Born Premro Smith, 8Ball grew up in the Orange Mound area of Memphis, TN, where he met MJG at Ridgeway Junior High School in 1984. The two 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.