Greatest Southern Artists of all Time
Words Wally Sparks / Photo King Yella
5 ESSENTIAL UGK TRACKS UGK “Pocket Full of Stones” Too Hard to Swallow 1992 This quintessential UGK song has that classic, slow funk groove, crazy wordplay from Bun B, and Pimp C’s nasal flow that we all love so much. UGK “Front, Back & Side to Side” SuperTight 1994 This ode to candy-painted old-school Chevys during the hot summer months was an instant classic, with a sample from Eazy E’s “Boyz N Da Hood.” UGK “Fuck My Car” Ridin’ Dirty 1996 These hoes don’t wanna fuck me, they wanna fuck my car. How real is that? UGK “Let Me See It” Ridin’ DIrty 1996 Whenever this Southern strip club classic is played at your local gentleman’s club, you better have your ones ready because it’s about to go down. UGK “Murder” Ridin’ Dirty 1996 The deep, haunting bassline is a perfect match for what could be Bun B’s greatest verse ever recorded (“Smelly red jelly all over your Pelle Pelle”).
magine that you sign to a record label in 1992. In fact, you’re one of the first artists in your area to sign to a major record label. You release a debut album to critical acclaim, and your sales reach the industry standard for success. Then, you continue that very same trend for the next five years, dropping two more successful albums. You accomplish all of that without hardly any radio play or music videos. Even with the consistent sales numbers you always attain, your record label still doesn’t have any interest in marketing you properly. For Pimp C and Bun B of the legendary Southern rap group UGK (Underground Kingz), that is the harsh reality. Back in the day, you never saw UGK in The Source, Vibe, or Rap Pages. You never saw UGK videos on Yo! MTV Raps or The Box. Why not? Was it because of their record label’s unwillingness to promote the group properly? Or was it because they were too “trill” to do magazine photo shoots and show up on video sets? My guess is that it was not the latter. Even after enduring conflict with their label, UGK still has diehard fans that support all of their endeavors. Widely considered as one of the greatest Southern rap groups of all time, UGK came into the game in the early 90’s out of a small Texas town called Port Arthur - which they frequently declared to be the land of the “trill.” When UGK broke onto the scene, the sounds of the West coast were dominating radio, club, Jeep, Regal, and Cadillac playlists all over the country. With their debut album, Too Hard to Swallow, UGK seemed to fit right into that gangsta music fold, spitting lurid tales of sex, drugs, and money. The one thing that stood out about UGK, however, was their strong representation of Southern culture. “I’m from PA, bitch.” It was no secret. Like it, love it, or hate it, they didn’t give a fuck about what you thought. Their Southern pride was important at the time, because there were hardly any rap acts out of the South making noise. UGK was not only signed to a major label, but they sold records. They sold records consistent-
(l to r) Pimp C and Bun B
ly enough to prove that they had a loyal fanbase and understood the key to longevity. Their label Jive, however, didn’t understand or care enough to put proper promotion and marketing behind the group. UGK finally got the biggest commercial boost of their career from an unlikely source: Jay-Z. During an interview, Jay-Z was once asked what he listened to when he wasn’t working on his own music. He responded, “There’s an album called Ridin’ Dirty, by a group named UGK. I buy it at every tour stop we make.” Next, Jay gave them some long overdue exposure by recruiting them for his hit single “Big Pimpin’.” Their appearance in the video, which aired heavily on both MTV and BET, exposed UGK to a whole new audience. Even though “Big Pimpin’” was the first time many consumers outside of the South were aware of the group, UGK had already solidified their place in rap history with three gold albums to their credit. One reason the Texas duo has gathered such a dedicated following over the years is because of their stark contrast in rapping styles. Pimp C is the man behind the music, with an unmistakable voice boasting, “It’s Pimp C, bitch!” He’s the man who brags, “I don’t make hip-hop records, I make country rap tunes.” On the other hand, you have Bun B, an artist who is revered by his peers as an MC’s MC. An extremely gifted and clever lyricist, Bun B spits rhymes so sharp they seem to cut right through the music. When these two very opposite styles are meshed together on one track, musical magic happens. Their style and chemistry has been the blueprint for many Southern rap acts. Many have tried to duplicate the UGK style and failed, but there are a select few artists who have seen success following in the UGK mold. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Over the years, UGK has been highly underrated. Have they been avoiding the limelight, or the limelight been avoiding them due to lack of proper promotion and publicity? Whatever the reason, Bun B has been working hard to play
catch-up and reap the benefits that come from having a legendary status in the game. Even today, Bun B’s discography reads like a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Their status is so legendary that both Bun B and Pimp C have inked solo deals with the historic Southern record label Rap-ALot Records. Even with all the missteps that Jive has taken in dealing with UGK, the label has since seen the light. They are now trying to cash in on the group’s unwavering fan base by releasing three “unofficial” UGK albums. Jive recently released UGK’s Greatest Hits, an album full of UGK guest appearances, a soundtrack ironically titled Side Hustles, and a chopped & screwed version of UGK’s Greatest Hits. Another reason for the group’s lack of mainstream recognition is Pimp C’s current legal troubles. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for a minor probation violation and has served three years thus far. Despite Pimp C’s situation, UGK’s future seems brighter than ever. Rap-A-Lot recently released a Pimp C album, Sweet James Jones Stories, consisting mostly of dated freestyle material. Thanks to Rap-A-Lot, Pimp C has been doing more interviews while incarcerated than when he was free (look for OZONE’s Pimp C cover story coming next month). Pimp C is up for parole in December 2005, and says he’s written over 2,000 songs while behind bars. Meanwhile, fans are eagerly anticipating the biggest reunion album in Southern hip-hop history. Bun B has been keeping the UGK name alive by recording guest vocals for a myriad of albums, mixtapes and DVDs. He’s been working at a relentless pace ever since his partner was forced to sit still, keeping the UGK flag waving. Fans are still awaiting the return of the true Underground Kingz. With consistent album sales spanning over a decade with virtually no promotion, there’s no question that UGK has secured their place in Southern history. If there’s any doubt left in your mind, just ask your favorite rapper, “Who’s your favorite rapper?” OZONE APR 2005
Ozone Mag #33 - Apr 2005