Three 6 Mafia's DJ Paul and Juicy J talk 'Famous Food,' Memphis barbecue and shady promoters
Imagine winning an Academy Award. You’re on top of the world. Fame and fortune, cash and kudos, the American dream with sprinkles on top.
Then, five years later, you find yourself starring in a VH1 reality show alongside Heidi Montag and Big Pussy.
Sounds like Hollywood’s ultimate cautionary tale, right?
Oscar winners in 2006 for Hustle and Flow’s southern rap anthem It’s Hard Out There For a Pimp, DJ Paul and Juicy J may be the most accomplished members of a cast that includes The Sopranos’ Vincent Pastore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Danielle Staub and former Eliot Spitzer call girl Ashley Dupre. Famous Food might seem like an odd career move, but the truth is, the Memphis rappers have wanted to start their own cooking show for years.
“ It’s opening us up to a whole new style of people, who will look at the show and be like, 'I might actually check out what these guys have coming out,’” said DJ Paul. “They might come out and say, 'We hate these guys.’ You never know. But either way, they will remember our name.”
Three 6 Mafia will be in Tampa this weekend, performing live at the Kennedy on Friday night. Tickets are $20; click here for details. In a recent phone interview, DJ Paul and Juicy J talked about Famous Food, southern barbecue and running a band like a business.
How were you approached for Famous Food? What did they think you could bring to the table?
DJ Paul: I’m a big fan of the Food Network, cooking and stuff like that. We were sitting around one day, and I was like, “We oughta try to do a cooking show,” because there’s so many cooking shows out, and they were starting to get a little looser with it. They weren’t so ... what’s the lady’s name who had the first cooking show back in the day?
DJ Paul: Yeah, they weren’t so much Julia Child anymore. A family from Memphis, the Neely family, they got a cooking show, and they’re going a little urban with it. We just took $300, $400 and our own cameras, and went out by the pool and barbecue grill and filmed a little teaser reel, and sent it to (production company) 51Minds, and they liked it. They put a budget behind it, we shot a pilot for a cooking show called Cooking Ain’t Easy. They called us back a few months later, and said, “We still want to do something in the food realm with y’all, but not cooking. Would you guys ever want to open up a restaurant?” We were like, hell yeah, let’s do it.
Are you guys both cooks?
DJ Paul: I cook. Juicy dibbles and dabbles.
Juicy J: I dabble. I’ll drink you underneath the table.
What’s your drink of choice?
Juicy J: Bombay gin, lemonade. I’ll drink some vodka. If it’s a stressful day, I’ll drink some brown. If I’m at the airport, Patron shots.
You guys are both huge personalities, but in the first episode, you almost got shoved to the side by the other characters. Were you expecting the people that you were competing against to be so loud and big and Hollywood?
DJ Paul: You’ll see that change as the show goes on. But in the first episode, it seemed like a lot of people wanted more camera time. They were competing for camera time, and we weren’t competing. Three 6 Mafia, we’re one of the biggest rap groups in the world. And we were gonna open a restaurant. We weren’t trying to get camera time, and trying to get a spinoff gig, like most of the other people on there were probably trying to do. We weren’t trying to hog the camera. We just wanted to sit back and watch everybody else run around and have their fun.
Juicy J: We were just laying low in the bushes, ready to jump out in the right time.
Being from Memphis, are you both big barbecue fans? Do you get asked all the time for rib recommendations?
Juicy J: Every day.
DJ Paul: I’m always running into people who’ve never been to Memphis, or want to go, or plan on going. We just tell ’em, the answer is Rendezvous, A&R, Corky’s, Neely’s. Those are probably the top barbecue places, right there.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in a restaurant? If you could replicate any one thing for your restaurant, what would it be?
DJ Paul: Smokin’ the meat. You take some ribs, put the grill on indirect heat, temperature like 225, 250, for about anywhere from four to 12 hours. Some baby back ribs. Oooh, that’s some good eatin’.
What kind of wood chips?
DJ Paul: I like hickory if I’m doing ribs, but sometimes I’ll mix a little apple in there wit the hickory. It adds a tad bit of sweetness to the ribs.
DJ Paul, you had a great quote in the first episode: “If you can run a rap group that’s full of guys from prison, you can run a restaurant.” You’ve had a lot of turnover in the group over the years. How would you guys describe your management style?
DJ Paul: Our management style is almost like being in the military. We’ve gotta get you right mentally before we can get you right musically. If you’re going to be a hardhead, running out here getting into trouble, starting fights at concerts and cussing out girls, pulling people on stage and throwing ’em off, cussing people out at your autograph sessions, making diss records about people for no reason — it ain’t gonna work. When you have these guys from the streets and they have a thug mentality, or they grew up in gangs, or you got ’em from jail, you’ve got to get them right mentally before you can let them out on the streets and start putting thousands or millions in their pocket, because they’re spinning right out the top. You’ve got to teach them how to pay their taxes, hook them up with the right people to help ’em out financially.
How shady is the club game? When it comes to appearances by celebrities or rappers, all too often they don’t work out, people flake, the contracts don’t come through. You guys have worked on both sides of the business. Why is the club business so slippery?
DJ Paul: You’ve got a lot of shady promoters. You’ve got a lot of shady performers. The nightclub business is just designed like that. Half of ’em got crazy people who go to ’em — which is cool; I’m crazy too. And half of ’em are owned by some guys that probably just take s--- from the street. Sometimes they’re probably trying to stay away from the tax issue, so they might meet an artist, pay ’em with cash, don’t even have a contract. Artists might say forget about it, split the money, and it’s over with.
It’s a hard business, running a nightclub. We’re finding this out opening up the restaurant. The restaurant’s got a bar in it, so it’s almost like it’s a bar. It’s hard enough running just a bar. To have a bar with people dancing and fighting and craziness, it’s a hard business. But it goes both ways. It ain’t always the shady promoters. Sometimes you get a lot of artists that might get high and forget about the contract, or just don’t give a s---.
Have you been in situations where you thought, “Oh, man, the promoter’s gonna screw us out of our cash”?
DJ Paul: We had some of those back in the day, when we were young. We always got our money, though, because we would walk to the owner’s back office, knock on the door with a hundred dudes and be like, 'Look, man, we’re gonna get our money, or we’re gonna go to the front door and take it ourselves.” We don’t really have to deal with stuff like that now. We get our money up front.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*