Juicy J
Credit: Edgar Daniel/VOTO

The Write Stuff is an occasional series about songwriters. 

It’s hard to call a musician who’s received an achievement as huge as an Academy Award underrated. But for as timeless as Juicy J’s music is, many fans do not realize the full scope of his contributions.

“I was in the studio with somebody the other day, they were like ‘I didn't know you produced [Three 6 Mafia hit] 'Sippin' on Some Syrup,'” the Memphis rapper/producer tells EW over Zoom. “They didn't know the records I produced, and I mean, they're 21 years old, so I'm not expecting them to know that, it was way before their time. They know the songs, they listen to the songs, but they just didn't know. Some people today don't even know I was in Three 6 Mafia.”

Part of it might be attributed to the fact that, after the rap trio went on indefinite hiatus, Juicy successfully reintroduced himself as both a solo artist and one of rap’s most sought-out producers, making beats for artists like Lil Wayne, Future, and A$AP Rocky. “Like Prince, Michael Jordan, I’m still in here, still relevant, still killing the game,” he says. “I'm still doing my rap thing, but my production is getting bigger than ever. I'm producing so many records for so many people. You'll see. You'll be like 'Juicy J wasn't bullsh---ing.'”

As he prepares for the release of his fifth studio album The Hustle Continues on Black Friday (Nov. 27), Juicy J reflects on some of the biggest hits he has written and/or produced.

“Slob On My Nob,” Three 6 Mafia (1999)

“I actually wrote that song when I was in 11th grade. I had it over a different-sounding beat, and I really didn't like that,” Juicy says of one of Three 6 Mafia’s most enduring tracks. “And then I put it over another beat [when] I started DJing at this club and the song just got popular. I always thought the song was a little goofy, funny song. I didn't even take it that seriously when I wrote it. Now it's like, I can't go nowhere without somebody saying, ‘Man, you gotta perform ‘Slob On My Knob.’"

While the song is advertised as a Three 6 Mafia track, Juicy is the only one rapping on the original version, making it the first big indicator of his potential as a self-sufficient solo artist. “I wanted to be a producer from the start. I never really looked at myself as an artist,” he admits. “I would have other guys do the rap, and I would DJ and try to make the beats. My crew was going back and forth to jail so much, it just kind of forced me to start stepping up to the plate and being a rapper. Like ‘Alright this n—'s in jail, this person's in jail. Nobody's here to perform, so I guess I'll perform.’”

“Stay Fly,” Three 6 Mafia feat. Young Buck and 8Ball & MJG (2005)

"‘Stay Fly’ actually took us to another level,” notes the rapper, reflecting on Three 6 Mafia’s highest-charting hit. “It's like one minute we were doing shows in small hole-in-the-wall spots, to big arenas in LA, and traveling all over the world.” 

The song was the first single off Three 6 Mafia’s eighth studio album Most Known Unknown, a title they picked before they knew “Stay Fly” would help them achieve a new level of success. “People knew our music, but they didn't know who we were,” he says. “So that's how we came up with that — most known unknowns — and now they know we a household name.”

“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” Three 6 Mafia (2005)

The producers behind the film Hustle & Flow sent Three 6 the script, asking if they’d write a song for it. “I remember it like yesterday, calling John Singleton, [saying] ‘Yo man, I got the song for the movie. This is the song. You've got to dig deep in your pockets for the cash if you want it. I'm telling you, can't nobody bring you a song better than this song. I'm just letting you know, this is it.’ I was for sure about that. I felt that in my heart.” A pivotal Best Original Song Oscar win proved Juicy right.

“Poppin’ My Collar,” Three 6 Mafia (2006)

With regards to the group’s second hit off their platinum album Most Known Unknown, Juicy J explains that, "‘Poppin' My Collar" was a song that we liked, but didn't think was going to be the next single. The label actually picked that one. They were like, ‘Yo, this is the next single.’ We were like, ‘Nah, that's not the one.’ We had an argument, and then we said, ‘All right, f— it. Put it out.’ They put the song out and it skyrocketed.”

“Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You),” UGK feat. OutKast (2007)

UGK’s final hit together, before the 2007 death of Pimp C, borrows the beat from “Choose U,” a cut Juicy and DJ Paul produced on Project Pat’s 2002 album Layin’ Da Smack Down. “Pat had put his album out, and a year passed, Pimp C called Paul. He was like, ‘Yo man, I want that same beat that was on that Project Pat album. As soon as I get out of jail, I got a dope-ass idea for it,’” recalls Juicy. “He predicted that they were going to get nominated for a Grammy, and they did.”

“Bandz A Make Her Dance,” Juicy J feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz (2012)

In the years leading up to his first official solo hit, Juicy thought about staying behind the scenes permanently. “I was thinking about retiring. My brother had this record label, I put some money in that company, and I was helping out these artists he discovered. I was jumping on their songs, and jumping on this, and jumping on that, and the people weren't really looking at the artist, they was looking at me, and that's how I got my little buzz.”

First, producer Lex Luger reached out, which led to a trio of mixtapes starting with Rubber Band Business in 2010. “I did so well rapping on his beats, which I had never done. I'm so used to producing my own beats. I always try to venture out, I'm curious, so I was like, Let me rap over somebody else's beat,” says Juicy. Following his work with Luger, the newly minted solo artist sought out another producer, Mike Will Made-It, after hearing the beat he made for “No Lie,” the 2012 collaboration between 2 Chainz and Drake. “When I heard that song, I was like, ‘Damn, that beat is so hard.’ I had a cameraman that used to follow me around and shoot videos with me. He's like, ‘Hey, I know the producer. This guy named Mike Will.’” Juicy called him up and Mike Will sent over a few beats — including one that was a perfect fit for an idea the rapper had. “It sounded like it was a slow song. It didn't sound like a real booty-shaking song, and I just felt like this would be different to take this strip-club hook and put it over this slow jam-sounding type of beat. I never heard nothing like that. And it worked, man. It worked by me being a producer, and having that ear. It was genius to do that.”

Rather than test the song at a club like Magic City in Atlanta, Juicy simply put it out online, “and it blew up from there. It's crazy. Mike Will called and said ‘You got the hottest record in Atlanta.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘You gotta come to Atlanta, man. You got the hardest record, I'm telling you.’ I went down there, man. They were going crazy, the record was charting — it wasn't even on Apple Music at the time. It wasn't really in stores. It was just charting by itself. Columbia Records called like ‘How the hell did you get this record to chart? Did you pay?’ I was like, ‘I didn't pay anybody.’ People just picked it up and played it.”

As for the song’s infamous line about the “ratchet p---y” Juicy can’t say no to: “I was going to erase it. I did it cause I was smoking weed. I kind of freestyled that verse. I was in my wife's apartment in D.C., and I was sitting at this table with a $100 microphone with a sock on it, just rapping ‘You say no to ratchet…’ and just whatever comes in my mind I'm saying. I was like, ‘I don't know if I like that line.’ And my engineer was like, ‘Nah, gotta keep that man.’ ‘You think so? That sounds kinda, I mean, it's true, but—,’ and he convinced me to keep it. Now it's like a national anthem.”

“Dark Horse,” Katy Perry feat. Juicy J (2013)

Katy Perry told Juicy J that his collaboration with Miley Cyrus drew her towards working with him. “She's like ‘I love your verse on “23,” man. When I heard your verse, I was like, 'Aw sh—, I gotta get you on my song.’” The pop superstar was dissatisfied though with the end of the initial verse he emailed her (it was “something with the EQ,” he says), and had him come to her studio. “I did the last four bars over almost like three times, and the first time I did it, she kept that one because she liked that one the most.”

While it was exciting to work with Perry during an unprecedented run of No. 1 hits, neither artist had any expectation of the song topping the charts, or it even being released as a single. “[Katy] did a survey, or some kind of contest [that] let people pick out what song they liked, and they chose that song, and that song just kept climbing the charts out of nowhere. It just kept on climbing, and climbing, and I performed it at the iHeartRadio Music Festival with her, and somebody from her label, I think it was an A&R, or whatever, kept talking about, ‘Man that “Dark Horse,” I'm telling you, man, that's a smash, man. That's going to blow up man. That's the one.’ And it became the one.”

“Hot Girl Summer,” Megan Thee Stallion feat. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign (2019)

Juicy became acquainted with Megan Thee Stallion after her manager, T Farris, an old friend who worked with peers like Paul Wall and Mike Jones, sent a few of her songs over. “I was like, ‘Man, she got a dope-ass flow.’ I hadn't heard nobody rap like that since I was in Three 6 Mafia.” He and Megan linked up and made three songs for her debut mixtape Fever

“She'd come to the studio and knock out songs left and right. I was like, ‘Holy sh--, this is the verse killer.’ She's killing verses. She's going in. She's cool, man,” Juicy says of the breakout star. “She has a lot of energy, and she'd tell the engineer, ‘Hey, I want this. I want you to put my verse right here. Do it like this.’ She's hands-on with how she wants her sound to be. She's super hot and she's super talented, man. I say God connected us together, and we've been making dope records ever since.”

For Megan’s 2019 summer anthem, Juicy credits A&R Derrick Milano for helping assemble its collaborators. “He came up with the hook, Bone Collector did some production on the beat, I took it, put drums in, made it hard, gave it that bump-bump-bump, that Three 6 Mafia vibe, and then I reached out to Ty Dolla $ign and asked him to re-sing the hook.” Finally, “Meg did two verses to it, then Derek Milano let Nicki Minaj hear it, and Nicki Minaj called me, and yeah, the rest is history.” As for the City Girls sample, “that was Meg's idea, she asked me to scratch that in there.”

“Gah Damn High,” Juicy J feat. Wiz Khalifa (2020)

For the first single off The Hustle Continues, Juicy kept things within the family. “Wiz has been my brother forever, man. We met on the internet during the time I was doing mixtapes with Lex Luger. He brought me in as a third owner of his company, Taylor Gang Entertainment. We’ve just been brothers ever since.” 

The song stems from how Juicy has been living the past few months. “Quarantining, I smoke a lot of weed at home. Like I smoked so much weed, I be extra high. I'm high now.”

While this particular beat was a collaboration with Lex Luger, Juicy teases “98 percent of the [upcoming] album was produced by me. I've had lots of fun with it. It's an independent release. I own 100 percent of the masters. I feel like this is going to be one of my best albums. I'm in a good space.”

This story appears in the November issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Oct. 16. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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