It goes without saying that a listener shouldn’t come into Stay Trippy to hear Three 6 Mafia’s Juicy J simply rap. He hasn’t focused on doing just that in over a decade. Trap rap has become sort of a Thing over the past few years, but fellow Memphis native Justin Timberlake chuckled at the thought of this during a recent interview at Hot 97.
This was because he knew Juicy J and Three 6 Mafia has been bringing the sounds of trap since the ’90s. They’ve had the same thrill-seeking, live hard and fast, bass-bumping focus; they’ve just been able to keep on repackaging it all well since their founding decade. “Stay Fly” and the academy-award winning “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” weren’t all that new for the group. It was simply a more accessible switch up, and the mainstream audience took the bait.
With that said, it’s best to view Juicy J more as a salesman than a rapper on Stay Trippy, and it feels like he’s come up with a way to resell his product on this effort after struggling with the formula for his first two solo albums. In this package, absolutely everything has to be over-the-top. The blunts can’t just get you high; they must obliterate you into complete incoherence. Copious amounts of codeine must be consumed, various acts of belligerence must be committed and twerking is a valid college scholarship application (see “Scholarship” featuring A$AP Rocky).
It’s all absurdist by social standards, but Juicy J works in his own world and time frame on Stay Trippy. This is a space that treads the line between psychedelic and hypnotic, experimental and weird, and assertive and threatening while blurring the lines between those adjectives. Juicy J’s insistence on making banger after banger through repetitious hooks are hamfisted at-times, but the unsavory nature of Mike WiLL Made It and Crazy Mike’s bass lines and druggy synths makes this peek into Juicy J’s habitually purple-tinted vision an enjoyable one for the most part. It’s escapism driven by earthy pleasures.
Juicy J still raps monotonously, but there’s a sense of glee here. It could be just me, but there are multiple times you can sort of picture Juicy J just angrily snarling behind tinted shades, gold grills gleaming and all.
In “Smoke A N***a”, Juicy J switches from recreation drug use to a cold murder threat on the hook with a rough nonchalance as the claps and woozy synths surround him. It all feels claustrophobic and direct enough to somehow elicit a physical reaction. There’s also Juicy J deadpanning the ridiculously crude “If giving head was a college, she would be summa cum laude” on the thumping “So Much Money”. It’s another extreme Juicy J explores completely ignorant of social mores as if he exists outside of them. That sort of existence feels exotic, and like all entities of that nature, it inspires some sense of intrigue between all the head bobs and elbow throws.
For the most part, Stay Trippy’s songs all have single potential, except perhaps the lazy The Weeknd-sampling “Smokin’ Rollin’” and the ultra-soft, Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa-featuring “Talkin’ Bout”. Juicy J acts like some sort of trap head coach on the raucous album-opening “Stop It”. “Wax”, A$AP Rocky-featuring “Scholarship”, and “The Woods” with Justin Timberlake—especially “The Woods”, which features Timberlake playing the sexual enigma to Juicy J’s animalistic pleasures—are easily accessible cuts among many.
But it’s hard to listen to it all in one sitting rather than listening to the 16 tracks piece-by-piece. Not to say it’s entirely draining, but hearing Juicy J hit you with a series of loosely sequenced bangers for a little over an hour can feel like an absurdist endurance test for the casual listener. It’s sort of like downing a keg of Hennessy instead of taking just sips, except it won’t kill you. Shaky guest verses from the disinterested Wiz Khalifa, a bizarrely loud and grating Yelawolf (“Gun Plus a Mask”), and an awkward Big Sean (the otherwise solid “Show Out”) don’t make the mixture go down smoother either.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” Juicy J’s comeback single featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. It’s heyday as The Hit has passed a while ago, but it stands now as a statement that just happens to be backed by that excellently syrupy beat from Mike WiLL Made It. The key moment is when Juicy J raps, “You say no to ratchet p***y, Juicy J can’t.” It’s a climaxing line where Juicy J casts himself as the face of this clubby style of hip-hop, a style he has thrived in. Yes, it’s unapologetically ignorant of socially and musically progressive ideas. Regardless, that’s still an undeniably quotable line that was constantly referred to in tweets, played in dorm rooms, and chanted along to in the clubs. As long as there’s an audience seeking those straightforward thrills, Juicy J will be in demand.
3 out of 5
You can buy Stay Trippy on Amazon.