While this was happening, Lil Wayne was already dropping mixtapes
We finished last time by branching away from the Geto Boys and into the clubs of Memphis with DJ Paul and DJ Spanish Fly. We probably won’t be talking about the Geto Boys very much again, so if you got emotionally invested after that first article, I’m sorry.
Sorry you’re a punk ass bitch.
“But then why mention the Geto Boys at all?”
Well, first and foremost, the Geto Boys are one of the first big groups out of the south. They paved the way for a music scene that would give rise to phenomena from Outkast to the idea of pushing mixtapes. More important, however, is the fact that modern trap music finds its roots in early horrorcore rap. While trap artists today have moved away from the gratuitous and disturbing lyrics pioneered by the Geto Boys, the trap aesthetic has been shaped by their “scarier” songs. When I talk about Three 6 Mafia later in this post, I’ll mention how their darker, more haunting production laid the real foundation for trap music. Those early tracks, however, find their lyrical roots in that 1989 album, Grip It! On That Other Level. Before I can talk about Three 6, however, I need to talk about DJ Paul, and I can’t talk about DJ Paul without talking about DJ Spanish Fly.
See? I wasn’t just rambling. All this stuff ties together pretty neatly, actually.
Let’s start with DJ Spanish Fly. He was DJ’ing at the Club No Name and Club Expo, catering to a fairly diverse crowd: the old guard of traditional disco-ers, and the younger groups of bass-heavy hip-hop lovers. Spanish Fly would follow a DJ named Ray the Jay, a top 40 disco/R&B DJ and a bit of a hardass. Ray liked to run his dance floor with a bit of structure, and wasn’t afraid to call people out. When Fly played, however, people would get buck. His bread and butter were the more extreme tracks coming out of New York (Public Enemy), the West Coast (NWA) and now, the South with the Geto Boys.
While playing these tracks in clubs contributed in part to their popularity, music really began to spread with the rise of the mixtape hustle (as it’s become known). What would happen is, Fly would take songs that he knew wouldn’t get radio time due to explicit lyrics, and he’d throw them on a cassette that would get sold at the front door of No Name and Expo. These tapes started off as just compilations of songs that Fly was already playing, however, he soon started to slip his own songs onto the tapes. He figured that by putting one of his songs at the start of the tape, people would hardly notice some aspiring DJ’s track at the beginning. At best, they’d like it, at worst, they’d be a little irked. What Fly didn’t expect was for people to love his songs more than the others on the tape, but that’s exactly what happened.
The mixtapes were wildly popular, reaching as far as New Orleans and Atlanta and spreading Fly’s music across the South. This far reaching influence is what enabled Fly to take a song that had been panned by New York audiences and push it to New Orleans, where it would become the basis of an entire subgenre of rap. The track in question is “Drag Rap (Triggaman)” by the Showboys, which would be sampled by DJ Jimi for one of the first tracks of the New Orleans bounce movement: “Where They At”.
Bounce music has a few key elements: easily repeatable, shouted refrains, bumping beats, and the same god damn sample in almost every song. I’m not even kidding, the entire genre is based off of sampling this one track. That isn’t to say that bounce isn’t important: the so called “rising tide” of rap popularity in New Orleans lifted many ships, including Birdman, Cash Money Records, and a young man named Juvenile. While at this point Juvenile only has one feature on a DJ Jimi song, he would later form the group the Hot Boyz with Lil Wayne et al., greatly contributing to the latter’s success.
See, isn’t this cool? It’s all a big illuminati web.
So at this point, DJ Spanish Fly has done a lot, and if you’re a DJ Paul fan, you’re probably a little steamed. See, although I’ve spent the bulk of this post talking about Spanish Fly, DJ Paul has been pretty busy himself. He was on the club DJ scene, the same as Spanish Fly, but he was also producing tracks for local rappers like his half brother, Lord Infamous. This duo, dubbed the Serial Killaz, released a couple of tapes in the early 90’s. What’s important about the Serial Killaz, however, is that they’re the first glimpse we have of what Three 6 Mafia is going to look like.
The reason I didn’t mention DJ Paul first is that he was influenced in part by the bounce scene Spanish Fly helped originate. DJ Paul even made a song sampling “Triggaman” (with Spanish Fly). When the bumping, bass driven bounce sounds met the dark and evil atmosphere generated by Infamous’ lyrics, however, it gave rise to a new sound all together. Heard on their second mixtape, Come With Me 2 Hell, Paul’s production carried the heavy bass sound that was becoming typical to the south. He layered them, however, with thinner, more atmospheric synth melodies. These tracks, as far as I’m concerned, are the first to start to sound like the trap music we know now. When you add in the sometimes-realistic, sometimes-occult, and always-gruesome lyrics of Lord Infamous, you have not only the basis of Three 6 Mafia, but of trap as a whole.
Enter da JOOSE MANE
It’s fun to say. Don’t even lie.
So I’ll be honest, I don’t know for sure how/why Juicy J met Lord Infamous and DJ Paul. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that they just heard each other’s work and one of them reached out to collaborate, but that’s a strong maybe.
This, I assume, is the kind of in depth analysis you come to this blog for.
Juicy J somehow meets DJ Paul and Lord Infamous, and they decide to start making music together. Originally forming the Backyard Posse, they took the early 90’s to release music and refine the lo-fi horrorcore sound that was being practiced by the Serial Killaz. DJ Paul (who’d been playing piano since he was 11) took care of most of the synth work during production, allowing the group to retain the eerie sounds of early Serial Killaz tapes, with Juicy J on the drum machine. Juicy J’s drums are generally more crisp and contained than the booming low ends used by DJ Paul, opting instead to use rapid fire hi-hats to round out his production in tracks such as “Smoked Out Loced Out”. This track also marked the group’s first formal release as Triple 6 Mafia and worked as a great segue just now.
Why the change? Well, it all started with Lord Infamous referring to the group as Triple 6 Mafia in a Backyard Posse track. The group decided that the name did a better job of representing their dark, satanic sound, while having the added benefit of being pretty frickin’ sick. The would change their name once more, adopting the Three 6 Mafia moniker before the release of their debut album, Mystic Stylez.
Mystic Stylez is an album out of time: with some minor tweaks to the rapping style and better mixing, it could pass for an album released in any year between 2000 and 2010. Trap music is strongly rooted in this album; its lyrics and its style are the first concrete expressions of the cinematic trap sound we know today. It is, by any definition, the first trap album. While it was relegated to the underground by explicit lyrics and gritty production, Three 6’s single “Da Summa” got some radio play. This attention was shared between Three 6 Mafia and the sound they pioneered: the ruthless, booming music of Memphis.
Other sounds were forming in the South, however. Chopped and screwed tracks were flowing out of Huston, while Outkast was in the process of making Atlanta one of the epicentres of the hip hop world. In New Orleans, the bounce movement would soon begin to grow into Crunk. It was all of these sounds that would lead a man named Jonathan Smith to begin DJ’ing at Phoenix Nightclub, and it was Atlanta’s booming club scene that lead Jermane Dupri (then-President of So-So Def Records) to Phoenix Nightclub on the search for new acts. Rather than finding a new act, however, Dupri found a DJ with incredible taste. It wasn’t long before Jonathan began working in A&R at So-So Def, and it wasn’t long after that before he became their in-house producer: Lil Jon.