Review Summary: DJ Paul's roots album comes across relatively well
Paul Beauregard, better known as DJ Paul, is one half of the production behind legendary rap ensemble Three 6 Mafia. Three 6 built their name on dark, menacing beats that could’ve come straight out of horror films (and often did), with lyrics to match. This is the Three 6 Mafia that played a pivotal role in bringing Southern rap to the mainstream, the Three 6 Mafia that I personally know and love. However, more recently, the public has seen a rather different Three 6 Mafia, one that won an Oscar and sought mainstream acceptance with more pop-oriented beats and lyrics (see the autotune-using monstrosity that we know as Lolli Lolli Pop That Body). While fairly successful, it failed to reach the sales heights of another autotune-using tune with a similar name. So where do Three 6 Mafia go from here?
In early 2009, Three 6 Mafia members DJ Paul and Juicy J began creating numerous Youtube videos advertising a return to the roots for the group, featuring previews of beats that could have come straight from their early 90’s works. They each made plans for solo albums to be released during the summer, and a group album to be released later in the year. Here is the result.
The album opens with an introduction from DJ Paul (“This my solo album. I call it Skeleton…cuz my drug scale weigh a ton!”), which segues into a humorous skit. As some blues music plays, DJ Paul first asks for vodka, then a blunt, then pills, then cocaine, indulging in each – and then requests a gun and shoots himself. Now let commence the album proper.
DJ Paul has never been known for his skills at rhyming – traditionally, the pair of producers relied on the other rappers in the group to prop them up. This leaves him somewhat at a loss here. While he still enlists his brother, former Mafia member Lord Infamous, (possibly one of the most underrated Southern rappers) for guest spots, he still has to handle the majority of the album alone, and does a mediocre job here. He gets everything done, adopting a shouting style somewhat reminiscent of M.O.P., but never has any really exceptional verses.
Lord Infamous’ guest spots really steal the show. They provide an excellent diversion from DJ Paul’s rapping, and he truly is a talented rapper. He has a great control of rhythm, which he varies from bar to bar, altering his cadence in a style reminiscent of a more technically proficient Snoop Dogg, with many an internal rhyme. Essentially, the Scarecrow (one of his many nicknames) kills the majority of the tracks he’s featured on, and that rule is certainly in effect here.
While the lyrics aren’t very diverse – subjects generally involve getting drunk, getting high, having sex, and starting fights – the stories they tell can still be great. One particular instance that stands out is the first verse of Internet Whore, which might be one of Paul’s best verses on here:
“I met her on Myspace, fell out of touch
A couple of years later, ran back to her on the Facebook
She drove five hours, ATL to M-town
That’s how I knew the ***in’ and suckin’ was ‘bout to go down
She got in town, I told her meet me at the Starbucks
I know what you thinkin’, why did I say the Starbucks?
Well to be honest I be hangin’ at the coffee shops, by the college –
They full of sexy bitches with some knowledge
Actin’ like they good girls, really they heart takers
Typin’ on they PCs, sippin’ on some lattes
Back to the story, she entered on in and I’m afraid
Because she was lookin’ like an old maid
I’m thinkin’ now what the hell am I supposed to do?
She was a hundred pounds bigger with an old school hairdo
Matters worse, I already took viagra
She got some big lips, I better make the best of her”
Lyrical turds notwithstanding (rhyming Starbucks with Starbucks, et cetera), Paul still manages to make an entertaining verse with some hilarious imagery. This is pretty much on par for the rest of the album.
The second major point that makes this album worth listening to is the beats. DJ Paul is an excellent producer – he’s one of the men behind the masterpiece that is UGK’s International Players’ Anthem – and he’s on point here. When they said they were returning to their roots, they told the truth. There’s not one poorly produced track on here, and most of them are total bangers. One of the best examples of his style are “She Wanna Get High”, one of my favorite tracks, where he takes a simple vocal sample and crafts a brooding, hypnotic beat that simply pulls you into the story. Another excellent beat is found in “Jook”, where again he weaves a complex beat from a simple sample, as if demonstrating just how much he can make from so little.
The album concludes with the final skit “I’m Alive”, featuring DJ Paul rejoicing to be still alive after waking up (“I was so high, I tried to shoot myself in the head and I ***ing missed!”). It’s emblematic of the album as a whole – with its dark topics, you could almost view it as the dreams of a drug-addled brain, starting with a gunshot and ending with new life.
This new life is also symbolic of Three 6 Mafia as a whole – with this album and the other solo album that came with it (Juicy J’s album), and the forthcoming group release, Three 6 Mafia are attempting a rebirth. How successful is it? Old-school Mafia fans will gobble this up, revelling in the return to the dark beats that made the group famous. I would still recommend this to the casual rap listener, however. While the album could certainly use a healthy trimming of excess fat, and DJ Paul’s lyrics can often be subpar, there’s always a great beat to keep him going, and the Lord Infamous guest spots are more than enough to push this album up. All in all, a good comeback release from the Triple Six Mafia.