Interview with Lord Infamous (RIP) — March 30th 2009
As many of you will have already heard, Three 6 Mafia founding member Lord Infamous passed away on December 20th 2013 as a result of a heart attack. He was 40.
Several media outlets at the time of his death linked to my in-depth March 2009 interview with the legendary Memphis musician, so I saw fit to republish it in full below. I should mention that any ill feelings expressed in the interview towards former members of the group were resolved in 2013, and everyone, even Juicy J, appeared together on effective Triple Six Mafia reunion album Da Mafia 6ix — 6ix Commandments.
Originally published on March 30th 2009
RIP Ricky ‘Lord Infamous’ Dunigan. And my deepest condolences to his friends and family.
Whether spitting demonically twisted twists as The Scarecrow or abrasive crunk couplets as Keyser Soze, South Parkway Village-South Memphis legend, Triple Six Mafia co-founder and part-time psychotic prescription drug fanatic Lord Infamous has always taken his and Three 6 Mafia‘s music to another realm and is a hardcore fan favourite.
Having given his brother DJ Paul‘s group some distance while he saw to some personal and legal issues, Lord hasn’t stopped grinding. In 2007, he dropped ‘The Man, The Myth, The Legacy’ a whole 13 years after his solo debut ‘Lord Of Terror’. Then, in January this year, Lord released ‘After Sics’ with Black Rain Ent artist showcase crew the Club House Click, leading to suspicions that, musically at least, he wouldn’t be dealing with Three 6 in the near future.
And with some harder-core Three 6 fans feeling ill at ease with some of the single choices the group, now consisting of only Paul and Juicy, have gone for, there was a collective sigh of relief, mixed with intense delight, that on the promotional run-up to Paul’s upcoming solo album ‘Scale-A-Ton’ the pair were reunited on the excellent ‘Pop A Pill’ and in both audio and low-fi video glory on ‘You On’t Want It’.
I caught up with the man born Ricky Dunigan while he was at a cousin’s house in East Memphis:
What’s your current status with Three 6?
I never left Three 6. I’ve always been a part of Three 6. I did some time and that was holding the group back and I don’t wanna hold my brother back — you know Paul’s my half-brother. They just went on doing they thing, and it’s like a breach of contract when you go to jail so it fucked up things with Sony. They had just released a double platinum album and the Oscar single for the Hustle & Flow soundtrack and stuff, so I just had to wait. But I’m about to join back up with ’em though. Me and my brother at least are gonna do some more of that underground stuff that we did in the first place, you know, the ‘Come With Me To Hell’ type stuff, and maybe there may be a surprise Three 6 thing in the future, but we still discussing that.
As someone who was there from the very beginning, do you regret not reaping the rewards of the Oscar and chart success the group has had more recently?
Of course, of course. Even though if it wasn’t for what happened previously, all the success we had previously, it’s not like you can come straight from an underground record to Oscar status and be recognised by the people at the Academy. Me and Paul had a conversation about this actually when I got out of jail. I congratulated him because I came out like the day before it came on and I was like: ‘I’m proud of you’. And he told me: ‘Well don’t be proud of me because we couldn’t have did it without all the stuff you did’.
So do you still speak to Paul often?
Yeah. I just wanna say RIP to Juanita Beauregard; that’s our mother and she just passed February 2nd and I want the world to know about her. She was a good woman.
How did she influence your music?
She put up with all our noise in the bedroom, because we started off with a little studio in our bedroom. And our room was right next to her and pops’ bedroom, so they couldn’t stand the noise because we made a lot of racket and we had other rappers coming in all the time, and they put up with that. And plus, she listened to a lot of soul music when we was growing up so that influenced us. And in church. She tried to make us go to church but we just didn’t tend to stick with it.
So how did she react when you started putting out music talking about the devil and that kind of stuff?
She was proud of us, but at the same time you know how older people are. She didn’t really pay attention to what we was saying. She would hear about it but she wouldn’t really give us any strife about it or nothing. And she knew it was just music.
When did you write your first ever verse?
Man, I been rapping since I was 15. At the time I was listening to a lot of New York rappers, like Eric B and Rakim, and I was listening to a lot of DOC and NWA and Slick Rick, people like that. Public Enemy… The first rap I ever did was a Chuck D verse. I used to rap ‘My Uzi Weighs A Ton’ in school and people used to like it so I said: ‘Well fuck that I’ma start writin’ my own shit’. People seemed to like my shit. I’m not saying I’m better than Chuck D, but people seemed to like my own shit. Down south we have our own kind of music, you know, we talk about different subjects than what people talk about up north.
There was a few underground rappers popular down here, guys like Gangsta Pat, Eightball and MJG was already doing they thing, and you got Skinny Pimp and I used to hear their little tapes. There was a deejay named Sunny D and a deejay named Spanish Fly and they used to sell people mixtapes; so I used to get them and say: ‘How hard can this be? How do they loop the beats and how do they programme the drum machines?’. So we started going over to a deejay’s house named Just Born and we would watch everything he would do and what kind of equipment he would have and watch how he would loop records and programme the drum machine and what kind of boards he would use.
There was a couple of drug dealers in our immediate family who had a lot of money that we used to fuck around with. So we would hustle dope at school and we hustled up enough to buy us our own equipment and then we started making these mixtapes called ‘DJ Paul Killer Mixes’ and we would go back to high school to sell ’em. And then as more people were buying them we bought ourselves a little tape-pressing machine; so we pressed up like four cassettes at a time.
And the demand got bigger and bigger so we started going to a place named S&W Distribution where they would press up large amounts of cassettes, and they would do it wholesale. Then we would go to Sam’s Wholesale Club and buy cassette tapes in bulk and press ’em up. Then we started taking ’em to these stereo stores where they do car stereos and they would sell our cassettes. And they would put up little posters of us and then they started selling out of stores real fast.
So we went from selling them out of high school, to selling them out of the trunk, to these stereo stores and then went from there to where it was just too much for S&W. People wanted it so bad that they couldn’t supply our demand, so we had to get a distribution deal. We didn’t really want to because we were making all the money but it gets to a point where you need it, so we went to Select-O, a local distribution company in Memphis, you know Johnny Phillips, Sam Phillips’s brother. You know Sam Phillips that did Elvis? His brother was called Johnny Phillips. And you know Sun Studios and all that, well Johnny Phillips had a distribution company called Select-O-Hits. We went to him and then that’s when we started making stuff like ‘Mystic Styles’ and then shit just blew out of control. The next thing you know New York starts calling and LA starts calling and I believe we went to Relativity first, then we went to Loud, then we went on to Sony, you know how that shit goes..
Was it your goal to make good music or money?
I always wanted to be good at what I did, I wanted to be different. At first I wasn’t in it for fame, I was really just trying to make some money ’cause I dropped out of school and sometimes hard times will hit. But you get tired of selling drugs and God blessed me with a talent. I guess I used it in a way that he wouldn’t want me to use it, you know the devil thing, the satanic rap thing. But that was just my forté, it was just what I was good at, and I just felt like I liked doing dark music.
I don’t like all that chipper-ass, ring-a-ding-a-ding-ass music. I’m sayin’ that Will Smith type shit, you know? I don’t like that type of shit. And you know I liked NWA but I said I don’t wanna talk about gangbangin’. You know we got gangs here, I’m not gonna say what gang we were in but we were in a gang, but I didn’t wanna do that kind of gangbang type of thing so I said I’ma take it to another level, I’m gonna do something dark. What’s worse than a gangbanger? Evil, satan itself. So I said I’m gonna venture into that side of it and that’s how that came about.
Can you explain the zone you were in when you were writing some of those classic demonic lyrics?
[Laughs] Yeah, I can explain the high zone. Very high. Not all the time, well, a lot of the time [laughs]. You know, it gets to a point man to be real with you, when rapping is not fun no more, it became a job and when something becomes a job it’s not fun any more. So, I hate to say it but, I had to kinda get fucked up before I got on stage or before I went in the studio because I used to do it because I enjoyed it but now I do it to pay the bills. Not no disrespect to my fans, ’cause I love ’em to death and I’m very happy they’re pleased with my music but it’s just what I do. It’s how I eat, it’s how I take care of myself. But I still enjoy it when I hear a good beat and I hear someone who’s doing it from the heart and I’m in the studio with some people with good energy.
But a lot of the time you’re around these record label types, these characters, they just look at you like a negro slave, you know what I’m sayin? They might get along with you if you sell records and be your friend but if sales go down then it’s like ‘fuck you’, you know what I’m sayin?
So it must be good now to be doing independent stuff with Black Rain?
Yeah, but I’m not gon’ lie, I kinda miss Paul doing everything for me [laughs]. It’s cool but at the same time I have to talk to a lot of these assholes myself now and I can see why Paul used to be so hard on my about showin’ up to the studio and to shows and shit, being fucked up sometimes. He used to have to come and find me ’cause I didn’t give a fuck ’cause we was making a lot of money, man… but I hate dealing with these distribution people and these fuckin’, you know these fuckin’ A&R agents and publicists and all that shit. But you have to do that. It is what it is.
What was your favourite period musically with Three 6?
There was two good periods. I liked the ‘When The Smoke Clears’ time and the Tear Da Club Up Thugs time, I enjoyed that. Tear Da Club Up Thugs was more of a personal project of mine because with Tear Da Club Up Thugs I did like… a lot of people may not know this but I do a lot of the writing for Three 6, a lot of the choruses for Three 6, and you know Paul and Juicy write they own verses but me, Paul and Juicy mostly come up with all the choruses. And they used to use a lot of my input in most of the songs back when I was like really mainstream with the group but only to the point where I was helping them with a lot of the ideas. They came up with all the music, and Paul would come up with the hooks too, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I did all the writing, but I did a lot of it.
My brother started the group, you know, and I came up with the name. So me and Paul came up with that together. We came up with the name from an underground song we did, around the first time we met Juicy. I just happened to say that in a rap, like “Triple Six Mafia and a ’44 Mag, infra red and a silencer”. And then when he heard that line he was like: ‘Man that’s cool!’ — so we kept that name.
So what was the story with the Backyard Posse?
That was before Three 6, that was when we was with this cat name Homicide and this dude named Nigga 9 and Gangsta Blac and Lil Fly and all that stuff — some cats outta South Memphis. But that didn’t last long. And we was growing as a group for bigger things so sometimes you have to clean house and make changes.
Did you help out with any of the newer Three 6 tracks when you were in jail?
When I was locked up? No, no, no, no… You know what? When I was locked up I didn’t make one phone call or write one letter. I didn’t want to hear from the outside world ’cause I would look at the other niggas in there and motherfuckers… if you calling home and calling yo’ bitch every five minutes, it ain’t gon’ make the ho not fuck off on you. If you callin’ home and checkin’ and callin’ niggas, it ain’t gon’ make them come and put money on your books, you know what I’m sayin? You just makin’ it worse ’cause the more you talk to the outside world, the more you gon’ miss the outside world. So all I did was work out and wrote and did my fuckin’ time. You know you can talk on the phone with her ass all day long but she can be fuckin’ with somebody while she on the phone wit you so [laughs]. So I didn’t worry about those little things.
Did you get a lot of respect in jail?
Aw yeah, I had no problems. Hell naw, I didn’t have no problems. I always trip off a lot of these rappers. They talk all this tough guy shit but as soon as they ass ‘bout to go to jail they wanna do all kinds of charity events and become philanthropists and talk to kids and shit — you know who I’m talkin’ about because a certain rapper ‘bout to go to the fed right now and now he all on TV talkin’ about guns and this and that.
And another certain rapper, you know what I’m sayin, they wanna be claiming gangs, but when the real gangs catch ’em out in they city they wanna run, they get scared. So, if you ain’t true to it don’t do it. You know I’m not proud of it but I’ve been to jail a few times in my life and I know how to handle myself. And I’m only 5″5′ so, you know what I’m sayin, these motherfuckers kill me, they talkin’ all that shit but as soon as they see it’s real, as soon as they don’t get no bond, and they ass got to stay in jail and they got to do some time, they bitch out. Or they be in they pen for protection and shit like that.
Before you dropped your last solo album, ‘The Man, The Myth, The Legacy’, it seemed like you were going through some personal problems, would you care to share anything you learned from that period?
[Laughs] Yeah, I learned run a little faster this time [laughs]. Being serious, I’ll put it this way, if you gonna… it’s no secret that I get high, right?
It’s no secret, ok. Like ol’ folks in the south say: ‘It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it’. I just got to be a little more cool. I just got to be not so fucked up in certain situations where there’s gonna be police around and I have so many drugs on me. Let me keep it real witcha, I still get high, but not as high all the time, I’ll put it that way.
Is it still ‘always Coca Cola’?
[Laughs] Ahh, you know it [laughs]. But, you know, me I’m not much of a coke man as much any more, I’m a prescription drug kinda dude. I like Oxycottons and patches that are kinda like Morphine suckers, and I like yellow, I like ‘Tuss and that. I’m not a big ecstasy guy. I know that’s big out there where you from but y’all got better X out there ’cause y’all get your shit from Amsterdam. The X out here is bullshit. Like back in the day, back in the late ’90s and 2000, the X was wonderful. You could roll 24 hours, but now this shit man you might be rollin’ 15 minutes and then you just can’t sleep afterwards, you know?
You know a lot of the artists that have come and gone from Paul and Juicy’s inner circle have gravitated towards the New Prophet Posse. Do you feel like the Memphis underground is making a bit of a resurgence at the moment?
They not real. That’s the fake-ass Prophet Posse. You know I did something with him, the dude named Nick Scarfo. Let me tell you the truth about him, the only reason I did a song with them was that I didn’t want them to fuck up the Prophet Posse name. But he fuckin’ it up, he’s not taking care of his artists correctly, he’s not doing it right and the only reason he’s got the Prophet Posse from us anyway is because a long time ago he so-called invested in the label. So when we came to Hypnotize Minds we let him get that, but you know we thought he was cool but really he wasn’t cool.
He’s a sheisty-ass nigga. He ain’t cool, I don’t fuck with him. The members of Prophet Posse, they cool, I don’t blame them for what one asshole’s doing. Scarfo himself, he’s not cool. Let your fans know this, they have nothing to do with Three 6 Mafia. They have nothing to do with the old Prophet Posse. And you may hear Gangsta Boo and her ass on that shit. You may even hear one verse he probably got from me but that’s only because I helped invent Prophet Posse. I helped invent that name Prophet Posse, so I hate to see them take something that I did and make a mockery of it. So I did a collaboration with him but knowing what I know now, in hindsight I wouldn’t have did it. He fuckin’ it up anyway. But they have nothing to do with Three 6. They have nothing to do with Hypnotize Minds. Let that be known.
And recently you’ve been doing a lot of work with T-Rock, who has previously dissed you for your old drug habits…
I can understand it, ’cause with T-Rock, at least he did it like a man. You know, we had a fallin’ out, and the whole fallin’ out with T-Rock was between him and this other cat, I’m not gonna mention his name, and he was startin’ a whole lot of shit between us and T-Rock. So T-Rock went his way and he did some things. We handled it in the street, you know what I’m sayin’, and you know after that we squashed the shit and now everything cool. I ain’t the type of motherfucker that hold a grudge as long as you handle it like a man. If I see you in the street and you handle it like a man with me… you know, we got him up in the street and we did our thing and we had it out. You know, there was winners, there was losers, so I’m not gonna say who won or who lost but people know [laughs].
But T-Rock, he didn’t hold no grudge, he took it like a man, so therefore I’m cool with him. You know T-Rock is a very lyrical guy, he’s real gifted, he’s skilled, you know what I’m sayin’? And it’s about business, you know? This is a business. People get it confused. At the end of the day, when motherfuckers get through dissin’ and talkin’ shit this is a business. The only reason people diss is because they intimidated by another artist. They intimidated that you gon’ take their sales and take their fans so they diss ’em to try to lower they credibility and make ’em look like they pussies in the street to fuck they street credibility ’cause once you a gangsta rapper and someone fuck with your street credibility your career’s over with. So if you wanna be like Chris Brown, be like Chris Brown, but don’t talk that gangsta shit if you ain’t a gangsta.
How do you feel about artists…
This is Paul texting me now… but anyway, say it again.
How do you feel about artists like Kia Shine…
I don’t like him.
I mean, how do you feel about artists like Kia Shine who are from Tennessee but are using a more generic ATL sound?
Right, right, right, but then he wanna claim Memphis. Motherfuckers like him and Yo Gotti kill me because the simple fact is those motherfuckers used to wanna be like us, they used to want autographs from us, they used to come to our studios trying to get us to sign them. Then they wanna make records to try to diss us. What you sayin’ motherfuckers? You used to be on our dick. So the same motherfuckers that wanna be like us make songs about us and then they shit flop ’cause they tried to go commercial and shit. They tryin’ to sound like everybody else. But I’m not gon’ lie, there’s a lot of shit that reminds me of Memphis shit but I’m not gon’ hate on it. Whatever works for them. As far as them tryin’ to sound like Atlanta rappers, well there’s a lot of Atlanta rappers tryin’ to sound like Memphis rappers so I can’t knock nobody for that… But as a human being I don’t like his ass.
Are there any former HCP artists that you can’t make amends with?
You know what, I can make amends with all of them because I don’t let that bullshit get to me, but me and Boo don’t get along that great. We have trouble getting along. I got love for Crunchy, I got love for Koop, I got love for Gangsta Blac, but Boo, she just got some kind of chip on her shoulder. And she can be a little bitch sometimes. She wants to be more than what the fuck she is but that’s the reason she fucked up with the group — she thought she was like the Lil Kim of Three 6 Mafia but she was far from that and she got mad because her little solo album didn’t sell. She a hater, you know?
What about Chat?
That’s my girl. I love Chat. Chat’s a cool mu’fucker. Now Chat was originally with us from Mystic Styles but she had a jealous-ass boyfriend. So Chat was with us from the beginning, but she had went away but then she came back. Then Koch Records fucked some shit up for her and then like she got mad but Chat has always been cool.
Have you heard much of Paul’s album?
Yeah, I hear everything they do. You know I told Paul the other day, I’m not a big ‘Lolli Lolli’ fan because that’s not the kind of shit I’m used to doing with them, but then he told me it sold two million just in ringtones so I said: ‘Well I respect that then’ [laughs]. I respect that. I got kinda jealous [laughs].
How likely is it that you’ll do something underground with Paul?
Very likely, he just got through texting me while I was on the phone with you so very much likely.
How do you feel Memphis was represented on Hustle & Flow?
I feel Memphis wasn’t represented right on Hustle & Flow. I think they did a good job with the movie but it didn’t capture Memphis. It ain’t that easy to get a little hit here, it ain’t that easy to get a little studio and just make a little song like ‘Whoop that trick, whoop that trick’ — even though we made all that music but it ain’t that simple, it don’t work that way.
Certain parts of Memphis is like that but it’s not like that. I’m glad they came here and I’m glad they picked us and I’m proud of the project but I just feel like it coulda captured a deeper essence of Memphis. They made us seem like we just some simple country bumpkins. Memphis is much more complex than that. This is a major metropolitan city, people don’t realise it but this is not just a bunch of people with lawnmowers and cotton fields and raggedy houses and shit [laughs]. It’s much more than that.
Who are your top five Memphis rappers of all time?
Paul, Eightball and MJG, I’ma add me ’cause I feel like I’m one of the good ones, and I’ma say Skinny Pimp.
What’s Black Rain Ent got planned for 2009?
Me and T-Rock and II Tone supposed to be doing a project, and we’re gonna work on a II Tone solo album, a Mac Montese solo album possibly in the future, and I’m looking for artists right now.