“Glitter and gleam ain’t all what it look like / So I keep swangin’, out here clangin’ tryna live my life.” — Chad L. Butler, 1996
Everyone who knew Pimp C knew many things about him. That he was a gifted member of the band UGK, who dove as deep into traditional classical music as he did the two man routine of Run DMC. His peers also picked up on Pimp’s habit of continually saying whatever was on his mind and his heart. The music he crafted, a syrupy, rap version of the blues, stood out from coast to coast and made him a legend. His opinions, especially those given in interviews, eventually made him feel larger than life.
Many of the murals erected in his native Port Arthur, Texas have either been painted over or lost in Hurricane Harvey. The Gulf Coast Museum, which housed a large quantity of UGK material lost those artifacts during the August storm. His mother’s house, long a symbol of what UGK represented, undertook massive damage as well. Only his widow, Chinara Butler happens to have a collection of his things now. All of the physical homages to the Pimp are fading away.
“This is a dangerous industry,” he wrote in his Ozone Magazine column. “It’s foul.” He was referring to how the world immediately came down on T.I. during the weapons case that kept him in jail for most of 2009. Pimp referred to the rap industry as a haven for “devils, vultures, hogs and wicked people.” It was a signifier that regardless of how you felt about something, Pimp C would tell you how he felt about the situation, with little backdown in him. It’s an ethos that stood with him until his last days.
To many, he is the last authentic, old-school hip-hop hero. For a generation of rap fans, Pimp is a last pillar of the past. For those particular to southern hip-hop, Pimp represented two generations. One generation was a sect where being underappreciated yet murmured as great became the norm. The second, this current generation, of a flashy, sincere producer and rapper who through simple delivery and emotion helped create timeless music. ’70s soul sampled from Stax Records, Chaka Khan, and Willie Hutch were his weapons of choice. He was imperfect, the kind of flawed hero that Denzel Washington routinely plays in any of his movies. It’s why people loved him and revere his very name.
Both of those generations have mourned Pimp C for ten years on now. His death still feels surreal; in December of 2007 his body was found in a Los Angeles hotel room, unresponsive. The speculation of how he died doesn’t matter anymore. People remember where they were when he died. In some areas of Port Arthur, they let kids out of school early to attend the funeral.