Three 6 Mafia
Most Known Hits
Columbia
2005
B+



stay Fly" may have busted the doors down for Three 6 Mafia to finally become commercial hitmakers in 2005, but as they acknowledged on the accompanying album's title, Most Known Unknown, Three 6 have been operating on the fringes of the mainstream for roughly half of their decade-plus career. With a fistful of regional hits and at least a half dozen albums selling gold or near-platinum, the Memphis collective could hardly have been considered obscure before "Stay Fly." But with TRL and daytime radio on their jock and MTV offering them their own show, their status appears to be at an all-time high, the perfect time to release the greatest hits album and let the new jacks catch up. In other words, it's the package that casual fans like me, who've always enjoyed their singles and guest spots, but are intimidated by Three 6's huge back catalog and constant onslaught of new music, have been waiting for.

Released hot on the heels of Most Known Unknown and notably omitting "Stay Fly" as to not take away sales from that album, Most Known Hits covers the entirety of Three 6's major label career, starting with 1997's Chapt. 2: World Domination. And it begins with the two tracks that until recently were the group's biggest hits, both collaborations with Houston veterans: 2003's "Ridin' Spinners" featuring Lil Flip, and 2000's "Sippin' On Some Syrup" featuring UGK. They also set the precedent for the closest thing to a hit-making formula that the Three 6 Mafia has come up with so far, which consists of making an anthem about a trend or accessory already popular in Southern hip hop, including "Ridin' Spinners" (spinning rims), "Sippin' On Some Syrup" (recreational cough syrup consumption), "2 Way Freak" (Motorola two-way pagers), and "Tongue Ring" (sexually suggestive piercings). Other common themes among their hits include time-tested favorites: sex ("Slob On My Knob," "Ass & Titties," "Squeeze It") and violence ("Tear Da Club Up '97," "Hit A Muthafucka").

Of course, it's not the subject matter that's endeared Three 6 Mafia to a worshipful cult of fans, but the production of the group's only two permanent members, DJ Paul and Juicy J, the Super Producers. Many rappers have come and gone throughout Three 6's career before the lineup was whittled down to its current configuration: the two core members and Crunchy Black. But the only constants are Juice and Paul's dark, lush instrumentals, and the blocky, halting cadence of their raps. The fact that their sound has remained so consistent over the course of tracks that cover a nine-year timeline is a testament to Three 6's commitment to a strain of Southern hip-hop that scarcely had a presence on the pop charts until fairly recently.

To their credit, Three 6 Mafia have made what's likely to be seen as a quickie cash-in into a well-sequenced collection that holds together as an album. Many tracks segue gracefully into each other with fade-ins and fade-outs. And in addition to the hit singles, the selection of less obvious tracks is top-shelf, including "Hypnotize Cash Money," a 1999 collaboration with the Hot Boyz and the Big Tymers, and "Testin' My Gangsta," one of Three 6's dopest Willie Hutch sample-lifts prior to "Stay Fly." The absence of "Stay Fly" and one of the biggest hits to ever come out of the HCP, Project Pat's "Chicken Head," means that Most Known Hits isn't quite the comprehensive hits collection it could've been, but it's damn close enough.


Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2006-02-02
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