8 Ball & MJG
|8Ball||Premrose Smith||(unknown by author)|
|MJG||Marlon Jermaine Goodwin||(unknown by author)|
Label: Bad Boy South/Bad Boy Records.
One of the pioneers of Southern rap, 8Ball & MJG emerged from Memphis, TN, in the early '90s and, aligned with the Houston, TX-based independent label Suave Records, quickly garnered a tremendous regional following while proving highly influential to a generation of aspiring, independent-minded rap artists and entrepreneurs. The pioneering duo enjoyed increasing recognition as the years passed, releasing a couple albums, namely Comin' Out Hard (1994) and In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1999), that would become Southern rap milestones, along with classic singles like "Space Age Pimpin'." 8Ball & MJG eventually left Suave for a major label, JCOR/Interscope, in 2000, and then were signed by Diddy to Bad Boy Records, resulting in their most commercially successful album to date, Living Legends (2004). In addition, 8Ball & MJG recorded individually, the former by far the more prolific of the two. Despite never crossing over into the mainstream -- none of their singles ever broke into the Billboard Hot 100, for example, not even once they signed to Bad Boy -- and despite occasionally infrequent output, 8Ball & MJG persevered over the decades. There were no acrimonious incidents, no run-ins with the law, no "retirements," no hangups whatsoever - if anything, 8Ball & MJG were respectably reliable over the course of their career, always comin' out hard and always representing the South.
8Ball (born Premro Smith) and MJG (Marlon Jermaine Goodwin) grew up in the rough Orange Mound area of Memphis and met at Ridgeway Junior High in 1984. They shared a passion for hip-hop, which hadn't yet made a strong impact in the South, and formed their own rap duo, 8Ball & MJG. They made their recording debut in 1991 with a three-track single, Listen to the Lyrics, released on cassette and 12" vinyl by On the Strength Records, an independent label. (These early recordings for On the Strength would later be reissued in 1997 as Lyrics of a Pimp and also in 2000 as Memphis Under World.) 8Ball & MJG subsequently signed a deal with Suave Records (aka Suave House), a Houston, TX-based label run by Tony Draper. 8Ball & MJG's debut full-length, Comin' Out Hard (1993), produced partly by MJG, was the inaugural release by Suave, which would grow to become one of the premier Southern rap labels of the decade. Now considered a milestone, Comin' Out Hard was among the first Southern rap albums to get widespread recognition, opening the door for other pioneers such as Three 6 Mafia, Master P, and Cash Money Records.
8Ball & MJG recorded a few additional albums for Tony Draper throughout the remainder of the decade -- On the Outside Looking In (1994), On Top of the World (1995), In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1999) -- and did much to foster the growth of Suave, regularly being featured as guests on the label's other releases. Plus, 8Ball and MJG each branched out for solo projects, Lost (1998) and No More Glory (1997), respectively, both released by Suave. In 2000, 8Ball & MJG left Suave and switched to JCOR Entertainment, a short-lived rap label founded by Jay Faires, for the release of Space Age 4 Eva. The album, which notably featured production by Swizz Beatz and DJ Quik, was a departure for 8Ball & MJG, who heretofore had worked more or less exclusively with regional producers. The album spawned a pair of minor hits, "Pimp Hard" and "Buck Bounce," the duo's first to first to get national, opposed to regional, airplay. In 2001, JCOR released a pair of 8Ball albums -- The Slab, a various-artists compilation, and Almost Famous, a proper solo album -- but the label then ran into trouble and went out of business, leaving 8Ball & MJG without a recording contract. Meanwhile, Tony Draper released Lay It Down (2001), a compilation of Suave-era leftovers featuring 8Ball.
After a couple years in limbo, Bad Boy Records, helmed by Diddy, picked up 8Ball & MJG and released Living Legends (2004), the duo's most star-studded album to date. "You Don't Want Drama," the lead single, became 8Ball & MJG's biggest hit ever, reaching number 30 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart, while Living Legends itself likewise became the duo's best-selling, debuting at number three on the Top 200 album chart and topping 500,000 in sales. 8Ball & MJG's second Bad Boy album, Ridin High (2007), was less successful, though, despite debuting well at number eight and spawning a strong lead single, "Relax and Take Notes." In addition to these Bad Boy albums, 8Ball revived 8 Ways Entertainment -- a vanity label of his which had lain dormant since its 2001 debut on The Slab, an aforementioned various-artists compilation showcasing the talent assembled around the label -- and secured a distribution deal with Navarre. A series of 8Ball-associated releases resulted, beginning with a 2006 re-release of The Slab, and subsequently including Montana Trax: The Boy Somethin' Great (2006), Light Up the Bomb (2006), and The Vet & the Rookie.
[Authored by: Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide]
- 1993 Comin out Hard
- 1994 On the Outside Looking In
- 1995 On Top of the World (Chart position: 8) RIAA: Gold
- 1997 Lyrics of a Pimp
- 1999 In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 (Chart position: 10) RIAA: Gold
- 2000 Space Age 4 Eva (Chart position: 39)
- 2002 Memphis Under World
- 2004 Living Legends (Chart position: 3) RIAA: Gold
- 2007 Ridin High (Chart positions: 8)
- 2002 Lay It Down
- 1998 Lost (Chart positions: 5)
- 2001 Almost Famous (Chart position: 47)
- 2006 Light Up the Bomb
- 2007 The Vet & The Rookie (with Devius)
- 1997 No More Glory (Chart position: 20)
- 2008 Pimp Tight
- 1997 Suave House: The Album of the Year
- 2000 Off da Chain, Vol. 1