The "Who Run It" challenge has undoubtedly become 2018's go-to lyrical exercise thanks to G Herbo's stellar freestyle to the two-decade-old Three 6 Mafia beat. It was expected that Herbo's peers would jump onto the trend and now it's become a hashtag that artists across the internet are attempting. Since the initial freestyle made its way to Instagram, Three 6 members Juicy J and DJ Paul have been embracing each high profile rapper giving the beat a go. But what's been most impressive about the Memphis legends proudly taking in this resurgence of their old work is that they didn't shy away from participating in the hype.
This week, members of Three 6 Mafia released their own versions of the "Who Run It" freestyle. It's a beautiful full circle moment for hip-hop culture, which too often gets sucked into what separates different generations of the genre. What's also special about DJ Paul, Juicy J, and La Chat joining in on the craze is that it shows what many rap fans envisioned their heroes becoming in their later, out-of-the-spotlight years: people who defy societal conventions by remaining cool regardless of age. Here are the three pioneers' takes on the trend they started in 1999.
"Paying homage is real nigga move. Bitch a paid my dues" is a standout bar from Juicy J, by far the most visible member of the group in contemporary culture. The majority of his freestyle is spent asserting Three 6 Mafia's influence on hip-hop culture, including making rowdy club bangers and tunes for women to bounce around to. He also makes a clever reference to the Beyoncè Bite Bandit who's still on the loose.
One of the best things about being a Three 6 Mafia fan in their heyday was getting to know all of their affiliates and proteges. They were very Wu-Tang-like in that way. Lil Wyte—who, you guessed it, is white—was in the top tier of Three adjacent artists. He hopped onto the beat earlier this week as well and took the opportunity to assert that he knew the group would be this influential, even as a young person first witnessing their ascension. Now would be a good time to revisit his Doubt Me Now debut album from 2003.
La Chat was a pioneering woman in rap during Three 6's early reign because she often outdid every one of her male counterparts when it came to spitting about robberies, drug deals, and murder. That was especially impressive because at that time, women in hip-hop didn't usually operate in the gory details of the streets. That has become a trend now as women like Rico Nasty, Asian Doll, Molly Brazy, and others rap about the guns they prefer and the capers they've hit. So with her influence on the current crop of artists, it's interesting that Chat took this opportunity to mostly come for Cardi B's remake of Project Pat's "Chickenhead," on which she was featured. In the "Who Run It" freestyle, Chat takes jabs at Cardi allegedly not writing her music and not paying proper respect to her on "Bickenhead." It's an understandable move considering how women's legacies are too often under-appreciated within the genre.
The most recent member of Three 6 to re-hop on the beat is group mastermind DJ Paul who titled his as the "Freestyle Finale." Before it starts he playfully sings "Daddy's home" to emphasize his creation of the trend. In it, he shouts out Hollyhood Bay Bay (the Dallas DJ who played the beat for G Herbo), Herbo, A$AP Rocky, 21 Savage, Trippie Redd, and more. "I made this beat back in 2K, and you youngins was like 8," he raps midway through his freestyle. It's a proper capping off to a movement that is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. The only thing to do now is to get all the remaining members and affiliates of Three 6 Mafia to actually come together for a proper remake. Somebody call Project Pat, Crunchy Black, and Frayser Boy.
Follow Lawrence Burney on Twitter.