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This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
It was Jan. 31, 2006. I was in Memphis, Tenn., laying in bed. It was early in the morning when Juicy J called. He was going crazy: “Man, we’re nominated for an Oscar!” And I was like, “A what?” “An Oscar.” “All right. Let me call you back. I’m asleep.”
To be honest, I didn’t know what the hell an Oscar was. So I Googled the word. And then I saw that gold man — and I was like, “Holy sheriff!” That woke me right up. I had heard of the Academy Awards, but I didn’t know the name “Oscar” meant the Academy Awards. So I called Juicy J right back: “You mean the gold man?!” “That’s right! It’s for Hustle & Flow!”
Then we got on the phone with our lawyer: “Yeah, they want y’all to fly out to L.A. and meet with them [about performing during the ceremony].” I think they wanted to see what they were getting into. So we flew out to L.A., and they f—ing loved us. We met Gil Cates, and he ran us through the process — what they wanted us to wear and what we’d be doing. I was like, “Do y’all want us to wear suits?” “Nah, we don’t want you to wear suits.” And I’m like, “For real?” “We just want you to be yourself — wear street clothes.” Gil Cates was a real good guy, man. Real, real cool.
Three 6 Mafia showed off their trophies at the 2006 Oscars.
We came back to L.A. a few weeks before the show for rehearsals. And that’s when they hit me with a real banger: “You gotta sing live with no vocals.” I was like, “Damn,” because we always have like a little layer of the vocal tracks behind us when we do concerts. You know — just in case we miss a word. If we’re too drunk or something. And they was like: “You gotta say all the words. And this person’s going to run over here and do a flip, and this person will do this” and so on. And I said: “Oh, man. So we’re doing a real show outright.” And you know what that means. No drinking.
So it’s finally Oscar night, and the four of us — Jordan “Juicy J” Houston, Darnell “Crunchy Black” Carlton, Cedric “Frayser Boy” Coleman and myself — are walking down the red carpet in $6,000 Armani suits and $55,000 watches we got for free. My lawyer wrote out a piece of paper with the names of all the people we were supposed to thank if we won: Craig Brewer, the director. John Singleton, the producer. Sony Records. This person, that person. We balled it up and threw it away. We were like, “Man, we don’t need this paper. We’re not going to win. F— that paper!”
There was some liquor in our dressing room, but we weren’t going to drink or get high or nothing because we didn’t want to mess up. Right before it was time for us to go onstage, though, we was like, “F— this shit,” and we took a shot of vodka each. Then we walked out onstage, and it was crazy. I looked in the crowd and remember seeing Charlize Theron. Then Jamie Foxx gave us a thumbs-up.
Three 6 Mafia and Taraji P. Henson performed the original song nominee “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from Hustle & Flow.
That’s when I started feeling better because this was the most different concert I’d ever done. I’m used to looking in the crowd and seeing drug dealers and gangbangers. But this crowd was out there in gowns and tuxes and all kind of shit. And I’m sober, so I’m taking everything in. My other concerts just be a blur; I would have never remembered Jamie Foxx giving me a thumbs-up at one of my regular concerts.
So we’re done performing and start walking back to the dressing room to drink the rest of the vodka. And a stage director was like, “No, stand here to the side. Just in case you win.” I said, “Dude, we are not going to win.” But just as we turned to walk off, that’s when Queen Latifah said our name.
We went crazy. We turned around and started running and jumping. I think Taraji P. Henson might have run up onstage, and Queen Latifah got the awards, and she handed them to us. I named everybody in my speech except the people that had anything to do with the movie. I even sent a shout-out to George Clooney. Why Clooney? Because when you go to the Oscar luncheon, you can’t sit with the people you come with. They split us all up, and I ended up sitting with Clooney. I was a huge fan. I got all these tattoos because of him in From Dusk Till Dawn. While I’m talking to him, I’m looking across the room over at Charlize Theron, thinking, “I wish they’d put me at the table with that chick.”
Everyone was nice to us at the luncheon. They loved us. Because everyone listens to rap music, you know? I’m sure they was happy to see that a rap song was getting nominated versus some big orchestra thing. Even after we won, Dolly Parton, who we were up against, sent us a letter: “We’re proud of you guys, and I’m just glad that the Oscar came back to Tennessee one way or another.” She’s real cool — from Tennessee, too, you know.
After we won, my phone was going crazy. I’ve got 200-some text messages. I didn’t call nobody back but my momma. We were going to the Governors Ball, which is right upstairs, and we were on the elevator with John Travolta. I said, “Momma, guess who I’m on the elevator with? John Travolta.”
We’re drinking and eating hot dogs at the Governors Ball, and someone says, “Let’s go to a party!” So we get in a limo with John Singleton, and we head to the Vanity Fair party. Everybody’s there. Russell Simmons and Kimora Lee Simmons are there. Salma Hayek walked up to me — who I was super in love with because of From Dusk Till Dawn with George Clooney — and said the craziest shit: “You know your brothers and sisters are dying over in Africa because of all this jewelry you’re wearing.” Because I guess we had those big ole watches they gave us on, and these platinum necklaces. So I was like, “What?! What are you talking about? I don’t have no brothers and sisters in Africa!” And like that, Salma Hayek killed my hard-on. I just went limp. I told her it was nice meeting her and walked out away from that.
Terrence Howard and Henson in a scene from the film.
After the incident with Salma, we decided to ditch the party. As I walked up to the door, I didn’t realize Carla Gugino was behind me. I was too busy trying to hold my Oscar and not let it fall or bump into nothing (I had already scratched it once). And Carla Gugino — a super-hot chick that I f—ing loved — was just looking at me real mean. She said, “You let the door slam in my face!” I was like, “Oh man, I’m sorry.” She just rolled her eyes and stomped off. I was like, “Oh my God, this is not the night for me and Hollywood chicks.”
So we get in the limo, and we pull up to [the party at] Prince’s house at Sunset Plaza. John Singleton’s like, “I know Prince. Let me handle this.” So he goes to a security guard and was like, “I got Three 6. They just won the Oscar. Let Prince know we’re out here.” And the security guard went up and comes back out and says, “He said no.”
Singleton gets back in the car, and he’s like, “Hey man, he turned us down.” I’m like, “What?!” I look out the limo window, and hundreds of people are streaming up into Prince’s house. I’m like, “That Prince is a motherf—er! You better go in there and tell that short little purple-wearing thing how many Purple Rain albums I bought, OK?”
At that point, we were like, “We’re done. Let’s go to the hotel and go to sleep. Maybe this is a dream.” So we went back to our room at the Sofitel on Beverly and go straight to sleep. Then we got woken up by people knocking at the door. “Hey, we’re here to take a picture.” And then the record label called us and said, “We’re switching y’alls‘ room. We got big suites at the Beverly Wilshire.”
Look, man: I don’t think the Oscars is racist or whatever the hell they’re saying. Because if the Oscars were racist, they wouldn’t have given this to three black gangsta rappers — for a song about pimping. There’s no getting blacker than that.
Three 6 Mafia broke up after the 2008 album ‘Last 2 Walk.’ DJ Paul continues to produce music.
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