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8ball & MJG

Eightball & MJG may have never made a significant impact nationally during their rise to fame in the 1990s, yet they indeed made an incredible impact throughout the South, where the Memphis-bred duo pioneered what countless Dirty South rappers would emulate years later. The two began on the Southern underground circuit, where they peddled their tapes in such major markets as Memphis, Houston, and Atlanta. After a few years of this, Eightball & MJG helped launch Suave House Records in 1993 and attract a pair of national distribution deals soon afterward. By the end of the '90s, just as the Dirty South movement broke nationally, the duo issued their final Suave House album, the classic In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1999), and declared themselves Southern rap pioneers. Few argued, as the two, and particularly Eightball, made countless cameo appearances for an array of fellow Southern rappers, earning the duo respect for their work ethic and diplomacy as well as their mature perspective and street-smart wits. In later years, Eightball & MJG finally began flirting with crossover success, ultimately signing to P Diddy's Bad Boy label in 2002. Eightball (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 soon formed a partnership. After years of mixtape work, later re-released on the Lyrics of a Pimp (1997) and Memphis Under World (2000) compilations, the two started Suave House Records with savvy 20-year-old CEO Tony Draper. The label released Eightball & MJG's debut full-length, Comin' Out Hard (1993), a cult classic produced entirely by the duo and popularized by the song "Armed Robbery." Each successive year brought with it a new album: On the Outside Looking In (1994) and On Top of the World (1995), the latter distributed nationally by Relativity. These releases continued to expand the duo's reach throughout the South, so much so that Universal Records offered Draper a lucrative distribution deal in 1997 for Suave House. Eightball & MJG afterward released a pair of solo albums -- Lost (1997) and No More Glory (1998), respectively -- and went on to record their crowning achievement, In Our Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1999). The album elevated the duo to nationally recognized status and earned universal acclaim, ultimately standing as one of the definitive Dirty South albums of the era, alongside Goodie Mob's Soul Food (1995) and Outkast's late-'90s work. Eightball & MJG parted ways with Suave House in 1999 and maintained a relatively low profile for a few years until they notably signed with P Diddy's Bad Bay label in 2002, recording an album for Jcor (Space Age 4 Eva [2000]) and scoring a widespread club hit ("Buck Bounce") in the meantime. Jason Birchmeier

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