier that day, but he had overslept. So I was gonna call it a night. I was getting ready to send the engineer home and go to bed. And Pimp had called me and he was like, "My fault Paul, I’m ready now. I feel asleep." I was like, "No problem, Pimp." I said, "I’ll come get you." So I was calling my guy that was driving for me and he came over to my house and we jumped in my car. And we went and got Pimp. We were listening to some new music that he had brought out. He ended up leaving the CD in my car. I still got it.
He had us listening to new stuff, and we went to my house and that’s how we came up with the “On Some Chrome” song. And then, basically long story short, my driver took him back home. I stayed at home because it was fucking 10 in the morning. We probably picked him up at 10 at night, that night before.
I never forget it; it was so funny. He took the garbage out for my son. My son came downstairs; he was eating his breakfast. I was like, "Son, take the garbage to the street outside the gates." Pimp tells him, "Sit down little man. You ain’t gotta do that, I’ll do that." He said, "Eat your breakfast, eat your breakfast." So my son sat down and Pimp C took the garbage out for him. Yeah, it was cool. And then we finished up the song. Then the guy took him to his room, and he went to a Too Short concert with Too Short. He hung out with Too Short. Then he went back to his room and that’s when he passed away. There was some other stuff involved, but I don’t want to talk about that.
What about “I Got”? Was that record finished after his death?
He didn’t rap on “I Got,” it was just a hook. I think I sampled that hook from another song that we had together with him. It was probably “Lookin’ For Da Chewin’.”
Project Pat is on seven songs. What happened to Crunchy Black and why was he absent? It felt like Pat was replacing him.
Crunchy Black left the group after we won the Oscar. He just up and left. We was in New York, and he just up and left. He never really told me why he left but I heard he left because he said it was too much for him. We were traveling all over the place. We were doing interviews around the clock. We were working our asses off 'cause of the Oscar. I think it was just a little too much for him. He needed a break and he left.
How’d you take it back then?
I was just like, "What the hell?" How did we get to the biggest point in our life? We worked so long for this, and then when we get here, he don’t want it. I get it, but at the same time, I know how it is. When you’re tired and you need a break, you can’t push yourself, you’ll want to kill yourself. He ain’t breaking our love because Crunchy was my homie before the rap shit. I was like he know he feels he needs a break. I’m not livid off that. That’s what he should get. He should get a break. That’s what happened.
So Pat was just working hard then.
Yeah, he was living with us at the Hollyhood house. And then when we got our separate houses, he was living with Juicy, that’s his little brother. He was there. Project Pat can rap his ass off. He was there and he was great to put him on the songs.
Why do you think this album is more musical than previous Three 6 Mafia albums?
Well, I think it was what I was listening to when I was working on that album. I was listening to a lot of Michael Jackson and a lot of Jackson 5 as weird as that sounds. “Heartbreak Hotel” ("This Place Hotel") is one of my favorite songs cause it had the spooky elements in it. Matter fact, I know that had something to do with it.
What were the MJ albums you were listening to?
Every one of them. I’m actually friends with the lady who wrote “Man in the Mirror.” She lives out here. A black lady wrote that song. I used to talk to her all the time, but I haven’t talked to her in forever. But she’s one of the first people that I met out here and I was talking to. “Man in the Mirror” is one of my favorite songs and she wrote that song. She wrote it and I think she let Quincy [Jones] hear it and then she let Michael hear it. All of Michael’s solo stuff. That whole album with “Man in the Mirror” was the shit.
Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, influencing a Three 6 Mafia album.
Mhmm. When I moved to L.A., we used to live down the street from Michael Jackson kind of. We lived in the same neighborhood that he lived in the house where he passed away in. Matter of fact, the house that he passed away in, that house across the street to this day is our hangout house. We was there when all the girls were outside fucking crying because he died. We would take them bottled waters out there and they would come in the house and use the bathroom and whatnot.
Last 2 Walk is considered the last Three 6 Mafia album. 10 years later, are you satisfied with it bookending your legacy?
Nah, I don’t think so. The best way to end it is if we would get back together and make something else, especially now where Three 6 Mafia is hotter than ever. This would have been a good time to do it. But Juicy don’t feel we shouldn’t be doing any more music, so I ain’t trippin’. I asked him a couple times and he said he don’t want to do it, so I’m done with it.
Why do you believe he's no longer interested?
You know, a lot of people don’t like to take a chance that something will come out and fail. I’m not saying that’s what he’s thinking. But maybe that’s what he is thinking. He probably wanted to go out on a good note, as good as it did for Last 2 Walk or whatever versus coming out right now, doing one, and then it straight flopped or something. Which I don’t even see how that could be possible. But maybe he’s thinking like, "I don’t want to do that. I don’t want it to flop." Who knows? Who knows what he is thinking.
Editor's Note: We reached out to Juicy J for comment, but he declined through his representative.
What would you want to say to the remaining members of Three 6 in regards to a reunion tour?
I’m not going to say it is not going to happen, but I just feel like it is not going to happen no time soon. Maybe down the road, but not now. Juicy don’t want to get into a studio to record an album, which, you can record an album across the world with each other. You don’t have to be in the studio to see each other for an album. There’s no way in hell that you’re going to sit on a tour bus with somebody if you don’t want to even record an album with them—something that you can do via laptop. So yeah, he ain’t gonna do that. Everybody else in the group down to do it, but he not down to do it.
I admire that you've continued to make music with the dark and sinister sound of Three 6 that we all love.
I got to. Wait until you hear the new shit. Wait until you hear the new ones. I’m working on my new stuff right now, it’s gonna be dark too. That’s what the fans want. That’s what they grew up on. That’s what I trained them to like and see me as. So I gotta keep fulfilling that. It’s for them.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Bogard Brothers was misspelled.