By Rashad Grove
(AllHipHop Features) When it comes to legends in Hip-Hop, without question, DJ Paul fits the description. Ever since he burst on to scene as member of the iconic, Academy award-winning Memphis collective Three 6 Mafia, DJ Paul has been one of the most influential figures on the Hip-Hop landscape. With classics like “Tear the Club Up,” “Stay Fly,” “Poppin My Collar,” “Ridin Spinners,” and "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp," DJ Paul’s sound has become the template for modern music.
I caught up with DJ Paul and we talked about the sound of Memphis music, his love of horror movies, producing a track with Drake and Jay-Z, the ins and outs of sampling, and his upcoming tour and new EP.
AllHipHop: I’ll never forget that in 1998, my man who loved Southern and West Coast Hip-Hip told me I gotta check out this crew from Memphis called Three 6 Mafia. I wasn’t going for it. But after I saw the video for “Tear the Club Up,” I was hooked, and I never been the same.
DJ Paul: I just had this conversation last night with French Montana and one of his best friends he's known for like 20 years. His daddy was Haitian and the moved from New York to New Orleans. They stopped for a minute in Memphis and got put on to our music. When he came back to New York playing our music in the mid-90’s, everybody was talking shit about him. He said it was the worst time in his life. So, last night he got to meet me for the first time with his boys from the Bronx and he got the last laugh. HAHA!
AllHipHop: Tell me about the Memphis sound. Memphis is known for Soul labels such as Hi-Records and Stax Records, and Gospel music influenced your production style?
DJ Paul: I think my sound comes from Memphis being such a dark city. It always rains, there’s robberies, at one time Memphis was the murder capital of the country, and Lord Infamous’ mama was always taking us to see horror and scary movies at a young age. Together, that just created this sound. Then out of nowhere, my daddy brought me my first instrument, an Organ, a long time ago that I still have today in my house right now. As we know, the organ is a creepy instrument. He didn’t buy me a trumpet on anything like that. He got me an Organ, got me organ lessons, and I started making scary music.
AllHipHop: Al Green’s sound had a lot of organs as well.
DJ Paul: I never thought about it but you’re right. Al Green’s music had a lot of dry organs and dry trumpets. Really, really dry.
AllHipHop: Speaking of movies, because you are such horror film buff, what are some of your favorite?
DJ Paul: Anything with Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Jason (Friday The 13th), and Michael Myers (Halloween) are my favorites. In my house, I have a 6’4, life-size Michael Myers you can see on my Instagram. It’s scary because he’s at the end of the hallway and when you go get something out the kitchen, he standing right there.
AllHipHop: You produced “Talk Up” by Drake featuring Jay-Z and you’re one of the few that say made a track with those two legends. How did all that happen?
DJ Paul: That’s a crazy story. The neighborhood I live in now, I was forced to come here. The other house I wanted I couldn’t get because of some political reasons. I’ll put it like that. Racist motherf**kers in the housing association had to approve me to live there. That’s their way of being racist. So, I paid a million more than I wanted to for this place I’m in now. It was better but more expensive. I buy all more properties cash. I never finance them.
But look how the Lord works. When I moved in, it just so happened that Drake’s mama ended up being my neighbor. I was walking my dogs one day and ran into her and the word got around the neighborhood fast. I didn’t even tell her I was DJ Paul. When she found out, she told Drake, “I met a nice guy named DJ Paul.”
Then I was in Nashville producing Yelawolf’s album and I got a DM at 3 in the morning. I think me meeting his mama was a reminder that he already knew me.
He said, “I’m finishing my album and I need some beats.” So, the track I texted him was the one I was gonna use for my first single, but I knew he could do 99,000 percent more than what I could do. I gave it him with the “DJ Paul” tags in the track and he rapped over them just like that. They didn’t mix it or anything. They rapped over it just like that.
The funny thing is, he said he was gonna use it for sure. I was like, “Wow this is amazing. I got a track on a Drake album. I always wanted to do that.” But then, I didn’t hear from him for two weeks. I sent him a text and asked him if he was gonna use it. 2 Chainz, Burner, and some others wanted that beat. He texted me back like this, “Yes. And I put Jay-Z on it.” I was like, “Jay-Z who?” That was it. I was like, “Hold up. Did I just read this right?” It was the quickest, smallest, most effective, and biggest text in the world.”
AllHipHop: I always argue that Adventures in Hollywood is the greatest Hip-Hop reality show of all-time. How does it feel to be a pioneer in bringing the lives of rap stars to television?
DJ Paul: I’m glad you said that. When we first did the show, they called us sellouts. The kid on the show called us sellouts. Because this was the shocker: People were so used to hearing our music about murder, doing cocaine, and all that shit. But we was doing cocaine. People thought they were going to see the life we rapped about but we couldn’t show that shit on T.V. It disappointed a lot of people but at the same time, the 100,00 fans it disappointed, we gained a 100 million more.
AllHipHop: A lot of the rap acts today have been influenced by the Three 6 Mafia sound in a major way. When it comes to sampling your music, I ‘ve read that you clear everything. Why is that?
DJ Paul: Yes, I do. Right now, Three 6 Mafia is one of the most sampled artists in the world. Everybody is sampling us. It’s crazy because a lot of people thought we were trash. My own daddy never thought we couldn’t make money in rap music. So, I like to give everybody a chance.
One of Adele’s friends from the U.K. just sampled some of out older music. I like to give everybody a chance because you never know what’s going to be the next big hit. I know how it is. I know some of those old singers thought we was crazy, but they cleared it anyway.
AllHipHop: So, all you do is wake up and hit the OK button?
DJ Paul: Yeah, they just send me an email and I just hit approved. I probably approved 3-4 a week.
AllHipHop: 3-4 a week?
DJ Paul: Yeah. Sometimes it’s the same song. I can’t even tell these kids that I just cleared the same song just an hour ago. One day I got confused. One person just used the hook and another person used the hook and the beat. Let’s say the percentage was 50%. They hit me and said, “We’re only using the hook.” I confused them with the other act. HAHA
AllHipHop: When it comes to sampling, I must ask about the lawsuit you have against Travis for “Tear the Club.” Did you just hear the song one day and notice the similarities?
DJ Paul: I can’t really get talk too much about it, but I will say this: First of all, I’m a big fan of Travis. When I first heard the song, I was like, “This motherf**ker jamming. That’s gone be a hit.” I thought the song was hard as f**k and I saw him rocking it on stage online and everybody was loving it. It made me think that something I wrote at McDonald’s in 1991, eating a quarter-pounder with mayonnaise, something I wouldn’t touch these days, almost 30 years later is still rocking the crowds.
You know the funny part about it is a lot of these kids have said that I filed the lawsuit because I couldn’t make my own hit. Most people don’t know that I talked to Travis and we’re fine, but his fans don’t know that. Everything is eventually gonna work out.
They would be talking so much shit to me. This one kid said, “Why don’t know you write your own song. You’re a one-hit wonder.”
AllHipHop: I know you get asked this all the time but I gotta ask anyway. In the next 10 years, what are the chances of Three 6 Mafia having a reunion? I’m giving yall a 10-year window to work with.
DJ Paul: That’s probably a question for Jesus to answer. I don’t know man. Who knows?
AllHipHop: If yall get back together yall could only play stadiums.
DJ Paul: That shit would be so on fire! That would be crazy. The would ain’t big enough man.
AllHipHop: Three 6 Mafia achieved the pinnacle of critical acclaim by winning an Academy award. What are some of your favorite moments you had with Three 6?
DJ Paul: Man, we had a studio in downtown Memphis in an office complex that was surrounded by nothing but lawyers. They didn’t know it was a studio. We lied and told them it was just an office. At night, we go and make music. That was the best because everybody, Juicy, Boo (Gangsta Boo), Pat, (Project Pat), Crunchy (Crunchy Black) was a comedian.
AllHipHop: Has the group ever been approached about a movie?
DJ Paul: One day, I think we’ll do one. We’ve have talked about it before.
AllHipHop: I know you have your podcast going which is crazy and you gotta have some new music in the works. What can the fans expect next from DJ Paul?
DJ Paul: Yeah man, the podcast is on #Mafia Radio on Dash Radio is the channel. I’m on the airwaves every Wednesday everywhere 9PM Eastern, 6PM Pacific Standard Time.
It’s fun man and I love it. I get to interview people, crack jokes, and try to educate the young people about the music business.
I’m about to go on tour beginning on May 3rd in New York. We’re going all across the country.
I haven’t dropped a project in a while so I’m dropping my new EP called Power, Pleasure, and Painful Things on May 10h. The first single is “Real Money” featuring my man Beanie Sigel. If you pre-order the EP, you can get the single as an instant download.
The whole album was written as a semi-fictional story about my life but some of it's true. So, the whole thing is narrated. I'm telling the story and it sounds like old school interrogation. It’s really cool how I wrapped the whole project into one story. Yall gonna want to listen to the skits more than songs. But just let the whole thing play through. It’s all married together, and it’s dope how it came out.
To buy DJ Paul's new album, due May 10th, hit the link below.