Dirty Mafiosi

The biggest (only?) rap sensation out of Memphis, Three 6 Mafia have been putting in work since 1993. Their "Tear Da Club Up" single ruled Southern dance floors in '97, and since then they've released a slew of projects (both solo and as a group). Comprised of DJ Paul, Juicy "J" on production, Gangsta Boo, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black and Koopsta Knicca on the mic, the Mafia are poised to blow up in an industry where Southern groups are finally getting their props.

For the Mafia, like many other Dirty South crews (namely No Limit, Cash Money, and their growing legions of imitators), deep lyrics are clearly not a priority. Most tracks here fixate on murder, money, sex, haters and drugs, with some Memphis pride thrown into the mix for good measure. Luckily, the group's over-the-top style, boosted by occasionally excellent tracks from "the super producers" saves this album from becoming just another addition to the increasingly crowded "dirty dirty" scene.

While drug references pop up in many songs, two of the album's highlights are unabashed tributes to intoxication. "Sippin' on Some Syrup" (RealAudio excerpt) — which includes shout-outs to Nyquil, weed and ecstasy — sees Project Pat and Texas pimps UGK joining the crew, over an excellent instrumental that's rife with layered keys and crispy 808 beats. "I'm So Hi" (RealAudio excerpt) is all about the reefer, with the MCs riding an ill guitar loop, almost reminiscent of classic Cypress Hill.

"From da Back" (RealAudio excerpt) is one of several tracks that showcases the crew's lone female member, Gangsta Boo, who comes with the hardcore nympho rhymes a la Lil' Kim, Trina, etc.

Lots of guests lend a hand, including Big Gipp of the Goodie MOb, Fiend and Insane Clown Posse. But with so many songs, Three 6 still stay in control. They won't win praises as positive role models or lyrical wizards, but some of their stuff is actually pretty engaging. Most tracks stick to one formula, but when it works, it works well.