Juicy J enters 2014 as perhaps the biggest comeback story of the past year.
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 Make Her Dance" and "Bounce It." But that was a mere prelude to what’s happening now.
The Katy Perry song, "Dark Horse," which features a guest rap from Juicy J, has spent the past few weeks at No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart. What’s more, Juicy J joined Perry at the recent Grammy ceremony to perform the song live.
It’s been a lot for the rapper/songwriter/producer - who brings his “Never Sober” tour to the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach on Saturday - to wrap his head around.
"It’s my first No. 1," he said in an early February 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 who’s real name is Jordan Michael Houston said. "My first time going to the Grammys, I performed. The first time walking the red carpet and being on the stage, I performed, my first time. So I never thought the first time I walked in that building I’d be on stage performing with Katy Perry, I never thought that. It’s like unbelievable, man. It’s like crazy. It’s such a blessing, man."
But if you think Houston now has nothing left to pursue and achieve, that would very much be a mistake. Topping the singles chart is great, but Houston wants to be a power player in the music industry.
"My dream is to be like a CEO or president of a major label, like Columbia Records," he said. "That’s what I’ve always wanted to do, all my life.
"I know the business over there," Houston 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, you know what I’m saying, (but) I would like to be able to actually do that."
Such ambitions might seem far fetched. But 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, Tenn. rap scene as a founding member of Three 6 Mafia, the group that originally coined the term "crunk" to describe their gritty hip-hop style. Three 6 Mafia also racked up some hardware with its 2005 song "It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from the film “Hustle and Flow,” which nabbed an Oscar for Best Original Song. That group had a pair of platinum albums (2000’s "When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1" and 2005’s "Most Known Unknown") before Houston went solo in 2009.
He went three years, though, without gaining much traction with his solo music. 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. with a $100 microphone.
The song immediately took off on the Web and in clubs (especially strip clubs), and a month later, a new version of "Bandz A Make Her Dance" was recorded with guest spots from Li’l Wayne and 2 Chainz. That version led to a deal with Kemosabe/Columbia Records and the release of "Stay Trippy," with "Bandz A Make Her Dance" as the lead single.
And although Houston is talking about a future as a label executive, he’s staying busy for now 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 a run of shows he’s dubbed the "Never Sober" tour, including Saturday’s gig at HOB. He said he’ll perform a track or two from "The Hustle Continues," but focus mostly on material from "Stay Trippy." But 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."