Juicy J is finishing out the first half of 2014 as perhaps the biggest comeback story of the past 18 months.
After several fallow years, his 2012 album, “Stay Trippy,” has been a critically acclaimed hit, so far producing a pair of hit singles,“Bandz A Maker Dance” and “Bounce It.” But that was a mere prelude to what’s happened recently.
The Katy Perry song, “Dark Horse,” which features a guest rap from Juicy J, spent several weeks early this year at No. 1 on “Billboard” magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart. What’s more, Juicy J joined Perry at the Grammy ceremony to perform the song live.
It’s been a lot for the rapper/songwriter/producer to wrap his head around. “It’s my first No. 1,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t think I’d ever see my name that high up on the charts, you know what I’m saying. I’ve seen it on there, but I’ve never seen it up that high.
“To be part of a record with a big artist like Katy Perry and to be No. 1 in the country, I never would have thought that (could happen),” the man, whose real name is Jordan Michael Houston, said.
While topping the singles chart is great, Houston has other ambitions. He wants to be a power player in the music industry itself.
“My dream is to be like a CEO or president of a major label, like Columbia Records,” said Houston, who performs Friday at the Cotillion. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do, all my life.”
Houston wants to help other artists. “I know the business over there,” he said. “I’d like to just be able to link up some other artists and help some other artists out. I’ve run into so many talented people, I can’t sign them all. … I would like to be able to actually do that.”
Houston isn’t some big-talking newcomer to the music game. In fact, he’s a 20-year veteran of the industry who has seen some major ups and a few serious downs along the way.
He came up on the Memphis rap scene as a founding member of Three 6 Mafia, a group known for its “crunk” style of hip-hop. The group had a pair of platinum albums with 2000’s “When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1” and 2005’s “Most Known Unknown.” They gained greater fame when their song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” written for the film “Hustle & Flow,” won the Academy Award for best original song.
But following that achievement, Three 6 Mafia started to pull apart, and Houston went solo in 2009. For several years, it looked like his time in the spotlight might be fading. That changed when he released the original version of “Bandz A Make Her Dance” on Twitter in 2012, a track he recorded in an apartment in Washington, D.C., on a $100 microphone.
The song immediately took off on the Web and in clubs, and a month later, a new version of “Bandz A Make Her Dance” was recorded with guest spots from Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. That version led to a deal with Kemosabe/Columbia Records and the release of “Stay Trippy,” with “Bands A Make Her Dance” as the lead single.
Although Houston is talking about a future as a label executive, he’s staying busy with his own music. He’ll have a new studio album, “The Hustle Continues,” out later this year. But where “Stay Trippy” was all about living the good life – cashing checks, partying with beautiful women and hanging with friends – the next album reflects Houston’s business ambitions.
“The album is going to be me at a CEO level, achieving in the game, a legend in the game,” Houston said. “It talks about I still have my stuff. I’m still my same (self). I do pop some champagne and kick it a little bit, but at the end of the day it’s going to be educational to the people. For anybody that wants to be in the music business, there are going to be some pointers on how to survive.”
In advance of the next album, Houston is still promoting “Stay Trippy” with some occasional concerts. He said he may perform a track or two from “The Hustle Continues,” but will focus mostly on material from “Stay Trippy.” Houston was a bit vague about other particulars about his show, promising only that it will be crazy.
“It’s going to be amazing,” he said. “A lot of times I don’t even too much plan out what my shows are going to be and they end up being crazy, super wild parties.”