Pimps and preachers. Gz and Hustlers. Sinners and saints. These tropes have, in one way or another, permeated Hip-Hop throughout its history. Few artists have handled these dichotomies as convincingly as the Port Arthur, TX duo UGK. From graphic and misogynist diatribes to heart-wrenching commentary on the fleeting nature of life, Pimp C and Bun B showed the world that the South had something memorable to say.
As a result, their DNA flows through the veins of some of your favorite artists above and below the Mason Dixon line. Find out why with The Primer for UGK.
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1. "Tell Me Something Good"
As a producer, Pimp C introduced a sense of musicality into hip-hop that was relatively rare at the time. When The Bomb Squad and Utramagnetic’s Ced Gee were increasing BPMs and creating symphonic chaos back east, Pimp was mixing soul and funk samples with dynamic basslines, live organs and drum programming. “Tell Me Something Good” shows flashes of this aesthetic, but comes just before he really came into his own as a producer. The track includes one of Pimp’s raunchiest verses ever, and a no-nonsense Bun B that may be unfamiliar to those who only know him from his current role as unofficial hip-hop ambassador.
2. "Front, Back & Side to Side"
In a genre with many dedications to the four wheeled spoils of working hard, and sometimes selling hard work, “Front Back” may be the best. The whining synths and Easter Sunday organ are enough to turn any car into a slab. Frequent collaborator Smoke D provides a scene-stealing verse.
3. "One Day"
Pimp C’s famous declaration that UGK did not do hip-hop, but rather country rap tunes comes to mind when I listen to “One Day.” UGK’s takes on standard Hip-Hop lyrical motifs like the “dead homies” song were always so unique to them, either via production style or content, that they almost did seem like their own genre of music. Both Pimp and Bun turned in classic verses, but Ronnie Spencer’s hook, so saturated with soul, is what is etched into fan’s minds forever. R.I.P. Pimp C.
Before there was an overused term for whatever people mean by swagger today, UGK embodied it on “Murder.” If your upper lip does not curl into a snarl and your eyebrows don’t furrow when listening to this, then I’m really sorry that the candidate you voted for lost this year’s presidential election. Bun B turned in one of the single greatest performances in hip-hop history here. This is a perfect song, and a must listen.
5. "Diamonds & Wood"
“Diamonds and Wood” is a definitive UGK song. This ode to the jealousy and envy that accompanies success is vivid and personal. You can almost picture yourself in the backseat of the caddy, clear plastic cup in hand, as two friends vent about how reaching ones dreams isn’t always quite what it seems.
6. "Let Me See It"
Pimp and Bun’s direct exhortations to the scantily-clad ladies of the night strike just the right tone for three a.m. quality time with cornbread and silicone enhanced dancers. At over a decade old, “Let Me See It” still rings off loudly at strip clubs throughout the south and beyond to this day.
7. "Choppin' Blades"
Pimp and N.O. Joe’s take on G-Funk had a much dirtier feel than Dr. Dre’s. Where Dre emphasized a cleaner sound to his chords and basslines, Pimp and Joe dragged them through the mud. “Choppin Blades” finds Pimp and Bun trading verses over Chronic-era synths, mixed perfectly with a drum sample from gangsta rap classic, Schooly D’s “P.S.K. (What Does It Mean).”
8. “Wood Wheel”
Quotables abound in this ode to grippin oak in the South, but Bun manages to stand out the most with lines like: “Pro smoke, pro choke, anti-broke, conservative libera/lLeft-wing slangin', right-wing hangin' in criminal court, it's civil.” This was the time period follow UGK’s guest spot on Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” where the world outside of the south began to realize that Bun B was a force to be reckoned with.
9. "Fuck My Car"
Men spend money on cars to attract women. Period. It’s our version of the elaborate dance and grooming rituals other members of the animal kingdom do to attract potential mating partners. UGK displayed a clear understanding of what catches’ the ladies’ eyes, and act accordingly.
10. "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)”
UGK’s first legitimate national hit of their own came on a remake of an old Project Pat beat. The Willie Hutch sample was just too good for the duo to pass up, and with stellar performances by Pimp, Bun and Outkast, and a star-studded video, a classic was born.