Review Summary: Three 6 Mafia return. Not in name, but (more importantly) in spirit.
It's easy to forget--after the bleeding of members, the Oscar win, and the ill-conceived reality show--that Three 6 Mafia were at one time one of the most terrifying, hardcore rap groups on the planet. To this day Mystic Stylez
still sounds like the soundtrack to some lost horror-film. And anyone who only learned of Juicy J via "Bandz A Maker Her Dance" would likely *** their pants upon listening to it. The album was a "lightning in a bottle" moment, capturing the movement that was occurring in hip-hop in the mid-90s in Memphis, and the grimy quality was more due to funding than an actual aesthetic decision. They would expand on this sound on both Da End
and World Domination
, keeping the darkness but balancing it out with the type of party-anthem sound they would fully embrace in the 2000s. And while their later albums were a huge example of diminishing returns, they still showed an occasional spark if you looked hard enough.
Cut to 18 years after the release of their "debut", and there are a growing number of rappers who owe their entire sound to what Three 6 and DJ Paul were doing back then. People like Spaceghostpurrp and Lil' Ugly Mane most definitely worshiped at the altar of Mystic Stylez
, so it only makes sense for them to revisit their sound that has been steadily influencing a growing number of artists for almost two decades. With Juicy doing his own thing and releasing his (also excellent) solo album this year, they revamped the name to Da Mafia 6ix and got to work. Bringing back in Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous, Gangsta Boo and Crunchy Black for the first time since 2000's When The Smoke Clears
, 6ix Commandments
is the sound of a band remembering why exactly it was that people liked them in the first place.
The mixtape opens with the first single, "Go Hard", which is a mission-statement song if there ever was one. Dark synths and pounding bass back up a hard-hitting track in which every member seems to be giving it their all, with a little help from Yelawolf in a guest appearance. The "Mafia, Mafia, Mafia" chant gives the feeling of a band rejuvenated. Still, it's slightly less dark than their earlier albums, but the following track's (Beacon n Blender) dark piano and sampled scream make it clear that "Go Hard" was the single for obvious reasons. From that point forward it's back to the basics, connecting their old style with a more modern sound, yielding strong results for the entirety of the mixtape. Songs like the Black Sabbath-sampling "Betta Pray" and iTunes bonus track "Grab Da Gauge" stand with the darkest material they've ever made.
They even include nods to their origins spread throughout, almost as winks--or even "thank-you's"--to longtime fans. "Murder on My Mind", which features production from Spaceghostpurrp and guest verses from both Bizzy and Krayzie Bone (proving that beef is long-dead), borrow heavily from their past. The beat samples both "The Chucky Laugh" and the beat from Koopsta's "Robbers". There are also two tracks with the same titles as previous songs. "Break da Law" is the first, and it also borrows from both the original track and "Tear da Club Up". The next, "Stash Spot", is almost a reworked version of the original. The last is album highlight "Body Parts" (part 4 by my count), which is an epic, monster of a track, 9 minutes in length. More importantly, Juicy J makes an appearance, making it feel like an actual Three 6 Mafia album, even if for one track. It's also important because it shows there's no bad-blood between them, and hopefully his appearances on the actual album will increase. Even in they don't, 6ix Commandments
proves they will be just fine without him. Either way, this has been a great year for The Mafia, and with their full-length album due in 2014, there's high-hopes that next year will be even better.