Essential Artists: Three 6 Mafia

Over 20 years after their emergence in the rap scene in Memphis, the group created the blueprint for modern hip hop and lives on through artists such as 21 Savage, Denzel Curry, and Drake.

Back in 2018, the “Who Run It” challenge gained popularity on YouTube, with rappers like 21 Savage and G Herbo performing freestyles over Three 6 Mafia’s titular track from their 2000 album When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1. On Twitter, producer Metro Boomin professed his desire to produce a Three 6 album and in response to Mafia member Gangsta Boo over a controversy of remaking their old songs, producer Mike Will Made It explains that he tries to pay homage to the group with approval from members like DJ Paul and Juicy J. Also, Denzel Curry voices his love for Three 6 Mafia, openly playing their music in interviews and references such as “We was Three 6, Wu Tang, mixed with Dipset” in his 2019 track Ricky. These are examples of the impact on hip hop from the aforementioned Memphis-based rap group, commonly credited for the explosion in popularity of Southern hip hop and the creation of modern rap’s most popular sub-genre, trap music. Here’s three particular tracks have significant influence on today’s sound:

Tear Da Club Up

This track off their 1995 debut studio album Mystic Stylez is one of their earliest hits and it’s 1997 reworking was reportedly banned in several states due to its tendency to incite violence in clubs. Both versions of the track found new life in recent years with its usage as a sample on Travis Scott’s No Bystanders and Future’s Sh*t (Remix) featuring Drake. The cult-esque chant of “Tear Da Club Up” and its nihilistic tone as the chorus is reminiscent of songs such as Narcotics by Denzel Curry and I’m Sippin Tea In Yo Hood by XXXTentacion. The synth melodies that form the backdrop are eerily similar to those of horror movie scores, and lines such as “We should begin to come closer to killa dimensions, N*ggas getting lynchin’s from the Triple 6 anti-christians/May I mention the slizzugs I blaze Scarecrow’s unmerciful, Bullets are bombin da enemy n*gga, see death is unreversable” add a feeling of doom with references to Satanic themes for shock value. In recent years, Three 6’s horror-based and demonic themes spread to acts like $uicideboy$ with lines like “Devil laughs and black ski masks, I’m hearing footsteps through my house” in Vivivi, along with City Morgue with tracks such as Tourettes, containing lines such as “Can’t hold my hands down in Hell/Drain the blood til it bail/I’ll die on these tracks, cause I tripped on the rails.” Not to mention, the hi-hats and bass heavy drum patterns and rapid triplet flows, especially in the second verse, bear heavy resemblance to popular trap songs like I Get the Bag by Gucci Mane featuring Migos and Danny Glover by Young Thug.

Slob On My Knob

If you listen to a lot of current hip hop, chances are you might have heard something similar to the lines “Slob on my Knob like corn on the cob/Check in with me and do your job.” The track from the 1999 album Crazyndalazdayz by Three 6 affiliate Tear Da Club Up Thugs has been sampled and interpolated several times in recent years, from A$AP Ferg’s chorus on his 2017 track Plain Jane: “Ride with the mob, Alhamdulillah/Check in with me and do your job,” to the melody from the original track’s bridge (“Suck a n*gga d*ck or something”) on the G-Eazy/A$AP Rocky/Cardi B collab No Limit with the lines “F*ck with me and get some money” and “F*ck him then I get some money.” There’s also the famous line “La di da di da, Slob on me knob” from the Jay Rock/Kendrick Lamar/Future collab King’s Dead. Rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who has credited Three 6 as one of her main influences on her brash persona, mentioned the track in response to predominantly male critics of her sexually-charged single WAP.

Sippin On Some Syrup

This song from When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 is a pivotal one, with its celebratory themes of drug use. Three 6 is no stranger to drug use in their lyrics, with lines like “Snowin, sneezin’, coughin’, chiefin’, blowin’ heavy dope, Playa f*ckin’ blessed by that funk crunk by onion weed/Don’t you think you higher than Lil Fly till you snort that P, P-funk got me goin’, h*e I’m blowin’ on montana pack” on Now I’m Hi Pt.3 alluding to coke usage. Neither is the genre of hip hop to the topic of lean (cough syrup mixed with soda) use, with early references in songs like Smokin and Leanin by DJ Screw and the Botany Boyz along with the former’s noted inspiration from the drug towards the creation of a now-common slowed down subgenre called “chopped n’ screwed.” With it’s chart position at #30 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, Sippin on Some Syrup is seen as a catalyst for a national exposure to lean in hip hop culture. In the years since, we’ve heard countless songs devoted to lean such as Lil Wayne’s Me and My Drank and Juice WRLD’s Lean Wit Me. In light of the drug-related deaths of Juice WRLD and other rappers like Mac Miller, Mafia member Juicy J acknowledged and apologized for his role in shaping the popularity of drugs in rap on Twitter.

Despite not having the chart topping accolades of their peers like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne or the immediate pop culture visibility of Snoop Dogg, Three 6 Mafia lives on as a fabric in hip hop history with successive waves of young rappers taking inspiration from their sound and persona.

Written by: Kristian Gonzales

Photo Source: Fader

From R&B Rapper to the 6 God

Drake is not considered the most hardcore rapper in the game, but multiple beefs, the weight of fame, and his Toronto roots has sparked a notable evolution in his style as his reign continues.

Initially making his breakthrough with his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone, Drake turned the heads of hip hop fans with his R&B-influenced sound and sentimental lyrical content atypical of the materialistic or violent themes common in rap music up to that point. He vowed to ignore diss tracks towards him and said in an interview with Rap Radar that making full blown R&B music for girls is “wavy,” disregarding any criticism of his music as being too emotional. Nevertheless, there’s been a notable shift in his persona into a cockier and aggressive attitude as he controls his status as the alpha male in hip hop today, dealing with beefs against rappers such as Pusha T, and bringing his hometown of Toronto into pop culture prominence.

The Transition

An early indicator of this transition would be the track “The Resistance” from his 2010 debut album Thank Me Later. He raps, “Maybe it was the fast pace switch up, or the two guns in my face during the stick up/ Maybe cause a girl I thought I trusted, was who set the whole sh*t up,” referencing a 2009 robbery in Toronto in which he was a victim of. This incident, which occurred during his rise to fame as an artist, is a harsh reminder of his vulnerability as a public figure and target in a city known as “the Screwface Capital” for its hostilities between artists.

Another early sign of this change would be on the Rick Ross collaboration “Stay Schemin”, in which he raps “It bothers me when the gods get to actin like like broads, guess every team doesn’t come complete with n*ggas like ours/ That’s why I see no need to compete with n*ggas like y’all, I just ask that when you see me you speak up, n*gga, that’s all.” The significance of this song is the fact that this is Drake’s first overt response to a diss, that being “Sweet” by rap legend Common. Drake’s blunt claim of softness from his rival exudes a disgust similar to that a kingpin would make towards his rivals in a war.

A significant track which almost single-handedly marks the full change is his 2013 track “ 6 AM In Toronto”, in which he raps “The part I love the most is they need me more than they hate me, so they never take shots I got everybody on safety/ I could load every gun with bullets that fire backwards, probably wouldn’t lose a single rapper/ n*ggas make threats can’t hear em over over the laughter, yeah that’s cause I’m headed to the bank, n*gga.” At this point, Drizzy is the king of the rap game with two #1 albums in Thank Me Later and 2011’s Take Care, so he relishes the opportunity to flex on his opposition. He also raps “Cause I show love never get the same outta n*ggas, guess it’s funny how money can make change outta n*ggas/ For real some nobody start feelin himself, a couple nobodies started killin themself/ A couple albums dropped those are still on the shelf, I bet them sh*ts would have popped if I was willing to help.” That nobody he’s referring to is alleged to be R&B singer The Weeknd, who collaborated with him on Take Care and declined a deal with his label OVO Sound. In an interview with Complex, Abel denies any beef, explaining, “The thing about Drake is I told him what my decisions were going to be. And he was down with it from the beginning.”

The 6 God

With the release of his project If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in 2015, Drake adapted his sound to fit his throne. With dark and trap-influenced production by long-time producer Boi-1da and lyrics about having enemies and dying as a legend, it seems as if he’s not afraid to keep his foot on the rap games’ neck. On Know Yourself, he raps “Reps Up is in here/ Got P Reign and Chubby and TJ and Winnie and whoa.” At this point, Drake starts to openly rep his Toronto roots, including the norm of having a crew around like other rappers. In particular, he shouts out his longtime friend P. Reign and his group Reps Up. Reign has acknowledged the group’s upbringing in the ghettos of the city and past hardships such as drug dealing and gun possession.

In subsequent projects, Drake has continued to flex his affiliation with street-based figures, especially in times when he’s faced with serious hostility from other rappers. In Mob Ties off Scorpion, he raps “I f*ck with the mob and I got ties/ Knock you off to pay their tithes”, a reference to his associate and famed Houston rap mogul J. Prince whose story sounds like a mafia story within hip hop and interfered in the feud with Pusha T and Kanye West in 2018.

Another notable reference is in War on Dark Lane Demo Tapes with the line “Feds wanna tap up man and wire up man like Chubbs did Detail.” This is a nod to his bodyguard and Reps Up affiliate Chubbs, who got into an altercation and legal battle with producer Detail in 2014. 

It is quite clear that we’ve come quite far from listening to Drake rapping about his favorite look on girls to keeping a pistol by his side for the opposition. We may still feel familiar with his sentimental side, but he reminds us he’s not someone to mess with.

Written By: Kristian Gonzales

Photo Source: Vibe

5 Hip Hop and R&B Artists to Watch Out for in 2020

At the top of the year, it’s time to see which hip hop and r&b artists will be dropping new projects to hit the airwaves.

Without a doubt, 2019 proved to be another successful year in hip hop and r&b music. Rappers such as Tyler the Creator and Anderson Paak continue to impress listeners with genre bending projects like Igor and Ventura, while artists like Ari Lennox and Maxo Kream provide a throwback to the days when soul and hardcore rap reigned supreme. As the rest of 2020 rolls on, we look forward to new releases from some of the game’s hottest and up and coming figures.

The Weeknd – After Hours

Following a relatively quiet 2019 after the release of 2018’s My Dear Melancholy, The Weeknd returns on March 20th with the release of his fourth studio album After Hours. The first single,” Heartless,” finds the singer shrugging off relationships over a gritty Metro Boomin production, while “Blinding Lights” hearkens back to the 1980s synthpop influence of past projects such as “Starboy.” The self-titled track has been compared by some fans to his earlier work, most notably Trilogy, for its atmospheric production and dark lyrical content. Make sure to check out his After Hours Tour with opening acts Sabrina Claudio and Don Toliver, coming to San Diego on August 9th.

Drake – Untitled 6th Album

Following the meteoric success of 2018’s Scorpion and re-release of his seminal 2009 mixtape So Far Gone last year, it’s only a matter of time before the 6 God returns to dominate the airwaves again. As revealed in his Rap Radar interview with Elliott Wilson, Drake is working on a new album, with consideration towards a shorter track list akin to 2013’s Nothing Was the Same. His recent tracks “War,” “When to Say When,” and “Chicago Freestyle” all seem to hint at an introspective and aggressive rap-heavy vibe reminiscent to fan favorites like “5 AM in Toronto” and “0-100/The Catch Up.”

J.I.D – Untitled Album

The Atlanta-born MC has had a great 2019, largely off the strength of his 2018 album DiCaprio 2 and his contributions to the label compilation Revenge of the Dreamers III alongside fellow Dreamville Records label mates, most notably J.Cole. The sky is the limit for the rapper, as he plans to drop new music as revealed at the Grammy Awards. Whether it is a joint project with veteran producer No I.D. or not remains to be seen. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of fast flows and complex rhyme schemes, J.I.D.’s upcoming work will be worth a listen.

Smino – Untitled Album

Smino has been hard at work since the release of his 2018 album NOIR. The St. Louis born rapper maintains his pace with the release of singles like “Trina” and “Reverend.” Additionally, he and fellow rappers Saba and Noname formed a trio called Ghetto Sage, with a single called “Haagen Dazs.” Smino’s features on Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day and Revenge of the Dreamers III raises the stakes for his next project as he builds his following.

Brent Faiyaz- Make It Out Alive

As previously covered in my previous article, Brent Faiyaz is part of a new wave of 1990s-esque r&b singers, with the release of his EP Fuck The World on February 7th. However, he is not done yet. As reported by Billboard, Faiyaz plans to drop his next project Make It Out Alive “as soon as possible.” Listeners may already have a taste of what to expect with the track “Been Away” off the aforementioned EP. Anyone looking for some r&b with some grit should watch out for Brent’s next moves for 2020.

Get ready for what 2020 has in store for us, whether the heavy hitters of the past decade sustain their run or a new wave of artists change the landscape as we know it.

Written By: Kristian Gonzales

Peep This Joint: Royce Da 5’9” – The Allegory Album Review

After reflecting on his life in the highly introspective, soul-baring album, The Book of Ryan, in 2018, rap veteran Royce Da 5’9’’ focuses his newest effort, The Allegory, on looking outwards and providing philosophical commentary on society at large. 

In an interview with legendary Los Angeles radio host, Big Boy, Royce explained the origins of the album title, revealing it as a direct reference to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

“The album speaks a lot about perspective, I’m intrigued by perspective these days,” Royce said. “It’s amazing to me that two people could be looking at the same thing and seeing two totally different things, and each thing being their respective truth.”

With this project marking his eighth studio album, the Detroit emcee enlists a myriad of rappers to help push the album’s focus on perspective. The Allegory runs for a little over an hour with 22 tracks total of dense lyricism and philosophical messages meant to question the listener’s current perspective on reality.

In the rap game, Royce is best known as a top-tier lyricist and storyteller. But in this project, he switches things up by producing every track on the album. Considering that he has only recently started producing beats with his first credit on Eminem’s newest album, this is an ambitious feat that deserves its own applause.

The album opens up with the song, “Mr. Grace (Intro)” where a sample of a a father teaching his daughter financial literacy is played. Lines such as “If I gave you a million dollars right now, would you buy candy or a candy store? A candy store,” and “If I gave you something for 500, and you flip it to the next man for 2000, what is that called? Upselling” indicate Royce’s invitation to listeners to question their perspective on America’s lack of financial curriculum for its children.

He confirms this later on in his verse the repercussions of this lack of literacy rapping, “But this is America, where credit is for the privileged and profit is not my amenity.” In this line it’s clear to see that Royce is targeting the oppressors, namely rich white businessman who maintain the racist status quo of oppressing minorities.

A standout track of the album is the song, “Upside Down feat. Ashley Sorrell & Benny The Butcher.” As the fourth single of the album, Royce and rising New York rapper Benny The Butcher lay down a lyrically he avy tirade against the aforementioned oppressors. With Royce rapping, “White kids graduate to relationships with a ton of perks / Black kids, just aggravated and had to take a ton of Percs,” it’s clear to see the frustration he holds over the lack of equity in today’s status quo. Benny The Butcher voices similar frustrations rapping, “Young heathens clap tools over VVS jewels / White kids pull heaters at school, wanna CBS News.”

For a rapper with one of the most sharpest pens in the game, the production throughout the album never seems too boring or stale, despite the heavy reliance of sampling and boom-bap drums. The eclectic use of a wide range of samples such as Kool & the Gang’s funky hit, “Sunny Madness” in the song, “Dope Man” or the soulful crooning of The Linton’s “Lost Love” in “Overcomer” shows the hard work Royce put in before showcasing his work to the world. It ultimately pays off with an impressive production quality not typically found in rappers who decide to dip their toes into beat-making, especially one capable of such high caliber lyricism.

Overall, The Allegory proves that Royce’s pen is still sharp as ever and showcases his new production skills in this self-produced album. If you’re itching to hear some hard hitting bars that’ll have you reflecting on your own perspective, I suggest that you peep this joint out!

Rating: 8/10

Written by: Johann Oribello