Right now, no rapper is hustling harder than the godfather of Southern-crunk: Jordan Houston, aka Juicy J. His highly anticipated third studio album, Stay Trippy, drops in July; Washington Post named his lead single, “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” the second-best song of 2012; and if you chucked a dart at Billboard’s Hot 100 list for hip-hop, you’d more than likely hit his name.
These accomplishments may seem standard for a rapper of Juicy J’s caliber, but most artists, especially in rap, fail to reach this level of success so late in their careers. Because of his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which are filled with twerk-heavy shows, molly pills and double cups of Robitussin, the majority of fans (myself included) forget that Juicy J is 38 years old.
Think of it this way: Lil Kim is 38, and the only thing she’s done recently is get a botched plastic-surgery job. “I go with the times, brah,” says Juicy J in a recent phone interview. “I feel like a new artist, and it’s cool, mang. I don’t live in the past. I’m an O.G., and I stay close to these youngin’s out here, so I can relate.”
If you would have said 10 years ago that the man whose mantra is “We trippy mane” would be seeing a resurgence at this stage in his rap life—let alone still be alive—I would have said you were full of it. But Juicy J has a knack for reinventing himself and exceeding expectations.
The first time we witnessed this was back in 2006, in an Oscars award ceremony that was full of surprises: Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash for Best Picture, King Kong somehow grabbed three Oscars, and Juicy J’s rap collective, Three 6 Mafia, became the first hip-hop group to not only perform at the Oscars, but win an Academy award, for their song “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” from the film Hustle & Flow.
To put it into context, this was in the wake of Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl nip-slip. So, because of the circumstances, the Academy decided to use, for the first time, a three-second tape delay, and replaced lyrics like “Bitches talkin’ shit” with “Witches jumping ship.” For the majority of the 1 billion people who tuned in that evening, the performance of “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” was a well-packaged, squeaky-clean introduction to Southern-born “crunk” music. But still, you can imagine the shock and disbelief when no more than 10 minutes later, this prime-time “rap experiment” somehow won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
“We were just happy to be there, you know what I’m sayin’?” Juicy J says. “At the time, we thought we were just gonna perform the song and go home—that’s it. I didn’t even have an acceptance speech written.” When the guys walked off the stage, the evening’s host, Jon Stewart, laughed to himself and said, “You know, I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp … I think it did.”
In a way, Stewart unknowingly called it. A few years later, Juicy J left Three 6 Mafia and re-emerged as something new. His lyrical content has switched from dark, hard-core raps to drug-soaked party lyrics that G.G. Allin would be proud of. “I’ve been doing it for 20 years,” Juicy J says. “I make a lot of my music when I’m under the influence. That’s the best time to make music, mang, when you’re high, mang.”
Whether you agree with his creative methods or not, there’s no denying that Juicy J has hit his stride. A couple of months back, he headlined the annual Paid Dues festival, and his current tour is his biggest solo venture to date. But don’t worry about Juicy J’s hardworking drug-soaked lifestyle. During our interview, I confessed that I was worried about him, that perhaps he’s partying a little too much. My question was followed with a long and awkward pause.
“You should never worry about me,” Juicy J then said in a serious voice. “I’ll never go too far. … The only thing I’ll overdose on is money.”
w/A$AP Ferg, Concise Kilgore, DJ Juggy
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Wednesday, May 29, 9 p.m.