By: Kyle Eustice (Originally published in BandWagon Magazine)
If Juicy J wasn’t high during this interview then, well, he wouldn’t be Juicy J. The former Three 6 Mafia member and Tennessee native might be a man of few words, but his records are speaking volumes as they fly off the shelves in droves. Three 6 Mafia made history as one of the first rap groups to win an Academy Award for its 2006 track, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” Since then, the North Memphis, Tennessee native’s solo career has been kicked up a notch thanks to his collaboration with pop princess Katy Perry on the song “Dark Horse,” which they performed at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Juicy J released his third studio album on Columbia Records titled Stay Trippy in August 2013 and is supposedly working on Rubba Band Business: The Album. Juicy J sobered up for a few minutes (maybe) to talk winning an Oscar and the Never Sober Tour.
Hip-hop is like a revolving door of artists. One minute you’re in and the next you’re out, but you’ve been in this business for two decades. What do you suppose is the secret to your longevity?
I just love making music. I always stay in the studio. Making music is my main focus. That’s pretty much it. I stay grindin’ and I stay hustlin.’ I want to show people I can do it again. I really can’t stop.
Having fun seems to be at the core of your music. It always has dope beats, but you seem to be playing around a lot. Is that the message you’re trying to put out there?
That’s how it is now, yeah. My next album I’m talking about more motivational stuff; the struggle and what got me from coming up from nothing and turning into something. I’m talking about the grind. That’s what I like to do.
What quality does a beat need to have for you to use it? How much of a hand do have in the actual production?
I don’t have a hand in a lot of my own beats. I like all types of music and all types of beats though. It don’t really matter.
Three 6 Mafia is supposedly getting back together without Juicy and making a new album. Is there any chance you will play any shows with them?
I’m one of the guys that started it so, of course, I’m down for that.
I was a fan early on of Three 6 Mafia. What made you want to start rapping?
“I fell in love with music at 13-years-old. I wanted to be a singer at first and a drummer. Then I fell in love with rap music. Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC— I fell in love with rap listening to those guys. “
Katy Perry is clearly pop music. You’re from two different worlds yet you did the song “Dark Horse” with her. What went into the decision to collaborate?
The producer of the song reached out to me and I was down for it. I couldn’t even believe it. He was like “Katy Perry wants to feature you on her album.” I am so glad I did it. It came out and it was a smash.
Well yeah, it has over 121 million hits on YouTube alone. Do you feel that catapulted you into another category?
Yes, it definitely did. It elevated my career to another level.
Well yeah, everyone knows who you are now. If I would have talked about Three 6 Mafia fifteen years ago, they would have been like, ‘who?’ But now people can’t believe I get to talk to you.
Oh that’s great [laughs].
Is there any pressure now that you’ve attained this elevated status and you’re in the public eye right now to perform a certain way? Do you expect a lot from your albums and videos?
I’m still doing me. I try to come up with different concept for my shows, you gotta keep the people interested, but I’m still me.
How did this whole “Stay Trippy” thing start?
I was in California at the time I’ve been in the game for so long so I was just kicking it, I was getting trippy; smoking green, going to clubs. I was doing me. It came from that. Now I say “stay trippy” in my songs. I love it.
Did you ever think winning an Oscar was possible?
Never in my life. I have never won anything. That changed our whole lives.
How did it change?
Our pockets got bigger, more shows, more recognition. It gave me a sense of hope and motivation that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.
What was that moment like when they announced your name?
Crazy moment, you know what I’m saying? It was so amazing. You can’t believe you actually won. That moment on stage was genuine.
About the Never Sober Tour. A lot of kids out there are struggling with addiction and dying of overdoses. Do you ever feel any social responsibility when it comes to what you put out there?
Naw, because I feel like the parents should be responsible for what happens to their kids, you know what I’m sayin? I mean, I do me. I don’t advise kids to do what I do. I’m just doing me. I just smoke a little weed and do a little drink. It’s up to the parents to watch their kids and make sure their kids aren’t doing any crazy drugs. I always blame the parents. When their kids are doing something crazy, I blame the parents. It’s not my business to raise anybody else’s kids. Mom and Dad got to do all that.
That’s not Juicy J’s job, right?
What can we expect from a live Juicy J show?
Man, we party.
What gives you the motivation to keep going so hard?
I mean, I love making music. I never stop. I want to keep it moving forward. I like to go into the studio and make hits. It makes me feel good, you know?
I’m sure Lord Infamous death came as a big surprise. How did you deal with that?
Man [pauses]. I still feel like it’s not even true, but we are definitely going to keep him alive through the music.