The crenulated shape from the endless ether radiates its force upon the grody streets of the nightmarish intersections of lynched street lights and toiling, crumpled newspapers. Unto the concrete world from the despondent realms of the underground, a group of malevolent and enthusiastic teenagers gathered around for their next shamanic procession. The manifestation of warped adlibs and macabre lyrical combat created not only a unique flair into the scene of already fear-stricken music, but shifted its focus for a moment in time. Projects like these creep from the dark corners and the crevices of the alleyways that are settings to urban folklore. The folklore that warns the inhabited of unventured territory and hell-inspired figments.
An album like this usually never receives the spotlight from major labels, and probably wouldn’t have made it during those times of increasingly immaculate and polished sound. This era held the platform of the urban dialect articulating the dark thoughts of the speaker and the harsh realities he’s portraying to the listener. The poet usually spoke about the transference of drugs and ammunition or the spiritual degradation of seeing your own race fall into ethical collapse. Not many artists during that time were rapping about peeling off the skin of their enemies and pouring acid into their flesh.
In May of 1995, Mystic Stylez was released on an independent label that both young DJ Paul and Juicy J both co-owned. After years of hard work and breaks taking place at local burger joints, the album saw menial sales numbers and delayed attention for the upcoming years. Through these years of incremental materialism and rising popularity, the group managed to release recorded works and collaborations endlessly, year after year. It wasn’t until the early years of the new millennium did they finally reach the pinnacle of their celebrity status. With the cameras pointed in their directions at red carpet shows, Jackass cameos, and interviews upon interviews of incessant questions and praise, the revolutionary approach to Southern Rap music finally had paid off.
As the success of Stay Fly and Side 2 Side brought them to the forefront of media regality, it was Mystic Stylez that slowly crept its way back into the background of the streets, but instead through the legions of inspiring rappers and producers from the audible enclave of the internet. Mystic Stylez was most known for its menacing approach to violent and animated storytelling and lyricism, with the lo-fi and grunge production that seemed like it was crafted in the basement of hell. In songs like Back Against Da Wall and Now I’m Hi, Pt. 3, Dj Paul’s nefarious beat repeats in a simple pattern for five minutes, but never draw dull due to the polyphonic vocal instrumentation of the members’ macabre description of stalking, murder, dominance, and fear.
For being an oddball project, to begin with, it was the first time a group from the Southern region of the U.S. confronted the forefront of Rap music and established a sound that would not only define the subgenre for years but birthed the legacy of a new foundation. Any artist or piece of work that followed the footsteps that this album harnessed with full potential is usually labeled as “Southern Rap,” “Trill,” or “Memphis Rap.” The definitive components of the genre include lo-fi and heavy production, sinister or ominous labeling, and usually liners spat through exaggerated and mind-whirling violence. With the group refining and augmenting their esoteric sound with every one of their projects released, the generations to come took note of the style and brought along their flavor of decrepit art.
Social media showcased the abstractions that many of the genres unknowingly produced once they went through the phases. As Pop music topped it’s fruition with Bedroom Pop and Hip-hop went through various phases of Jazz and Chill hop, Rap music beheld the spectacle of young teenagers relenting their anguish and petulant imaginations through their versions of the defined Three Six sound. The followers of the genre amplified the significance Three Six brought along in the overwhelming layer of SoundCloud and YouTube.
Throughout the years beyond 2010, much of this revitalization was held upon artists like Lil Ugly Mane and Antwon. Their sound and style embedded the layers that defined Memphis rap, but twirled and contorted with their own integrations of heavy basslines, obscure samplings of Punk Rock and Bebop Jazz, and reworked storytelling from the depths of twenty-first-century vices. The soul of Three Six still drones along these artists but does not define their potential. Musicians such as Lil Ugly Mane and Denzell Curry of Raider Klan tethered their own style of the subgenre and initiated a revolution that cultivated much younger artists to resonate with the sound and create their own version of hell.
If you stroll along SoundCloud and you followed a Memphis Rap artists, you would be pummeled by the endless recommendations of bedroom artists and basement creators that only pelted the surface that this album established in the midday. The last couple of years witnessed the rise of artists such as Bones and Devilish Trio, with many of their accounts being overflown with young supporters and rejected, angsty adolescents. Channels on YouTube such as TrillPhonk is seeing perpetual strength in numbers and a void of rising artists who study the Three Six style. Mystic Stylez is an essential project to study if someone were to look back into Rap’s history and has instilled itself as one of the most prominent works for influencing a generation of Three Six soldiers. Much of the legacy that this album left for the latent form of the subgenre, Raider Klan, and Devilish Trio did for the reinstallation of Satan’s words in a maturing society.