Three 6 Mafia, a legendary group from Memphis, Tennessee, has left an indelible mark on the rap genre. The Three 6 Mafia influence has permeated the music industry, shaping the sound of rap in the 2010s and beyond. This article explores the group’s profound impact, unique style, and enduring legacy.
The Genesis of Three 6 Mafia
In the early 1990s, a group of teenagers from Memphis, Tennessee, formed a group that would later become a cornerstone of the rap genre. The group, known as Three 6 Mafia, consisted of Ricky Dunigan (Lord Infamous), Paul Beauregard (DJ Paul), and Jordan Houston (Juicy J). Their unique style, characterized by tongue-twisting flows and lilting deliveries over beats that sound like a lazy afternoon in hell, set them apart from their contemporaries. Find out more about each member of the group in our article Three 6 Mafia Members | A Comprehensive Guide
The Sound of Memphis: A Style Ahead of Its Time
Three 6 Mafia’s music was a product of its time and place, yet it was also ahead of its time. The group’s early work was characterized by a unique blend of horrorcore and outré sex raps, each version too extreme to be taken literally. This style, combined with their innovative use of the triplet flow, created a sound that was both grim and Gothic but mesmerizingly loose. Want to more about Memphis Rap? We got you covered in Memphis Rap | The Groups and Rappers in the 80s and 90s
Three 6 Mafia Influence on Modern Rap
Crunk: The High-Energy Revolution
Crunk, a subgenre of hip-hop known for its high-energy beats and aggressive lyrics, owes a significant debt to Three 6 Mafia. The group’s early work, characterized by its raw energy and hard-hitting beats, helped lay the groundwork for the development of Crunk. Their music, with its infectious hooks and anthemic choruses, captured the essence of Crunk’s high-energy ethos, influencing a generation of artists in the subgenre.
Phonk: The Dark Side of Rap
Phonk, a subgenre of hip-hop that emerged in the 2010s, is characterized by its dark, atmospheric beats and slowed-down vocals. The influence of Three 6 Mafia on phonk is evident in the subgenre’s use of dark, eerie beats and its exploration of themes of struggle and survival. The group’s early work, with its haunting melodies and gritty lyrics, helped shape the sound of phonk, influencing artists like SpaceGhostPurrp and Xavier Wulf.
Trap: The Streetwise Soundtrack
Trap, a subgenre of hip-hop known for its hard-hitting beats and streetwise lyrics, has also been influenced by Three 6 Mafia. The group’s music, with its gritty realism and innovative use of the triplet flow, has left an indelible mark on the sound of trap. Artists like Gucci Mane, T.I., and Young Jeezy have all cited Three 6 Mafia as an influence, demonstrating the group’s enduring impact on the subgenre.
The influence of Three 6 Mafia is evident in each of these subgenres. Their innovative style, characterized by its dark, atmospheric beats and gritty, streetwise lyrics, has helped shape the sound of modern hip-hop, influencing a wide range of artists and subgenres.
The Artists Influenced by Three 6 Mafia
Listen to the best Three 6 Mafia songs that started it all here.
The influence of Three 6 Mafia on modern rap is undeniable. Numerous artists have adopted and adapted their unique style from the underground to the mainstream. The group’s influence can be seen in the work of A$AP Rocky, who incorporated the triplet flow into his music, and the Migos, who made the flow one of the most dominant delivery styles for mainstream rappers in the mid-2010s.
Furthermore, the group’s influence extended to the wider rap internet, becoming one of the dominant musical and visual modes of expression for young MCs and producers in the 2010s. Artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Migos, and XXXTentacion have all shown signs of Three 6 Mafia’s influence in their music.
Lil Ugly Mane – The Underground Supernova
One such artist is Lil Ugly Mane, an underground rapper and producer from Richmond, Virginia. His music, characterized by its lo-fi aesthetic and dark themes, owes a significant debt to Three 6 Mafia. The influence is particularly evident in his eerie, atmospheric beats and raw, unfiltered lyrical content. Lil Ugly Mane’s music often explores themes of depression, anxiety, and existential dread, all set to a backdrop of hauntingly beautiful production that echoes the dark, hypnotic sound of Three 6 Mafia.
Megan Thee Stallion – The Rap Superstar
Megan Thee Stallion, a rapper from Houston, Texas, is another artist who has been influenced by Three 6 Mafia. Known for her confident, assertive lyrics and powerful delivery, Megan’s music often features the kind of hard-hitting, bass-heavy beats that Three 6 Mafia popularized. For example, her song “Simon Says” samples Three 6 Mafia’s “Slob on My Knob,” demonstrating the enduring influence of their sound.
SpaceGhostPurrp – The Troubled Mind
Spaceghost Purp, a rapper, and producer from Miami, Florida, is known for his dark, murky production and cryptic lyrics. His music is heavily influenced by Three 6 Mafia, particularly their early, more experimental work. Spaceghost Purp’s use of lo-fi production techniques and his incorporation of horror film samples are reminiscent of Three 6 Mafia’s distinctive style.
Freddie Dredd – The Darkest Influenced
Canadian artist Freddie Dredd is another rapper who has been influenced by Three 6 Mafia. His music, which blends elements of trap, cloud rap, and Memphis rap, often features the kind of dark, menacing beats and explicit, violent lyrics that Three 6 Mafia are known for. Freddie Dredd’s music is a testament to the enduring influence of Three 6 Mafia’s sound, demonstrating its continued relevance in the modern rap landscape.
XXXTentacion: The Controversial Talent
XXXTentacion, the late rapper known for his raw emotion and genre-blending style, was another artist influenced by Three 6 Mafia. His often dark and introspective music mirrored the gritty realism and emotional depth of Three 6 Mafia’s lyrics. Despite his controversial career and tragic death, XXXTentacion’s music resonates with many listeners, much like the enduring music of Three 6 Mafia.
Migos: The Triplet Flow Innovators
Migos, the Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff trio, have been instrumental in popularizing the triplet flow that Three 6 Mafia first introduced. Their music, characterized by its catchy hooks and intricate flows, shows the influence of Three 6 Mafia in its use of the triplet flow and its focus on creating memorable, club-ready anthems.
A$AP Rocky: The Fashion-Forward Lyricist
A$AP Rocky, known for his fashion-forward style and lyrical prowess, is another artist who has been influenced by Three 6 Mafia. His music, which blends elements of trap, cloud rap, and psychedelic music, shows the influence of Three 6 Mafia in its use of dark, atmospheric beats and its exploration of themes of struggle and ambition.
In their own unique way, each of these artists has been influenced by Three 6 Mafia. While distinct in its own right, their music carries the imprint of Three 6 Mafia’s innovative style and enduring impact on the rap genre.
The Legacy of Three 6 Mafia
Despite the group’s breakup and the tragic deaths of Lord Infamous and Koopsta Knicca, the legacy of Three 6 Mafia lives on. Their influence continues to shape the sound of modern rap, and their music inspires new generations of artists. The group’s impact on the genre is a testament to their visionary power and music’s enduring appeal.
The Three 6 Mafia Influence Conclusion
The influence of Three 6 Mafia on the rap genre is profound and enduring. Their unique style, characterized by their innovative use of the triplet flow and their blend of horrorcore and outré sex raps, has shaped the sound of modern rap and continues to inspire new generations of artists.