Photos by Matt Starr
Gangsta Boo was the first of Da Mafia 6ix to walk into the Smith, a casual American restaurant in Manhattan’s Union Square. She beat the rest of her cohorts—DJ Paul, Koopsta Knicca, and Crunchy Black—by a solid 20 minutes. With time to kill, Boo headed straight to the bar and ordered her first of three Kettle One and Sprite mixed drinks. When the men showed up, the bottles continued to pop. DJ Paul kept it classy with a hot tea and a pinot grigio. Koopsta Knicca had a Grand Marnier paired with a glass of iced tea. And Crunchy Black sipped on a neat glass of Rémy.
Da Mafia 6ix is the 2014 reincarnation of the legendary Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia, minus fellow founding member Juicy J. Over the last 22 years, Three 6 pioneered a cryptic southern sound that has influenced everyone from Outkast to A$AP Rocky. After years of flux in their interpersonal relationships with members coming and going, an Oscar win for the Hustle and Flow soundtrack, and the untimely death of famed rapper and DJ Paul’s brother Lord Infamous, they banded back together in 2013 under the new moniker to rekindle the wicked spirit of classic albums like When the Smoke Clears. Since then, Da Madia 6ix have released the stellar 6ix Commandments mixtape for which they are currently on a nationwide tour.
I met the group for dinner four hours before their New York tour stop. Throughout our low-key, family-style meal, Paul’s position as group leader was crystal clear. He guided the conversation, constantly double-checking that everyone at the table made smart dinner decisions. When a very quiet Koopsta ordered shrimp cocktail, Paul turned to him and said, “You know that’s cold, right?” Just checking. Later, when Koopsta ordered water Paul told him, “Make sure it’s filtered or you’re going to get sick as hell.”
Four hours after our interview, I saw the band take the stage at Webster Hall. It was both shocking and comforting to see the crew transform from courteous old friends into ominous rappers wrecking shit. There was a ferocious energy in the air. One single dread-headed fan was so turnt up, he formed a mosh pit by himself, forcing a lonely circle around the front of the stage to solo-thrash. When he looked up and realized that he was alone in the center, the dread-head turned toward the stage and dapped a smiling DJ Paul. That is the kind of visceral reaction this group of legendary hip-hop vets can still create—it’s professional, honest, and a whole lot of fun.
VICE: How has it been being together 24/7 again?
DJ Paul: We just had to get used to being on the road every day. The worst part about this tour is that we’d be in 16-below-degree weather that none of us are used to.
Gangsta Boo: I think that killed our brains. We’re tropical people.
You should’ve waiting until the summer for the tour.
DJ Paul: We don’t time this shit, so we got to go when they want us. But that’s been the main thing—a constant concert every night in the cold weather. I’m sitting here drinking this tea because of the cold weather. We walk out of the concert sweating, wet and then it’s fucking two degrees outside. Instantly, in one second, you get sick. You’re like [coughs three times] Am I dying? [coughs] This early in the morning? It’s terrible.
Has touring gotten harder now that you’re a bit older?
Of course, the bones ain’t as strong as they used to be. If you fall off the stage now, you gon’ die. Back in the day you’d just be drunk so you could get right back up.
Boo was telling me that you jump in the mosh pits.
Yeah, but I do it differently now. I got footage of me from a couple years ago; I was in Germany and I took off my shirt and just ran for it. Now I’m like Hey, everybody move over.
Gangsta Boo: I ain’t never seen you plan it. I didn’t know you planned it.
DJ Paul: I was like, Everybody ready right here? And I just start leaning. Then I go all the way down. I don’t do it like back in the day when I’d just run and turn my back and Boom! They’ve got stages 12 feet high! If I jumped off of that I better automatically take out my phone and start typing my will. I want to leave Crunchy all my vaporizers, Boo all my sunglasses, Koop—we’ll play it by ear...
Is it easier to perform when you’re drunk?
Gangsta Boo: It just relaxes me. It opens me up for whatever I’m about to witness.
DJ Paul: We calmed down on a lot of alcohol and the drugs.
What did it used to be like?
It was crazy. It was like Scarface and Cheech & Chong times a thousand. It was way different.
Has the crowd changed over time?
Gangsta Boo: I’m going to be honest—it’s worse. I get drunk because I have to prepare myself. It’s blood battles now. I ain’t see blood before.
DJ Paul: The songs have aged so much. Back in the day when we played to the club they really tossed some shit up and threw chairs and broke shit. They’re not like that no more. They still get wild and they mosh pits and fight, but I ain’t seen no glass break—at least not at us, yet. When we did Gathering of the Juggalos a year ago I saw somebody throw a Corona bottle clean across the field and it cracked on somebody else’s head. He didn’t notice it at first. He didn’t know what was going on. I was like holy shit. So far on this tour I haven’t seen no glass breaking. I don’t want to see that, but it happens
What do you want to see?
Titties would be good.
Boo, would you ever flash the audience?
Gangsta Boo: Depends on what country I’m in. I wouldn’t do it in the states though.
Have you done anything weird in other countries?
DJ Paul: I went on a nude beach once. That was pretty fun.
Were you actually nude?
A little bit. I left the frank in, but took out the beans. I kept the main part in, but I left my balls hanging out the side. I thought it was funny, but some people thought it was cheating.
Ha! Do you feel like old pros now?
Legends. We’ve been legends. We was legends before we even had an album.
You’re the only rappers to win an Oscar.
Gangsta Boo: It was way before that, though.
DJ Paul: A lot of people think we just popped out the alleyway and won an Oscar. We sold millions and millions of records before the Oscar. Only the true fans know that.
What do you think about Juicy J reinventing himself?
It worked! Which is perfect for him because we’re all getting older. He found somebody who’s got the young fans, so it was great for him.
Why didn’t you want to do that?
DJ Paul: For me, it’s too risky. The new fans these days ain’t loyal. One person walks in with pants on and then the next person walks in with something tighter, so they’ll be a fan of him. There’s only so tight you can wear your pants. I really just go with the core audience—the ones that’s always going to be there for you no matter what. I would rather stick with that. The new fans are cool and it’s good to have them, but I’d rather keep all the loyal fans.
Do you listen to Young Thug?
Gangsta Boo: I think he’s weird.
I only know his image. I’m just going to say this—I don’t like a man wearing skinny pants and skirts. I don’t know his music, but I’m just not a fan of his image. You can quote that as Boo, you don’t have to quote that as Da Mafia 6ix .The only reason I know him is because people are like, Oh shit, it’s gays in hip-hop.
What new music do you listen to?
DJ Paul: It’s all about listening to your own music and not becoming a fan of somebody else’s. There are some other artists that I’m a fan of, but I’m not going to listen to their music on the regular. I might hear it on the radio and be like, Oh, that’s kind of hot and then play it in the club, but I’m not going to listen while I sit in the house with my apron on vacuuming or some shit like that.
You clean your own house?
Paul, your brother and bandmate Lord Infamous passed away in December. How’s everything been without him?
Gangsta Boo: We feel his energy.
Crunchy Black: We had a joke that he’s jumping into everybody’s bodies while we’re on tour.
And you have his actual body on tour too, right?
DJ Paul: We got it in a special trailer hooked to the bus. Lord was funny man. He was the funniest dude in the world. That’s the main thing that everyone misses about him—he was a comedian.
I saw that you respond to people on your Instagram.
They ask me what kinds of studio equipment and microphones they should get, and what they should tell a chick to score her panties. I try to help out in whatever way I can.
You’re an Instagram therapist.
We’ve been doing this forever and it’s been way more than the four of us. At one point it was like 30 people in our crew so I’ve heard it all. I was like a father to a lot of the guys. You have them coming in at four in the morning being like, I just beat my girl up and she called the police. What should I do? First of all, you shouldn’t beat your girl up. I’ll answer the rest of this shit after we find out if you going to get caught for running down the street like that.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned after being in the game for 22 years?
Getting smarter at the business aspect. When we first started out, we just did it for fun, but you have to make sure you learn. Paying your taxes is one of the most important things. That could be hell. You hear about rappers everyday that go through that. You used to hear about that all the time and it was horror.
Gangsta Boo: I was 18 when I got my first big paycheck and he was like, Pay your taxes!
You’ve kind of built up a DJ Paul empire with the DJ Paul’s Smoked Out BBQ Sauce, legal Sizzurp, and clothing company Dangerus Scandulus. I hear you own real estate too.
DJ Paul: I own shopping centers and some homes—I’m more of a businessman. The talent is just five percent of this shit. There are a million people out there who got talent. Everybody can start a business, but everybody can’t keep a business rolling 24 years like we have. That’s a big difference. It keeps the bills rolling when you ain’t doing nothing. I call it my “Fuck You” money.
I like that.
You gotta always have that “Fuck You” money so when you get to that point in your career when someone’s like, “Well, you ain’t so hot no more so I want you to do this for less than—“ No, fuck you. I always had “Fuck You” money.
What about you Boo?
Gangsta Boo: Think before you react and make sure you make the best decisions for yourself.
DJ Paul: Like using a condom.
Gangsta Boo: Think rational with a clear head—not with emotions. Don’t make decisions when you’re mad. I made so many decisions mad and woke up like, Fuck!
DJ Paul: You got to think like the Jewish people. Jewish people never get mad. They just keep a sober head and be like, Oh, oh well.
The author with Da Mafia 6ix.
I’m Jewish and I don’t know about that.
I ain’t never been at the club and seen a Jewish person crack somebody at the top of the head. I think they just know how to control it better. Black people, we the worse at controlling shit.
Gangsta Boo: Nah, white people.
Do a lot of white people come to your shows?
DJ Paul: It’s all white people. They’ve always been our biggest fan-base because we based our group off of rock n’ roll music. I still try to put guitars in 80 percent of the beats—maybe 90. I grew up on rock music. I was the only kid on my street that had cable, so I’d be sitting there watching MTV every night when I was seven and it would just be rock music. There’s like four black people in our audience.
Gangsta Boo: You throw us in and that doubles it.
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