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My Last Conversation with Koopsta Knicca, A Southern Hip-Hop Legend

Koop Nah

Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara)

The death of Koopsta Knicca seems surreal to me. It’s like reliving this feeling you had only you don’t know how to deal with it. It’s shock mixed with my journalism reaction of “well I don’t know if this is true until I have official confirmation.” It’s the feeling I got when I found out fellow Three 6 Mafia member and favorite rapper Lord Infamous passed away unexpectedly only this time we had some prior notice.

Lord’s death struck me as particularly harsh because I grew up on Three 6. His verses across instrumentals as menacing were what I walked to class with. It’s the music that secured my love of hip-hop and would eventually lead me into hip-hop journalism, which is now my hobby and unbelievably, my livelihood.

Koopsta is similar, but different. I had never spoken with Lord before his death because during the period leading up to it I guess there was never a time where I deemed it necessary (something I regret to this day). It’s different with Koop though. This past May, in what would be one of Koopsta Knicca’s last interviews alive, I spoke with him about what turned out to be a topic of interest for both of us, Three 6’s debut album Mystic Stylez.

Devil's Playground 450

The legacy of the group and its internal relationships over the last few years are equally complicated. It seemed that–in talking with members and affiliates of the group–Lord Infamous’ passing did more harm than heal when it came to fully bringing the group back together. Triple 6 was Lord’s baby and he was the glue that held the very divided collective together. The same can be said for Koopsta Knicca. As opposed to some who largely refused to speak about their Mafia past and others who even hung up the phone on me when Mystic Stylez was brought up, Koop was about it. He recognized that the group was responsible for his initial fame and reminisced about the 20-year-old LP as if it released just days prior to our interview.

He would tell me about the importance early Triple 6 played in not only Memphis, but also the unrecognized movement that was southern hip-hop at the time. He kept saying how the group’s style was nothing hip-hop had encountered at the time and that he got his “whiny” rap voice from Michael Jackson. It’s now surreal to re-listen to our conversation about Lord Infamous and what he meant to Three 6. Lord and Koop were the primary emcees of the group in the beginning. According to Koopsta, Lord Infamous put the 6 in “Triple 6.”

“Lord got the group back together and we was recording on the album in Memphis House of Blues, did some shows and I got that phone call that he passed away,” he said reflecting on Lord Infamous’ later years. “He wasn’t taking his medicine. It was just shocking because you grow up with someone you go through a lot especially when you made stuff happen. People didn’t believe that you could do it from Memphis. They used to call us ‘trash, ghetto’ or whatever. I just remember he was the person I did everything with, [we] hustled and worked hard and now he passed away.”

It’s strange having to go through this again as a Three 6 Mafia stan. Within the span of two years a third of the six-member group is gone. The first time I heard Da Devil’s Playground I knew Koopsta Knicca was unique. His high-pitched singing style, often times stringently on-beat, was pioneering at the time. He may not receive a ton of tribute pieces from the rap world now that he’s gone. He also may not be the first, second, or third emcee that comes to mind when thinking of top-tier southern greats. But if you really do the knowledge, Koopsta Knicca added a lot to one of the greatest rap groups ever. Both he and Lord worked extensively together during the last few years of their lives. Now, they’re both gone. RIP Koop. I’ll be blasting “Stash Pot” and “Anna Got Me Clickin’” for the next few weeks. North Memphis forever.

Related: Memory Lane: A Digital Museum of Three 6 Mafia’s Mystic Stylez | Video: Da Mafia 6ix ft. Snootie Wild – Gimmi Back My Dope (Remix)

Previously: First-Hand Accounts of the Night Eazy-E & Ice Cube Ended Their Feud | Exclusive: Gangsta Boo Announces “Candy, Diamonds & Pills” Album, Reflects on Three 6 Mafia’s Legacy | Interview: Krayzie Bone Says a Final bone thugs-n-harmony Album is on the Horizon, Recalls Three 6 Mafia Beef | Interview: John Buccigross is ESPN’s Biggest Hip-Hop Nerd | Interview: Prodigy & Boogz Boogetz’ Young Rollin’ Stoners Album showcases two Generations of Queens Hip-Hop | Interview: Theophilus London “Vibes” with Kanye West & Leon Ware for Sophomore LP | Made in Ohio: Stalley & Rashad on Ohio Culture and Music | Interview: Diamond D Recalls Fat Joe & Lord Finesse’s Early Days, Says He was Stunned when Big L Passed

Catch up on all NahRight interviews and features HERE.

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