DJ Paul didn't even realize it has been 10 years since he won an Oscar until I called him. "It's been 10 years already?" he says, stunned at first. "Really? Now that I know it's the 10th year, I can celebrate. I'm always looking for a reason to celebrate." As he should. The rapper/producer/DJ's awards are humbly packed away after all these years, moderately due to a busy work and tour schedule that has quite often kept him away from home and his material accolades and partially because he hasn't been so concerned with past success when his visions continue to propel him forward. "If you pretend like you don't have it, you can work towards getting it," he mentions. But DJ Paul is now ready to reflect.

When Three 6 Mafia won the Academy Award for Best Original Song with 'It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp' off Hustle & Flow in 2006, Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard participated in the prosperity of one of the most iconic moments in rap history with his co-written single; the epitome of "we never thought hip-hop would take it this far." The Memphis trio became the first hip-hop group to win the award, while marking the first time a rap song was performed at the live Oscars telecast. And accompanied on stage by Empire star Taraji P. Henson, the rappers turned the most conservative stage into a Southern brothel. For once, hip-hop was given its just dues.

It's Oscar season again. Ten years later, Taraji has finally nabbed her first Golden Globe for her role as Cookie on hip-hop drama Empire and Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow's center, maintains his character as Henson's equal on the Fox series. While Hollywood is now being bombarded with boycotts for being so damn white, DJ Paul reflects on the night that made history.

How did that moment change your life?

It changed my life and everybody's life around me. It showed people, especially in the hip-hop community that we were really being respected now, especially for people who struggled for so long. I remember back in the day when we first came out, a lot of people hated us, like the east coast and different places. We had fans. But for some fans, straight hip-hop fans, they didn't like us. They would call and leave messages on our answering machine and talk shit about us. There were haters but there's haters everywhere. I get it. But I grew up listening to everything, I love New York music. LL Cool J's still my favourite, like Killa Cam, and I hang out with Flava Flav and we go bowling twice a week still today. But it showed us anything was possible. I think that night turned other people into rappers. There were some people that wanted to be actors and thought that they would get an Oscar one day from that, but they really were musicians at heart like, "I'm going to get back on the piano." The money went up, everything went up. The women that came after us went up. Everything.

What is your greatest memory of that entire experience – the night you won, or the process of creating the single or even the aftermath of it?

The best experience was after we won. I was getting on the elevator to go to the Governor's Ball, the after-party, and I talked to my mama. I looked down at my phone and I had like 400 text messages, and there was no way I was going to read all of those. I never did read all of those. But my mama called, everybody was calling. I don't know why. Sometimes people don't think. You know the Oscars are live and I just won, why would you call me as soon as I get off stage? Everything is going on, cameras and everything. So I wouldn't answer the phone for anybody but I answered the phone for my mama. I answered it and she was just telling me how she was proud of me and then I told her that I was in the elevator with John Travolta, which I was at that very moment. I was like, "Mama, guess who's standing next to me? John Travolta." We used to watch Grease together and all those movies like Saturday Night Fever. And I was like, "Hey, my mama says hi." And he's like, "Tell her I say hi." It was so funny, man. It was the highlight of the night, getting to talk to her. It was a great night but I was more nervous than anything. We didn't really drink because the Oscars are the only award where they give you the statue right there right then. They gave it to us right then and we had to carry it around with us. So I bumped its head with one of the other guys that was with us and my Oscar has a scratch on the top of it. I was mad, like, "Ni**a get away from me, look what you just did."

During your acceptance speech, you were all obviously so happy. The energy was contagious and even watching, you can feel it. Did you bother writing a speech at all and if could redo it, what would you have added to it?

We didn't write one. We didn't think we were going to win. We're three black dudes from the south rapping about a pimp. Then you've got Dolly Parton, who's a household name. She's a queen. We didn't think we were going to win. Our manager at the time wrote down an acceptance speech and he gave it to me, and I balled it up and I threw it away. I was like, "Man, we don’t need this, because we're not going to win." He said, "You never know" And I said, "I know, ni**a." When we did end up winning, I just said the first thing that came to my head. I was so excited that I forgot to even name the people that even put us in the movie and the producer and director. I forgot to name them. I just named whoever came to my head.

Like George Clooney.

I named George Clooney, because I was a big fan of him and he was the reason why I got so many tattoos on my body, watching one of his first movies. The first movie that I ever saw him in was a movie called From Dusk till Dawn and he had fake tattoos. Watching it high, I went and got tattoos like the ones he had. When you're nominated for an Oscar, they bring you to the Oscar luncheon. You go to the Hilton Beverly Hills and all the nominees are there. And what they do is, they don't let you sit with people in your crew, you sit with other writers. They do this so everyone gets a chance to know each other and become friends so they don't feel like competition and you're happy for whoever wins. So, they sat me next to George Clooney, which was great. I was like, "Shit, I get a chance to sit with him? I can sit with Juicy anytime, fuck that ni**a. I've known him my whole life." I told him the whole tale about the tattoo and all kinds of shit, stories about how I went to jail after getting those tattoos that night, driving with alcohol and guns in the car. I told him all that shit. He was probably like, "This is the craziest fan that I've ever had." That's why I said a shout-out to him, because he talked to me not like he was a big shot, but he talked to me just like a cool dude. I came to find out he's really a cool dude for real. Me being a big fan, I got a chance to meet him and hang with him, so it was cool.

Because you kept it so Memphis and the Academy, press and Hollywood are known for being so bougie, how did you feel like you were received?

It wasn’t weird to us. We've been around so long. The only weird thing with the experience was when we were performing live in front of a different audience – more different than anything we had performed at. When we won the Oscar, we had been doing this for sixteen years so we had been doing it a long time, so nothing really scared us. But we had to perform live, no background vocals on the show tape or nothing. It was straight live to a performance that was put together by a choreographer. That was different. We don't do that when we perform at nightclubs. On top of that, instead of performing in front of gangsters, crips and bloods, we're performing in front of Charlize Theron and George Clooney and a bunch of Hollywood people. That made us a little nervous.

That was obviously one of the most legendary things ever. You guys were the first ever hip-hop group to perform like at the Academy Awards and you did it with Taraji P Henson, who won her first golden globe this year, so what were your thoughts about her golden moment this year?

I hate she didn't win that Oscar when she was nominated but I'm not even tripping, because I know she's going to get it one day. She's too good to not get it. I love Taraji, man. I see her a lot in the streets in LA. We always hug and talk. I love that girl. I know she'll get one. Taraji is one of those people that you'll see acting as long as she lives – until she's 80-something years old.

So you're an Empire fan.


At the end of your acceptance speech, Jon Stewart said jokingly, "I think things just got a little easier out here for a pimp." But also there's obviously the whole Oscars boycott this year. What are your thoughts on everything?

I don't think the Oscars are prejudice. I try and stay away from the negative stuff. I just feel like they probably didn't see movies with black people in it that they felt worth being nominated. I haven't seen the Creed movie. I'm going to make sure I see it. Who knows how they come up with the nominations, I can't really speak on it. I can say that I know for a fact that the Oscars are not prejudice, because if they were prejudice, they wouldn't have given a couple of gangster ni**as from the south an Oscar talking about pimping. If that's not as black as you can possible be, I don’t know.