Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara)
The legacy of Three 6 Mafia is almost as mysterious as their music. Originally forming in the early 1990s, DJ Paul and Lord Infamous–then known as the duo Da Serial Killaz–spent their early years reading about the diabolical mind. Paul literally hung portraits of serial killers on the wall in his bedroom and studied their dark motives to get inspiration for what he would eventually put on wax. Years later, Paul and his half brother would release music of their own with Portrait Of A Serial Killa in 1992.
Memphis’ hip-hop scene at the time wasn’t really noteworthy outside of the surrounding states. Early Gangsta Pat tapes provided some structure on how to record what would eventually blossom into the M-Town sound. From 1992 to 1994 prospective Memphis cliques jockeyed for the city’s attention. The unheralded nature of Memphis’ rap output only fueled the fire for those from the area to support their own. If you had songs that got play in the clubs or more importantly, bumped in the whip on Sunday’s at the Crystal Palace skating ring, you were on and there was profit to be had. Mixtapes at the time could sell upwards of 100,000 copies with little overhead. Very few artists had music videos out, radio play, or even a recording budget.