Three 6 Mafia may feel they’re the “Most Known Unknown” in the music business but this reviewer is intimately familiar with them – perhaps too much so. To be frank there’s just something about the Three 6 rappers that makes the other staff contributors not want to touch them with a ten foot pole. I can’t say I blame them. My reviews of their last three releases, from “Choices – The Album” to “Da Unbreakables” to the “Choices II” sequel have all had one thing in common – pretty good beats with some damn stupid lyrics. You could say Steve ‘Flash’ Juon dug his own hole and buried himself in it. Thanks to those reviews nobody else is going to cover their albums, yet everytime a new one gets released the public still e-mails RapReviews asking for a write-up.

Trying hard as hell not to let previous experience with the Mafia bias this review from the start, I put the newest Three 6 album in my five-disc changer and push play. The first thing this writer heard off “Most Known Unknown” was not more of DJ Paul and Juicy J’s dope beats – it was KA-CHUNK. Ka-chunk? That’s the sound of a five-disc changer grinding to a halt when there are no compact discs in it to play. Guess what? “Most Known Unknown” is another one of those damn dual-discalbums like the last new releases from Cassidy and Jim Jones among others. The music industry seems to like these things, but I sure don’t. First of all since they’re not really CD’s they’re not even guaranteed to work in your CD player; and second of all since they’re “dual-sided” if you put in the wrong side it’s not going to play music any damn way. I appreciate they want to bonus me some DVD shit but can’t they put it on a seperate DVD disc instead of on the flipside of a CD that because of dual-disc technology isn’t really a CD at all? Fortunately in this case it wasn’t the five-disc changer not being able to read the album, it was just the poorly marked disc being upside down and on the DVD side. Perhaps unfortunately now that I think about it – I could have been excused from covering this if the shit didn’t work.

Technical issues aside this album does start out on a fairly promising note. The opening song “Stay Fly” (also known as “Stay High” but renamed for the album, probably to fool concerned parents) is a veritable all-star Southern romp featuring Eightball, MJG and Young Buck rapping with the Mafia members. The beat is the kind of smoothed out shit you’d expect from a Three 6 single, with a catchy chorus that’s going to be blowing out of car speakers and iPod headphones from coast to coast. MJG’s ability to spit at triple speed is pretty damn impressive at the start of the verse, and Juicy J’s lyrics at least by Three 6’s own standards aren’t too bad:

“Call me the Juice and you know I’m a stunt
Ridin in the car with some bump in the trunk
Tone in my lap and you know it’s a pump
Breakin down the good green, rollin the blunt
Ghetto pimp tight girls say I’m the mayne
Ice on the wrist with the ice in the chain
Ridin through the hood, got me grippin the grain
And I’m sippin the same, while I’m changin the lane”

It’s not exquisite urban poetry by any means, but it’s certainly no worse than Mike Jones and slightly comparable to Paul Wall. Speaking of which, both rappers are guest stars on the song “Swervin’,” and music guests seem to be the M.O. throughout this album. Project Pat is on “Roll With It” among other tracks, Lil’ Flip is on “Don’t Cha Get Mad,” Frayser Boy is on “Don’t Violate,” Remy Martin drops in for “Bitch Got Ya Hooked,” and the “Stay Fly” remix is damn near a musical overload by introducing Slim Thug and Trick Daddy – the only person missing who would have been appropriate is the quick spitting Chicago fly guy Twista. There are very few songs with no guest appearances whatsoever – the non-lyrical intro, “Poppin’ My Collar,” the bouncy car anthem “Side 2 Side” and “Half on a Sack” among them. I have to be perfectly honest – given the choice between R. Kelly’s “Half on a Baby” and Three 6’s ode to smoking weed, I’d go with the Mafia each time.

To say I was pleasantly surprised by this album would be overdoing it, but it’s arguably a lot better than previous Three 6 experiences lead me to believe it would be. Maybe I’ve just heard so many God-awful rappers lately that DJ Paul and Juicy J have gotten better by comparison, but I think it’s more likely that overloading their album with guest stars and keeping the beats fat makes for a somewhat enjoyable experience. I’m still not big on this “dual-disc” bullshit but if Three 6 Mafia’s “Most Known Unknown” works in yo’ shit it’s worth copping. They’re not going down as great lyricists but between the beats and the cameos they cover their weaknesses well and you can’t fault them for that if it results in a good product.

Three 6 Mafia :: Most Known Unknown
6.5Overall Score