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Three 6 Mafia’s Hip-Hop Transformation: Turning $4,500 Into $45 Million with ‘Mystic Stylez’

In its 50 years hip-hop has come a long way, not just creatively but also in regard to business. One of the groups that has made financial strides in the industry has been Memphis-based collective Three 6 Mafia, with founding members D.J. Paul, Juicy J, and Crunchy Black.

Screengrab of Oscar win by Three 6 Mafia.

Their 1995 inaugural album, “Mystic Stylez,” may have been birthed from a humble investment of $4,500, but it stands as a testament to the group’s business acumen as they turned the investment into what they say has been a whopping $45 million in revenue, according to founding member DJ Paul, as reported by NPR.

Amazing Investment Returns

The release of “Mystic Stylez” by Three 6 Mafia marked the genesis of the “horrorcore” sub-genre, drawing inspiration from contemporary horror films such as “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Halloween.”

“Mystic Stylez” has became a revered cult classic. According to SoundScan, the album also debuted at No. 1 on the R&B Album Sales and the Rap Album Sales charts. Produced completely by DJ Paul and Juicy J, the LP was published via Prophet, an independent record label they also owned.

Their music was released through independent labels like Prophet Entertainment and their own Hypnotize Minds label, as well as Relativity, Loud, and Columbia Records.

The independent success of Mystic Stylez inspired creators all over the country to try to make it on their own without corporate record companies.

Cultural critic Kiana Fitzgerald told NPR, “Three 6 Mafia laid the groundwork for the late-2000s to the mid-2010s. … And that was one of the more exciting times in contemporary hip-hop. It also inspired the SoundCloud rap movement.” Fitzgerald selected “Mystic Stylez” as one of hip-hop’s game-changing moments.

The ground-breaking album, released on May 23, 1995, sold more than 200,000 copies and grew from being an underground favorite to one of the most influential rap records of all time, according to OkayPlayer.

‘They did it with what they had in their pocket and in their mind and in their heart. And they were successful because they wanted to create something that really spoke to their region and their lifestyle,” said Fitzgerald.

In 2001, the album was re-released by Hypnotize Minds record label as “More Mystic Stylez: The First Album,” this version features three new songs.

While DJ Paul didn’t explain how the original album led to the $45 million, it did propel the group to success with their subsequent albums to go gold and platinum. And Three 6 Mafia has a combined net worth of $20 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Two of their albums have achieved platinum status according to RIAA — “When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1” (2000) and “Most Known Unknown” (2005).

And, they made history by winning an Oscar in 2006 for Best Original Song at the 78th Academy Awards with “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from the movie “Hustle & Flow.” The group became the first hip-hop group to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and the first hip-hop artists to perform at the ceremony. It was the second hip-hop song to win an Oscar, after Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from the film “8 Mile” (2002).

In 2008, Three 6 Mafia released the album “Last 2 Walk.” As of 2016, Three 6 Mafia’s global album sales totaled 5.5 million units.

It All Started

Originating from Memphis, Three 6 Mafia’s journey began when they met as young kids. In 1988, an 11-year-old DJ Paul was taking piano lessons, and his half-brother Lord Infamous, 15, was a singer practicing bass and electric guitar.The two would compose and perform songs together.

Meanwhile, in North Memphis, Juicy J, 13, was honing his skills as a DJ and rapper.

In 1989, DJ Paul and Lord Infamous formed the duo “Da Serial Killaz” and began to distribute their own mixtapes at school. By 1991, DJ Paul and Juicy J had crossed paths after Juicy reached out to Paul for help making beats. While they were still doing their own independent projects, they connected musically. And by 1994 the two decided to go into business together, along with a local entrepreneur named Nick Scarfo. The trio formed Prophet Records, their first imprint. A year later, Three 6 Mafia was officially formed with rapper Crunchy Black coming on board. The group also tapped female rapper Gangsta Boo to join the collective.

Three 6 Mafia has left a mark on hip-hop. From their strive to be independent music entrepreneurs to them forging a sub-genre.

As The Ringer summed up: “Three 6 has seen pieces of its aesthetics stripped, isolated, and used as the blueprints for several different strains of hip-hop, from the underground to its mainstream, through more than two decades. This speaks to the visionary power of the group’s early work, but also to the strange way influence can snake through subcultures—and how the internet has made those half lives of rediscovery and reinterpretation more unpredictable than ever.”

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