Whatever Happened To DJ Paul?

A lot can be said about Memphis rapper and producer DJ Paul's career, since he's been immersed in hip-hop since the 1980s. He started off as a DJ in high school, per Vice. With his half-brother, Lord Infamous, DJ Paul released an album called "Da Serial Killaz" in 1993. He continued making a name for himself in the Memphis rap scene and met Juicy J. "I was the hottest on the South side of Memphis, he was the hottest on the North side. We thought it'd be cool if we did a tape together, and we ended up combining our two crews," Paul told Vice. He, Juicy J, and Lord Infamous formed Backyard Posse, which later turned into Triple 6 Mafia.

By the mid-'90s, the group officially consisted of Paul, Juicy J, Lola "Gangsta Boo" Mitchell, Robert "Koopsta Knicca" Cooper, and Darnell "Crunchy Black" Carlton, and the name was changed again to Three 6 Mafia. The group's first album was 1995's "Mystic Stylez," and "Chapter 1: The End" followed. "Chapter 2: World Domination" came in 1997, spawning classic Three 6 Mafia cuts like "Tear da Club Up '97." 

Some might say Three 6 Mafia's biggest achievement was becoming the first rap group to win an Oscar. They took home the statue in 2006 for writing "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" for the film "Hustle & Flow." Unfortunately for fans, Three 6 stopped recording together after 2008's "Last 2 Walk." Since then, what has DJ Paul been up to? We did a little hunting, and here's what we uncovered.

DJ Paul has been trying to get his group back together

When there's talk of a band or group reuniting, it's often held up due to one person not wanting to do it. For example, it's been said that Andre 3000 is the person who's keeping OutKast from getting back together. It's also been reported that Axl Rose was the one who didn't want Guns N' Roses to reunite until it happened in 2016 — although not all of the original members came back. And when it comes to Three 6 Mafia, DJ Paul indicated to Complex that his group mate, Juicy J, was the main reason fans weren't seeing a reunion.

But during an interview with Beats 1's Zane Lowe, Juicy showed up humming a different tune. He told Lowe, "I would love to do something with those guys, man. We just need to sit down, you know, figure it out" (via DJ Booth). He added, "But it's all good, no bad blood, all love. I love all those guys." 

DJ Paul, however, seemed confused by those words and let it be known on social media. "Then what we waiting for?" he wrote on Instagram after seeing Juicy's interview (via HipHopDX). "Any Longer Then We'll Have To Call This Album #TheEnd Aswell Love Bro #Mafia Ya!!!! #SeniorCitizenStudios." Juicy never responded to Paul's sarcastic message but probably had a word with him offline. 

DJ Paul learned to fly solo

So, what do you do when the group that made you famous is no longer making music together? You inhale, take a giant leap, and learn to fly solo, reaching for higher heights. Hopefully, that choice won't result in a nasty career crash. DJ Paul took that scary leap of faith when he released "Scale-A-Ton," his second solo project, the year after Three 6 Mafia's last 2008 album. Paul's first solo LP was in 2002, when the Memphis group was still together. Then his third solo offering, "A Person of Interest," came out in 2012, and a series of other projects followed.

In 2016, DJ Paul talked about why his solo work was well-received, and he said it had to do with giving fans something different from Three 6 Mafia music. But he also explained that isn't the case with newer rap groups because some members all have the same style. "Nowadays you get groups of rappers that all sound the same, and that prevents their solo albums from ever popping," Paul told Passion of the Weiss. "What are they gonna do different, what are they gonna talk about? In Three 6 Mafia, everybody sounded different." Considering Paul's success as a group member and as a solo act, younger artists should probably pay close attention to him, wouldn't you say?

He shored up his money by producing

In entertainment, there are people who get a thrill out of being front and center, while others find deep satisfaction from pulling strings behind the scenes. DJ Paul seems to enjoy both, because, besides rapping, he produces many of his own songs, as he did for Three 6 Mafia. So what did the veteran artist do as a producer after the group slowed down? He kept on making beats and eventually landed two of the biggest fish in rap's ocean.

In 2018, Paul produced Drake's song "Talk Up," featuring Jay-Z, for the Canadian rapper's "Scorpion" album. Undoubtedly, the move was huge for Paul, considering he's mostly associated with his success in the '90s and early aughts with Three 6 Mafia. The Memphis-raised beatmaker spoke about how the Drake and Jay-Z opportunity came about in an interview with Vibe

He said Drake, who he's known for some time, contacted him for "beats." The opportunity was so big that Paul decided to send him a track that he made for himself, which he wasn't very worried about. "I was like 'sh*t, he can have this,'" the producer explained. "Because I've got tons of beats, I can do that with my eyes closed. I sent it to him, and he loved it." DJ Paul promotes himself as a producer on his Instagram page, which shows he isn't too big to seek out work for himself.

DJ Paul did the reality TV thing

When musicians from yesteryear wanted to make some extra cash off their name, they were confined to doing personal appearances or maybe starting a business. But after the rise of reality television, some have found another way to earn a paycheck, while scoring a bunch of new fans at the same time. DJ Paul is one person who used reality TV to his advantage. He was cast on "Famous Food" in 2011 and co-starred on "Celebrity Wife Swap" in 2014, which exposed him to new audiences.

On "Famous Food," Paul joined other celebs like "The Real Housewives of New Jersey's" Danielle Staub, Heidi Montag, and his Three 6 Mafia group mate, Juicy J. The show followed a group of celebrities working to open a Hollywood restaurant, with Paul and Staub being the winners. Then, on "Celebrity Wife Swap," the rapper-producer switched mates with former NFL player Plaxico Burress, which, of course, sparked some drama. 

Paul and his fiancee at the time, Majda Baltic, lived in Las Vegas, according to the Chicago Defender, while Plaxico Burress and his spouse, Tiffany Burress, resided in New Jersey. And as the trailer shows, Paul must not have been too fond of Tiffany's conventional lifestyle, since he called her "boring." Per her firm's website, Tiffany is a personal injury attorney (who probably had to get up early for work each morning and couldn't "Tear da Club Up '97" as Paul might've wanted her to).

The rapper-producer was suing people left and right

Over the years, there have been countless times when a veteran rapper has criticized a younger rapper's music, saying that it doesn't match the quality of old-school hip-hop. But when DJ Paul criticized Travis Scott for his 2018 song "No Bystanders," it wasn't because he thought it was subpar. He thought it was a ripoff of Three 6 Mafia's "Tear da Club Up '97," according to Pitchfork

Paul sued Scott for copyright infringement in 2019 for a cool $20 million, but unlike some copyright infringement cases that can drag on, the two rappers settled theirs quickly. "He called me up and we basically figured it out right there on the spot," Paul told Rolling Stone. "He was cool, he was like, 'Let's knock it out. What do you need?'" 

Paul, along with Juicy J, also sued New Orleans rap duo the Suicideboys in 2020 for $6.45 million after accusing them of sampling 35 Three 6 Mafia songs without permission, as XXL details. Paul told the publication that he was aware of the songs being sampled and might not have hounded the group for payment, but that changed when they allegedly refused to tour with Seed of 6ix, whose members consist of the late Lord Infamous' sons. The case was "settled in principle" in fall 2020, per Complex, but the details of the settlement weren't disclosed. If there's one thing to learn from these suits, it's clearly this: Don't mess with Three 6 Mafia's catalog, because Paul's a-watching.

A Verzuz battle might be in the works for DJ Paul

Producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland's "Verzuz" competitions, which they founded together, have been a huge hit since they began in March 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. For those who haven't seen it, the livestream series features two famous artists performing hits from their catalogs back to back, and folks on the Internet decide who won.

"Verzuz" became so popular that DJ Paul and rapper Krayzie Bone tried to put on their own livestream battle between their groups, Three 6 Mafia and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, but it never happened. The reason? Per HotNewHipHop, Paul said that Beatz stopped him and Bone at the last second while promising to put their battle on the "Verzuz" stage. The Memphis rhymer then said that Beatz failed to keep his word, and talk of Three 6 Mafia facing Bone Thugs-n-Harmony died off.

But the chatter was resurrected on August 16, 2021, when Paul posted a screenshot of himself on a call with Beatz, Grady Spivey of Triller — the network that hosts "Verzuz" — and Bone. "What are we discussing?" Paul captioned the photo. As of the writing of this story, there haven't been any updates about the battle since that post, but it's safe to say the anticipation from fans hasn't diminished any.

DJ Paul has been getting his workout on

Turning 40 can signal a departure from one's younger self. Oftentimes, gone are the late-night fast-food runs, and instead, someone that age might opt for a salad at 7:00 p.m. The 40s can also introduce someone to a lifestyle of physical fitness and newfound energy and excitement, which seems to be the case with DJ Paul, who at 44, posted videos of himself working out. One clip on Instagram shows him kickboxing, another shows him doing weighted step repetitions, and an additional photo shows him recuperating after exercising.

"The days you don't want to go to the gym or work (etc) are the best days to go‼️" Paul captioned the photo. "Even just 10 minutes‼️ Its about conditioning, keeping a routine & staying persistent in the one Goal of becoming a better you." And it's hard to tell from the baggy clothes rappers used to wear years ago, but if you look at footage of Paul and Juicy J winning an Oscar for best original song in 2006, Paul looked a wee bit heavier. Based on those workout clips the rapper posted, he's a lean, fit exercise machine, who provides encouragement.  

He joined other Three 6 Mafia members for a reunion

How many great bands have broken up throughout history, only to leave fans heartbroken? It seems that more of people's favorite bands have parted ways than stayed together. But the positive thing is, a band breaking up only sets the stage, both literally and figuratively, for a big old comeback, which was the case with Three 6 Mafia. 

That's because in 2019, DJ Paul and Juicy J announced they'd be getting the group back together for a series of reunion shows — one in Newark, New Jersey at the Loud Records 25th anniversary show, as Pitchfork reported, another at Atlanta's One Musicfest, and a third in Southaven, Mississippi. Per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for the One Musicfest show, the group ran through catalog staples like "Sippin on Some Syrup," "Poppin' My Collar," and "Tear da Club Up '97." 

They also continued to perform in 2020 and planned more shows for 2021, including in Miami, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; and St. Louis, Missouri. And remember, the reunion shows came after Paul sent Juicy J a public message about being eager to get back together, so it seems his plan worked.

DJ Paul had to deal with a tragedy

Sometimes, when a celebrity isn't seen in the spotlight as much, they're spending their time enjoying the things in life they couldn't do before because of their busy schedule. Unfortunately, time away from the public eye can also mean people are dealing with personal tragedies, as DJ Paul did. 

In 2013, the devastating news surfaced that Ricky "Lord Infamous" Dunigan died at his mother's house in Memphis, Tennessee. Dunigan was DJ Paul's half-brother and one of the founding members of Three 6 Mafia. Paul, who said he was in disbelief over the news, spoke to HipHopDX and explained that Dunigan's heart stopped after he put his head down at the kitchen table. 

Dunigan also suffered a heart attack in 2010 as well as a stroke. And if that wasn't enough tragedy for Paul to deal with, Robert "Koopsta Knicca" Cooper Phillips, another member of Three 6 Mafia, died of a stroke in 2015. "He will be missed. We made classics together that'll live on," Paul said about Phillips in a statement (via The Commercial Appeal). If there's one thing that Paul seems to be, besides a talented artist, it's resilient. 

DJ Paul went from plaintiff to defendant

DJ Paul has been known to sue people for stealing his music through the years, but in 2020, he and Juicy J were the ones being sued. As TMZ reported, a group of Memphis artists said that Three 6 Mafia jilted them out of money after these artists wrote lyrics and produced for Three 6 Mafia without being paid. In total, the plaintiffs said Three 6 Mafia were guilty of copyright infringement on over 100 sound recordings, including "Tear da Club Up '97," arguably their most popular song. The Memphis artists were looking for $150,000 in compensation from Three 6.

The suit was filed on March 2, 2020, in Tennessee, and late Three 6 Mafia member Koopsta Knicca was a part of it (via Pitchfork). According to his estate, Koopsta wrote lyrics for "Tear da Club Up '97," among other songs, and the estate was looking for ownership of the cut. There's no word on where the case stands as of September 2021, and neither Juicy J nor Paul has responded to the claim. But it's safe to say they would rather not deal with this issue so that they can just continue making music. Gangsta Boo and Crunchy Black, the other living Three 6 members, don't appear to have any involvement in the suit.