Whatever happened to Underground Mafia?

By Kimberly Cecil

I've been asked at lot about what happened to Underground Mafia. According to Urban Legend, Underground Mafia was a group with a curse on their head. Jealousy, haters and run ins with the law led to the demise of a once-popular hip hop group that set the pattern for future rappers from the `Ville. Little did we know the impact of the famous "Gangsta Walk" would forever live in the memories of true hip hoppers around the country. As I talked with Leslie Graham, manager of Underground Mafia and the now Dirty 38, I concluded that too much happened too soon.

Underground Mafia released their first album, Ghetto Thang, in 1994, on the UNDA/Mafia Records label. People tend to think that "Gangsta Walk," a regional hit stemming from a dance originating in Memphis, Tennessee, was the original song that put the group on the charts but it was "Godfather" that made it to #9 on the billboard charts and #15 on the Impact magazine charts. The Bay area in California made the song #1 on radio station KMEL. They were definitely on their way as the Southern group for the 90's.

Times were different in the early `90s and there was more community support. Louisville radio stations would put local songs in major rotation. The program director would give you his blessing and help beyond the call of duty. The fans thought musicians were of superstar status. Underground Mafia had everything: rotation and bookings at the larger events within the city plus thousands of die heart fans. This group was at the top of their field, performing and touring with Too Short, Master P, L L Cool J, Jay-Z, MC Hammer, NWA and Outkast. In 1995, at Chickasaw Park, the group had such celebrity status that the fans tore down the barricades that were suppose to keep them away from the group while they performed. How could this Louisville group just fade away when everything appeared to be on target?

Underground Mafia put Louisville on the map but all-too-soon, the group was going down in quicksand because of several factors, including lack of promotional dollars to compete in an industry of piranhas; the contract from SAM/Nervous Records that would eventually rape the group of their rights; the incarceration of Godfather Rob Hayes and the real gangsta shootouts every week from envious rappers. Would this group ever recover? With sales of over 100,000 and a strong fan base, would egos and a Mafia mentality stop them from becoming #1? It did.

As years went by and people forgot about Underground Mafia, original member DJ Bam saw potential. He put together what is now known as Dirty 38. As producer and leader, DJ Bam knew the group could bounce back, even against all odds and confusion. With Dirty 38 artists Gangsta Black, Scotty, Bodie MC and Louigi, everyone involved was determined to achieve success with or without the original crew. With a new fresh sense of style and national distribution, Dirty 38 is in position to compete once more.

"Knowledge has been the key and learning from our mistakes" says, Leslie Graham "It's what is going to make us successful again." With new members, a new sound and new hope success can be just around the corner.

There is a slow hype building now. Velocity weekly wrote, "These guys represent Louisville to the fullest" and Gerald Harrison of WGZB, B96.5FM said, "The next best thing to come out of the Dirty South." Definitely something is stirring. Coming soon is a tour in Germany and Italy and the West Coast, once again lending support and heavy rotation in various parts of the country.

Is Dirty 38 - formally known as Underground Mafia - going to make it? I say they are a new breed of triumphant playas who now understand the game. Didn't I hear knowledge is everything?