I’ll be honest (probably more honest than most) — I didn’t know who UGK was before 1999. You could’ve handed me a copy of Vol. 3… Life And Times Of S. Carter, pointed to track 11 on the back cover, and said, “This kid right here is the next big thing out of Brooklyn. Jay just signed him. His name’s pronounced ug-kah.” Unless I just flat out didn’t trust you, I’d have no reason not to believe you (though that rap name sure would’ve sounded like a loser).
Radio in my hometown of Los Angeles, around that time, had plenty of local material flooding its airwaves — Dr. Dre (and his newly-discovered protégé Eminem), Snoop, and Kurupt all had hit records out, and a potential N.W.A. reunion was all the rave (yea, about that…). Sure, there were Southern rap records that would break through every now and again — some had undeniable cross-over appeal, some had outshining guest spots from West Coast legends, some were classic records that superseded regional boundaries. But, L.A. radio stations — and probably all major city radio stations outside of the South — weren’t putting aside time during long-drive-home-rush-hour for a duo out a Texas town not called Houston which couldn’t even get promotion from its bum-ass record label.
To be even more honest, it wasn’t until 2000 that I really got to know about UGK, when a visual was given to “Big Pimpin’”. There was Jay-Z, spitting rapid-fire on a cruise ship while Dame Dash poured liquor I couldn’t afford over women I couldn’t afford. Then there was Bun B, spitting even more rapid-fire than Jay, mispronouncing “scenario” just for the sake of not leaving out both sorry and scary hoes from consideration of whom he can’t fuck with. And lastly, there was Pimp C, delivering molasses-slow rhymes (at least in comparison to Jay and Bun) with an undoubtedly Southern accent that seemed to replace the last letter on every word with a “H” (as in “Smokin’ ouh, throwin’ uh…”). And that white fur coat… who would rock such clothing in the midst of a Florida summer? Probably the same type of dude who would brag about his hands-free phone while holding a phone to his ears.
When I think of how to describe Pimp C, his opening bars from “Murder”, off ’96′s Ridin’ Dirty, always come to mind: “It’s Pimp C, bitch, so what the fuck is up?/ Puttin’ powder on the street ’cause I got big fuckin’ nuts!” In the span of two bars, Pimp provided examples of five of the reasons why our elders (more than likely) collectively hate rap music. First, he introduced himself — on how many Beatles’ songs did John Lennon say his own name? Second, he insults his listener — likely a listener who just spent money to support Pimp’s cause (more so the case in ’96 than now). Third, he drops the F-bomb, with another one coming mere seconds later. Fourth, he glorifies drug dealing, by attributing the cause of his trade to the size of testicles… which leads perfectly into number five — he speaks candidly about his genitals. Most rappers not named Todd Shaw would need at least a full song to evoke all of these reactions out of their listeners.
But, if you could look past his outlandish boasts on the mic about partaking in illegal activities of all sorts, you’d find lush musical backdrops, driven by the funkiest of bass lines and the bluesiest of guitar licks, sometimes with vocals sung by the man himself. People that hate the type of music that Pimp C made would probably dismiss him as not being “musically talented” — little would they know just how wrong they were. Being on the late train in becoming familiar with Pimp’s discography made me that much bigger a fan of his — very few hip hop artists in ’96 were making music like him, and even fewer are nowadays.
Chad Butler took his craft way more seriously than he ever took himself. Bun B noted on “The Story” (off his solo debut Trill) how hesitant Pimp was to jump on “Big Pimpin’”, fearful of how UGK’s core audience would’ve taken to it. There’s no greater shame than the fact that Pimp’s death came just as UGK was starting to get recognized for their own achievements, with “International Players Anthem” (off their #1-charting self-titled double album) receiving a Grammy nomination. If there’s any positive spin that we can put on his untimely passing, it’s that, after a career spanning nearly two decades, Pimp C went out on top. To that I say, “Smoke something, bitch!”
Contributing to this Beat Drop (in addition to myself and AaronM) are Noz from Cocaine Blunts, Quan from Hater Player, Ivan from Hip Hop Is Read, Brandon Soderberg from No Trivia, and Jonathan from Screw Rock ‘n’ Roll. And, on the (very, very, VERY) special guest tip, ML is esteemed to have none other than Bernard “Bun B” Freeman, the yin to Pimp’s yang as one half of UGK, joining us. Bun chopped with up with Knobbz (credit due for providing transcribing, homie) to discuss his five favorite Pimp C productions, and provided some great insight and historical anecdotes about Pimp.