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Three 6 Mafia 

With Project Pat. Saturday, February 2, at the Agora.

One thing that has remained constant in the finicky world of hip-hop is the fact that sex, drugs, and controversy sell more records than lyrics, beats, and originality. The most puerile pioneers of this trend may very well be Three 6 Mafia, which built its foundation on controversy, then rounded out its sound with a hearty mix of sex and drugs.

Three 6 first garnered a buzz in the mid-'90s for spitting what some believed to be demonic lyrics. It also had a public beef with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, which caused it to lose a lot of fans in the 216. Then, in 1998, Three 6 really got busy. Having successfully created enough controversy to get them started, the members worked toward completing the formula. The oversexed Gangsta Boo emerged as one of the most sought-after female MCs in the game, and Three 6 Mafia as a group (rounded out by DJ Paul, Juicy J, Crunchy Black, and comrade Project Pat) released "Who Run It" (which is still a club banger). After this, the 1999 single "Sippin' on Syrup" blew up, bringing the group MTV exposure to complement its rising street credibility. The video featured bikini-clad models sipping "syrup" (a sometimes deadly mixture of cough syrup and liquefied narcotics) -- out of baby bottles. As a result, Three 6 Mafia quickly became a household name.

Now, although these Memphis players boast enough misogyny, drug use, and violence to make the late Eazy E blush, they aren't the dopest MCs around; nor are they the most attractive. Still, you have to respect their game. They have record sales, street credibility, and a recent movie release, Choices, to quiet their critics, if not their conscience.

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