Still trippy after all these years

by Ryan Snyder


“Greensboro, can I live here?,” Juicy J asked an uncomfortably packed house Wednesday night at Greene Street Club. “Will you get me high? Can I play Xbox all day?”

Those are the terms for the Three 6 Mafia cofounder Juicy J, and he backed them up over the course of a 14-song set of Trap gold. “Zip and a Double Cup”? Don’t mind if he do [sic]. “Geeked Up Off Them Bars”? You betcha. You could say that he lives the Life of Riley day in and day out, but his tier of louchery demands the term be recast. The Life of Juicy, maybe? At 37, Juicy is fairly old for a rapper. He’s at that age when the average thirtysomething scalawag might toss their ill-gotten Xanies scrip and take a hard look at his life and values. But like the Peter Pan (in particular, the Robin Williams version) of hip hop, Juicy J is going to stay trippy for life.

Maybe it’s in the company he keeps. His homeboy from back in the Memphis day and occasional collaborator Eric Gales was in the building. Gales, who actually just did make Greensboro his home, said he’s known Juicy since they were both teenagers, and Juicy hasn’t changed all that much. As the headliner of the third installment of the Smoker’s Club tour, he was among rappers young enough that they should have been calling him “sir” or at least “Mr. Juicy” (new sitcom idea: “Hangin’ with Mr. Juicy”, this fall on the the WB). The occupants of his tour bus were no different: mostly all very early twentysomething (and maybe that’s pushing it) locals who would eventually be caught up in a search and seizure by the Greensboro Police after one of them detected the smell of marijuana coming from it.

The idea that such activities would transpire inside the mobile accommodations for something called the Smoker’s Club tour is not so farfetched, and there’s local precedent. Juicy’s last stop in the Triad back in May as support for Taylor Gang honcho Wiz Khalifa met with similar results; a big to-do over a tiny bit of weed (less than half an ounce). The operation netted a single citation for possession out of the dozen or so searched, regardless of how far Juicy is under the influence, he could probably stand to be a worse influence.

Inside the venue, it was a slightly different story. Greene Street Club’s security staff stands head and shoulders above any other crew in the city in doing their jobs, but they still had their hands full with tokers and scufflers. Spotting the former was particularly difficult given the critical mass inhabiting the main room, especially since large blowers pushing manufactured steam around the room were helpful in obfuscating. That’s not to include the occasional pair of bare breasts produced at Juicy’s pleasure that charmed away every pair of male eyes in the vicinity.

Juicy J, however, is a show worth watching. He ran out on stage sporting one of his signature “We Trippy Mane” Ts, tossing out one I-can’t-believe-he-said-that line after another. A soul-music connoisseur could drown in the sea of bassed-up Harold Melvin and Willie Hutch samples he weaves with those awesomely ignorant lyrics. “You say no to drugs/ Juicy J can’t,” he rapped on the oft-quoted show opener “Zip and A Double Cup.” It gets worse/better: “On a beam, drinking dirty Sprite/ ‘Bout to [somethin’] that [somethin’] raw/ ’Bout to roll the dice.” By that time, the salt-and-pepper line outside stretched down the street. Most of them would miss his nods to Three 6 Mafia; he savored the beats to “Stay Fly” and “Sippin’ On Some Syrup,” but only tossed out a single verse to each.

Writer Jody Rosen introduced a critical paradigm some years back called “poptimism” which argued that even mass-produced pop should be examined and appreciated on level playing field with rock music. If there’s no place for bias against pop, then there’s also a place for Trap, the basest of Southern hip hop, and Juicy J is a Traptimist of the first degree. If there’s no argument for it, at least there’s an audience for it.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan