Memphis rap collective Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for “Hard Out Here For a Pimp,” the group’s contribution to the acclaimed 2005 film, Hustle & Flow.
Three 6 Mafia attended the 2006 Oscar ceremony to perform the then nominated song, never expecting to win the golden statuettes that represent the pinnacle of film-world achievement.
“It was a surprise,” Three 6 Mafia co-founder Juicy J, aka Jordan Lonski Houston, said recently. “We thought we were gonna lose. And we didn’t really want anything. We was like, ‘Hey, man. We’ll just go and perform, which is a blessing, and then we’re gonna go home.’ ”
Even before the Oscar, Three 6 Mafia’s record of success included hit singles and the platinum-selling albums. The group’s Academy Award, however, took things to another level.
“It changed our lives, the biggest thing that happened in our careers,” Juicy J said. “It made the group a household name.”
Juicy J thinks of the Oscar as a blessing, but no one could blame him for seeing it, at least temporarily, as a mixed blessing.
“We had misunderstandings with our record company about the music after we won,” he recalled.
Following the Oscar win, “Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body),” from Three 6 Mafia’s 2007 album, Last 2 Walk, became a pop hit.
“After that they wanted us to stay pop,” Juicy J said. “But pop wasn’t what got us here. So I was not in favor of that.”
Nevertheless, the group recorded a few more songs aimed at the pop market.
“It didn’t work,” Juicy J recalled. “I kept telling them it wasn’t going to work. And that’s what put everything on hold with our group.”
But while Three 6 Mafia was in a state of hibernation, the restless Juicy J kept hustling, creating new music and releasing mix tapes.
“I was trying to get the buzz back where it used to be,” he said. “And what I did popped — but it popped in a solo situation. So I’m just running with it and I’m not going to stop.”
Juicy J released a solo album, Chronicles of the Juice Man, in 2009, and then three mix tapes in 2011, including Blue Dream & Lean. Mix tapes, he explained, are an essential part of promotion.
“These days you gotta give people a sample. You say, ‘I’m coming out with an album.’ They go, ‘All right. Let me hear what you got first, before I go pick your album up.’
“Consumers want to see if they can relate to you. They need to hear some songs, see a couple videos, before they spend their money.”
That said, Juicy J is proud of his upcoming second major label-issued solo album, Stay Trippy.
“I put a lot of work into it and I hope everybody enjoys it,” he said. “It’s got straight street music. I’ve got something for the ladies, something for everybody.”
Stay Trippy guests include Chris Brown, Yelawolf, Trey Songz and his kindred rap spirit, Wiz Khalifa.
“We’re like brothers,” Juicy J said of Wiz Khalifa. “He has great vibes, positive energy. He works hard. He works like me, coming in the studio every day, writing songs ever day. I like people like that.”