8Ball and MJG Biography
1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001...these are the years that 8 Ball and MJG have released albums. Pretty much consecutively. Undeniably consistently. Not many rappers can claim that they are about to release their 9th album in a decade, which makes 8 Ball and MJG's forthcoming album, Living Legends (Bad Boy Records), a rarity and the title all the more fitting.
8 Ball and MJG are rap giants and if the South were it's own country, they would be national treasures. For starters, they were the first rap act from Memphis to go platinum and one of the first in the region to attain nationwide success. In their hometown of Memphis, TN, they have successfully accelerated the pace at which rap fans breathe, injecting their faces and trademark style into the veins of America's heartland. The magnitude of their sound is so far reaching it has rocked the block in cities as far North as Brooklyn, NY and as far West as Compton, CA making artists like Mobb Deep and DJ Quick, Nelly and Ludacris fans for life. In fact, if you ask the average rapper or the average fan, most of them will tell you the same thing: The first Southern rap records that captivated them and changed their lives forever were 8 Ball and MJG. To put it blunt, 8 Ball and MJG are your favorite rap group's favorite rap group.
8 Ball puts it this way, "The difference between us and the other groups people would compare us with is that those groups grew up on us," After signing the legends, an Executive at Bad Boy explained, "8 Ball and MJG are to down South what Biggie was to New York and what Tupac was to the West Coast." Indeed, Living Legends marks the merging of two powerhouses in the industry: Bad Boy Records and 8 Ball and MJG. Both highly visible, both highly respected and both highly imitated in their parts of the world. Living Legends, is simply, a landmark album.
Listening to the album you'll quickly understand that there are Southern anthems and then there's an 8 Ball and MJG anthem. The first single, "You Don't Want Drama." Is one of them. It's a rambunctious, throw your hands up, party starter with a hook the country will have memorized come springtime. No matter what dance you do in your part of the country, you will want to do it with all your might when doing it to this track. As MJG put it, "It's a get crunk, get buck, elbows, shoulder to shoulder, crowding the dance floor, pushing song...even P. Diddy got rowdy on the record." 8 Ball laughs as he recalls the first time Diddy heard the beat. "He was dancing off some South s**t. It was a sight to see." Living Legends "space age 4 eva" digital flourish make the songs sound otherworldly, but still remains firmly planted in Southern soil thanks to premier producers like Lil' Jon, Jazze Pha, David Banner and Bad Boy beat-maker Stevie J., as well as guest rappers like Ludacris and UGK's Bun B.
Just as Memphis birthed the Blues, thanks to the foundation that 8 Ball and MJG laid, it is also the birthplace of much of Southern-style hip-hop as we know it today. It was 8 Ball and MJG who painted the blues on hip-hop, or hip-hop on the blues, and you can hear it in the moody tracks like "Memphis City Blues," 8 Ball's favorite song on this album. Struggle is the driving force in any ghetto in America, and even though their success has allowed them to transcend this to some degree, the aggression and the aggravation is still apparent in their unified voice. And, although the South is mostly known for its hospitality, "Don't Make" is nothing short of haunting, menacing even, but still enjoyable and excitable. It is a beast of a song with a monster track.
The mix of 8 Ball and MJG's individual voices has made their sound one of the most sought-after in hip-hop. They both approach rapping the same: they hear the music, inhabit the mood, and then construct their rhymes. MJG describes it mystically, "The lyrics are born from the music. We let the spirit motivate the pen." as evident in "Hold What You Got," where they wrote off the Baptist gospel soul sound and flipped into a song that MJG describes as "pimping goes to church."
On their previous solo endeavors 8 Ball and MJG made their individuality known. MJG revealed he was the more political member on his 1997 album No More Glory (the album cover featured a burning confederate flag). 8 Ball uncovered his preference for personal, confessional rhymes on his 2001 CD Almost Famous. Through these releases and a few label changes, their union remains unbroken hence the album title.
Together, 8 Ball and MJG are the necessary symmetry of two eyes, two arms--a unit born of the same hood. "We grew up in a few blocks from each other. That weighs more than anything that could come between us. The friendship will be first," 8 Ball explains. "At the end of the day if I ain't got nothing in the world but my underwear I know that's my friend...that's what keeps us together, where we come from."