Juicy J got 'Bandz'
Southern Rap’s bouncy party anthems are now ubiquitous in mainstream music. But it wasn’t always that way, especially in the ’90s when East Coast and West Coast Rap dominated the radio and commercial landscape. It was during this lull, in 1991, that Juicy J (born Jordan Michael Houston) plotted to build a business empire with his group, Three 6 Mafia and “take over the world.”
In the ensuing decades, he has largely succeeded. After earning a dedicated following in the ’90s and early aughts, he and Three 6 blew up in 2005 when they became the first hip-hop group to win an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Song. More recently, J has enjoyed critical acclaim for his solo work and scored a major hit about making it rain at the strip club.
On Aug. 2 he’ll bring decades of experience and his huge charting hits to the City National Civic. (Juicy J was scheduled to play the City National Civic on Aug. 2, but the show has been cancelled.)
However, while while fans of Juicy are drawn to his tunes, according to J, his success is rooted more in business savvy than artistic ambitions.
“We first looked at everything as a chance to make some money for ourselves and our family,” he says, explaining the start of his career. Musically, J credits Geto Boyz, 2 Live Crew, KRS-1 and NWA as major influences. He continues: “Of course we loved music, but it was a business strategy to feed our families. Next thing we know, our songs turned into a multi-million dollar business.”
The group won an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” the song they contributed to 2005’s Terrence Howard-starring Hustle & Flow. Although the group had already sold millions of records, the endorsement from the Academy catapulted Three 6 Mafia to new heights. TV shows and pop crossover singles soon followed.
“It was a great experience,” Juicy says of recording the Oscar-winning song. As J tells it, Hustle director Craig Brewer came to him with the script, about a struggling Memphis pimp and rapper trying to score a hit album. Juicy’s song ultimately became the synonymous with the film and Howard’s Oscar-nominated performance.
It was memorable because it was played during one of the most important scenes of the movie,” J says. “We got nominated for an Academy Award, and we fucking won! I’m still here on the block trying to get me another Oscar,” he adds with a laugh.
With the mainstream legitimacy that comes with being an Oscar winner, Juicy continued to see success. He’s bounced from record label to record label and worked with a who’s who of mainstream artists, some of whom he came up with. Juicy released “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” a platinum-selling club smash featuring 2Chainz and Lil Wayne, who J has known since he was a young upstart, spending his days in elementary school and his evenings rapping as part of the Cash Money crew.
“Wayne was a genius when he was young and he’s a genius now,” J says of Weezy, who he first met when the raspy-voiced superstar was only 10 years old.
Juicy followed up his gangster banger “Bandz” with a guest verse on Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.”
“I love the song and had a lot of fun with her in the studio,” he says about working with Perry. “She wanted me to do a guest verse and I said, ‘Yes, of course.’”
J is currently prepping a new solo album, tentatively called THC: The Hustle Continues. Unlike his last release, Stay Trippy, which featured notable guests Justin Timberlake, Young Jeezy, Chris Brown and The Weeknd, the MC says his new album will be more of a stripped-down effort, with fewer guest features. “I want to keep it down to only one or two features,” J says. “I want this album to be 100 percent me. I think fans who’ve been with me since the beginning will like it.”
True to form, Juicy has continued to grind on the business end of things. He is part owner of Taylor Gang Records, Wiz Khalifa’s main label. This allows him to keep one foot in the business side of things while furthering his own solo work. He plans to release more music on a subsidiary of Columbia called Kemosabe Records, a small imprint owned and operated by Dr. Luke, famed commercial producer for Katy Perry and Britney Spears. “I’m excited about working with these labels, man,” J says. “I want to be CEO of my own label one day.”
Juicy J was scheduled to play the City National Civic on August 2. The show has been cancelled. More info.