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Thoughts on UGK 4 Life

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-Obviously, the “Intro” is chilling. Pimp C rambling over flutters of stirring funk isn’t anything new, but knowing this is the last time a UGK album will have something like this is both devastating and exhilarating. That Pimp spits-out a “back from the dead” and even references “2009″ is well, wow. It’s you know, what the album’s going for with this surreal “Intro”, but it feels like Pimp showing up in a dream or from the heavens or something.

-I had a dream a few weeks ago that I was like kinda friendly with Pimp C and in the “next” part of the dream, I heard he died and I was standing there staring at his car. I placed my hands on the hood of the car and then walked away. Not sure what it meant, I think it was probably more about my friend Mike who died at the beginning of 2007–Pimp C died at the end of 2007 as I’m sure you know–but it’s about Pimp C too, who I miss as a musician and person(ality) as much as you can miss anybody you didn’t know personally. You have these real stupid but really-real wishes sometimes that dead people will drop down Mitch Albom For One More Day bullshit style and like just be like “What’s up dude?”. Somehow, “Intro” kinda allows that.

-But see, the thing about UGK 4 Life is it doesn’t even act like Pimp’s dead. It’s subtly but emphatically mentioned with the “Intro” and save for Snoop’s R.I.P shout on “Steal Your Mind”, probably left on just because it’d be shitty to remove it, there’s nothing about the album that feels “posthumous”. This is brilliant and fits along with the “we got the obvious, let’s move on” attitude UGK’s had since day one. The whole album’s a tribute, a final testament, and a bunch of other stuff…it doesn’t need shout-outs and tribute songs. Plus, Bun already did that on II Trill.

-”Still On My Grind”. Somehow soulful and R & B-ish and snarling, menacing Southern rap crunch at the same time. Those synths at the beginning are like that weird fucked-up machine that kills people in that one scene in Caligula or something. A great, no bullshit start to the album. A great start to this album especially, which is singularly focused on feeling like the early UGK shit while not forgetting about all the shit they’ve learned since The Southern Way EP.

-”Purse Comes First” is political and “conscious” and all that, but it gains it’s strength from being one of the only times that Pimp and Bun move away from talking about the G-Code and about girls and shit. It’s the opposite of Underground Kingz which declared their return and showed-off their versatility. This album isn’t concerned with impressing anybody.

-UGK 4 Life feels like Eightball & MJG’s In Our Lifetime Vol. 1.

-”The Pimp & The Bun” makes me tear-up more than a little.

-This is an R & B album, if not in genre, than in spirit. Besides an increased focus on soul-funk stacked up against quiet storm sounds and lots of sung hooks, it’s Pimp and Bun philosophizing on girls, sex, and love. I’m glad that everyone’s latched onto Pimp’s obsession with girls not shaving their pubes, because it’s a really smart and delightfully weird obsession on the album, showing up on “Everybody Wanna Ball” and “Harry Asshole”. It goes right along with their out-of-the-70s, O.G traditionalism, but it takes on deeper significance in 2009, less because it’s the right kind of hard-headed nostalgia, but because it’s such a smart–and mindful–rejection of the kind of hyper-clean, airbrushed, un-real sex and sexuality that’s taken over society and is especially glaring in hip-hop.

-Going along with this real, honest sense of sex is Pimp’s hilarious food/sex similes (chicken wings on “Still On The Grind”, corn on the cob and ribs on “She Luv It”). Same way he’s like sensitive to stuff like razor burns or the fact that girls’ assholes are hairy–that a great, throwaway detail from “Let Me See It” turned into a hook is brilliant–including (or like especially) strippers, does make sex seem properly messy and well, real. I talk about it in terms of comic books here and it’s the same thing on UGK 4 Life, not “dirty” and anything, but just you know, these are the weird details of fucking that need to be discussed the same way you know, Bun described what happens when you get shot (“you’ll be leakin’ out plasma and puss/Your mouth’ll fill up with foam”) on Underground Kingz’s “Gravy” or just the overall not so glamorous life UGK talk about. Bun’s celebration of a woman’s “feminine fat in the all the right places” on “Feelin’ You” or describing an especially stacked women as “look[ing] like Crumb drew her” on “Hard As Hell” fit right in with this too.

-That this really sophisticated and fucking honest celebration of women is interchanged so easily with lots of talk about getting your dick sucked and pussy and all that doesn’t negate the so-called “smart” stuff, it gives it more power. Respecting and celebrating women in a way that rejects the worst and weirdest aspects of our culture, but still you know, wanting to fuck and get some head is some more complex, real-er “respect” than ignoring those urges/wants and pretending they don’t exist because then you know, you’re “sensitive”.

-Love the really strange but perfect way UGK 4 Life’s sequenced. Early, up, up, up soul tracks followed by Pimp’s “7th Street Interlude”, a bunch of killer tracks with guests in the middle, then Bun’s “Texas Ave. Interlude”, then the doesn’t-fit-anywhere “Hard as Hell”, the perfect last track “Da Game Been Good To Me” (even more perfect somehow for feeling a bit unfinished, like a fairly clean demo or something?), and Bun’s hyper-sincere “Outro”.

-Oh yeah, “Hard As Hell”. Don’t care if Pimp wanted it on the album, it’s something of a bummer, especially so close to the end of the last UGK record. Pimp and Bun really destroy the verses here though and if Akon didn’t sing the chorus like it isn’t kind of absurd and funny, the song would work. T-Pain could’ve pulled this shit off. Akon’s just singing about his boner.

-”Used To Be”. Wow. The parallel to “Still On the Grind” in terms of just being a barreling monster of a track that still feels warm and soulful somehow? In the past, UGK are doing one or the other, but they bring their sounds and personas together on this album in a way they never have before. A perfect last album in that sense.

Written by Brandon

March 31st, 2009 at 8:36 am

Posted in UGK

How Big Is Your World? New Rap.

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-UGK “7th Street (Interlude)”

There’s a million reasons why Pimp C’s death was a tragedy, but the one that UGK 4 Life mainly brings to mind is how much further Pimp could’ve–and would’ve–taken UGK’s sound. Around Dirty Money, it seemed like Pimp had found way to use his singing voice and rapping voice as extensively as his musical voice. By the time we had Pimpalation and Underground Kingz, he wasn’t giving Bun a breather for a verse or like offering an interesting contrast, he was forming his own, equally complex and rarified thesis on the world around. That his incomplete thesis would end with this demand for real-ness in the form of women not shaving their pubes is perfect.

UGK 4 Life moves even further into Pimp’s odd and incalculably influential idea of “country rap tunes” (emphasis on tunes). Be it B.O-Bobby Ray, Andre 3k, or Kanye, all of them get inadvertently shown-up on this track, as Pimp drops more palpable emotion in this minute and a half of singing than dudes do on whole albums or disastrous SxSw performances. “7th Street Interlude” reminds me of those lo-fi folk songs on the last Witchdoctor album, not only in their shared ability to do a lot more than most with only a little, but in terms of like, hinting listeners towards the possibility of an all-out singing album but wisely leaving it at that…for now at least…or what should’ve been “only for now” but you know, the Pimp is dead. Contained within “7th Street Interlude” though, is the seed for a UGK nerd to sprout into the beautiful, heartbreaking R & B album Chad Butler would’ve dropped in like another decade.

-Big Pooh “Power”

Ever since Getback, it seems Little Brother have come to terms with not being superstars and the very real fact that they don’t make radio rap, and it’s made their music way more likeable, even when something as obvious as the industry’s taken on–the topic of this wonderfully off-the-cuff Delightful Bars (iTunes Version) song. Here, Pooh comes off more like a burned veteran, hoping to give warning to rapper friends as idealistic as he once was. That the song also frames itself around the nebulous concept of “Power”, is at least a little more sophisticated or like, discerning about how stuff works and the precise reasons why it sucks. “Power” is just sort of reaching-out and throwing up its hands at a loose concept that undeniably corrupts and cripples everything.

And it doesn’t hurt that it’s spit over the freakiest, Nintendo Entertainment System beat of the year (alongside Christopher “Deep” Hendersons’ “Blame It” beat for Jamie Foxx). Khrysis brings Rock N’Roll Racing computerized guitar riffs, Dragon Warrior electro-flute, and Super Mario Brothers 1-Up! effects all together into something that still bumps enough that Big Pooh and O. Dash can spit complainer rhymes to and not sound out-of-place. Right before the beat repeats its loop, it’s sorta like the part of “Swagger Like Us” when Jay does that at-first dumb but really kinda goofily transcendant “Ho-o-Ova…” speak-sing thing.

-Unladylike “Bartender”

Already mentioned this, but I’m gonna get all So Many Shrimp on you and be like, “Hey, more people should be talking about this!”…”Bartender”s beat’s real minimal and slinky with moments that max-out, vibrating and swarming around almost evil-like, especially on the hook where it’s “Kernkraft 400″ on it’s ninth shot of Grey Goose, trying to build-up proper and explode but just sort of rumbling around like too much liquor sitting at the bottom of your stomach–reminds me of that recent Diplo/Blaqstarr joint that, while we’re at it, more people should give a shit about too.

Both Unladylike members have a good sense of fast-rapping that seems to be important for all females rappers to do–why, I don’t really know–and Gunna in particular, has a way of sneaking up on you moving from a Southern style drawl to rapid-fire raps, especially when she comes out of the first hook still rapping and into the second hook. Tee isn’t quite as nimble but she’s the secret star of the group, injecting some warm ugly reality into this drank rap. More fun and self-effacing, she devotes her brief verse to the awful-feeling you get when liquor hits you all at once, touching on the not-so-smart decision that more drink’s the answer, and ends it with a hard-ass flirt/demand to meet her in the bathroom. Neither hyper-sexual or Jean Grae “true” and “natural” or whatever, Unladylike stand in that awkward place female rappers (and really maybe females in general) aren’t allowed to occupy: just hanging out, being real.

-Eddie “In Reality”

Like a Baltimore version of North Carolina’s Hall of Justus, E Major-fronted Undersound Music are becoming the go-to for really solid, forward-thinking, fun but traditionalist hip-hop. The newest project is Sound Wandering from Virginia Beach’s Eddie. Somewhere between the avant-orthodoxy of Dilla and the out-and-out weirdo-ness of Flying Lotus or Prefuse 73, Eddie’s formula of in-the-ether soul samples matched-up against clunking, trebly electronics results in a kind of middle-brow experimentation that’s a delight when most to all “conscious rap” producers are either stuck in 1996 or trying too-hard to sound like Year 3006.

“In Reality” revolves around a stretched-out strings sample that expands and contracts and sounds a little melancholy. Stacked atop it though, are some really determined drums and an echoing synth-line that sound confident and ready to take over the world. The song’s on a mission; it could score the transcendent, life-changing moment at the end of some character study. A person holding onto a big decision and standing on the beach…or on Pluto for that matter. The really odd coda where it goes all-out with the fluttering electronics and inexplicably morphs into Eddie’s cell-phone ring and an aimless one-sided phone conversation is the right kind of weird, doesn’t make sense indulgence.

Written by Brandon

March 29th, 2009 at 7:50 am

On Bun B in the "My President" Video…

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More than a multi-racial sea of exuberant Obama supporters standing proud (or just as appropriately wilding out), more than John Lewis’ pensive cameo, more than just the existence of this epic victory lap rap from Young Jeezy, it’s the about-to-cry sincerity of Bun B’s face that makes the “My President” video.

Everybody but Bun’s acceptably sincere: Look pensive, nod your heard, jump up and down, cheer. Bun’s response is the one you’ll get a few moments later, the one that’s not cool, after the adrenaline stops, when the history-making, genuinely hopeful feeling for the first time in awhile sense of joy hits you and you tear up because it seems like maybe just maybe something really great’s really gonna happen.

He’s like, on the verge of tears, biting his lip a little, maintaining his cool, not on some “no homo” shit, but just because. That mix of keeping your cool and being totally okay with being a little bleary-eyed in a rap video’s basically what Bun’s been doing his whole career. It’s what he does when he raps on some much dopier Southern rapper’s “remix” and flips the song into some kinda complex political shit, or just plain raps harder, faster, whatever-er than the rest of the dudes. Whatever the rest of the group’s doing, Bun’s going to do that and then some and inject even more reality and honesty into the whole thing.

Neither a wizened “about damn time” stoic (although he’s probably in part, thinking that) or a treating it like a Super Bowl victory ball of enthusiasm, Bun’s modest and private, shooting the camera a few pensive glances with eyes that say more than Jeezy’s raps and simply raising his chain to Pimp C. It’s an insular kind of joy- the kind of joy you feel in those really glorious moments, where you step off to the side, away from everybody because somehow it’s all come together and you need to be alone. I think that’s what Bun B’s going through–or performing effectively enough–in this video: Tears of joy.

Written by Brandon

January 20th, 2009 at 6:44 am

Aural Convergence: Vincent Gallo’s ‘So Sad’ & Hi-Tek’s ‘So Tired’

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-Click here to download ‘So Sad’ by Vincent Gallo off ‘So Sad’ Single
-Click here to download ‘So Tired’ by Hi-Tek featuring Bun B, Devin the Dude, & Pretty Ugly off ‘Hi-Teknology 2′

If you’ve ever made a trip over to the McSweeney’s website or browsed the many books they’ve published over the years, you’ve probably stumbled upon Lawrence Wenschler’s ‘Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences’. A “convergence” is basically, a visual rhyme or connection between two or more images. Wenschler also provides an essay that unpacks the convergence (this one from a reader, not Wenschler, is my personal favorite). The point and to some extent, the liberation of these convergences is that they are supposed to be created or “spotted” by the viewer and are projected onto the images (an intentional visual reference or rhyme is quite different).

Like a lot of stuff on McSweeney’s, “convergence” is better in theory than execution. It’s quickly devolved into a lot of people being very clever but saying very little about their convergences, but the idea is still interesting. Yesterday, while listening to ‘So Sad’ by Vincent Gallo, I stumbled upon a kind of musical- or aural as opposed to visual- convergence. I should add, that in addition to Wenschler’s book bouncing through my head, Joseph’s post B.O.B. Dylan influenced my “spotting” of the convergence between Vincent Gallo’s ‘So Sad’ and Hi-Tek’s ‘So Tired’.

The brief Gallo song sort of stumbles along, with clunky percussion and strummed guitar, as Gallo bemoans his ability to make everything “so sad”. He’s got this humble, almost-embarrassing croon and the lyrics are so upfront and beyond any sense of lyricism that it feels like a little bit of a joke (Gallo’s personality and the cover for the single seen above don’t help the questionable sincerity either). In the last twenty seconds of the 2 minute and 16 second song, ‘So Sad’ sounds like it’s going to pick up with a warm solo to punctuate the verse-chorus-verse structure but the solo doesn’t act as a bridge or a conventional culmination of the song, it too ends up puttering along, never really going anywhere, and then just ending. For whatever reason, I immediately connected the song, a song I’ve heard maybe a hundred times, with a detail from another song I’ve heard a great deal, ‘So Tired’ by Hi-Tek.

‘So Tired’ ends with nearly a minute of near-blues guitar noodling atop Hi-Tek’s rather clunky drums and that solo too, just sort of punctuates the feelings of the song, it doesn’t send it somewhere else, and while Gallo’s solo basically farts out and stops, Hi-Tek fades-out his solo, so it never really comes to an end. When the songs are put next to one another, they have a great deal in common much more obvious than a purposefully depressive guitar solo (those clunky drums, each have the emphatic “So” in their title, similar content), but this convergence for me, was all about the guitar.

What is interesting is how both songs use the guitar “solo” as a musical convention- to sort of solidify or add to the overall feeling of the song- but avoid the transcendence usually associated with solo-ing. Even a solo in a depressed rock or blues song usually kinda busts-out and tries to move above (or dive totally into) the sadness by wailing (think George Clinton to Eddie Hazel on ‘Maggot Brain’: “Play like your mother just died”), but these ‘So’-song solos just kind of wrap-up the shitty resignation that the rest of the song is already talking about.

Gallo’s solo lacks the structure that a good, affecting solo usually has and it just ends, like Gallo got bored with it. There’s something kind of brilliant about it. The solo matches what the song’s already been saying, but it also makes it physical or at least, a little more visceral. The solo comes, sort of builds, and then just stops, the final chords echoing out and the song ends. You don’t leave “wanting more” or anything, you just sort of leave the song confused and unsure of why it ended there. There’s also the sense of it being such an intimate and even embarrassing song and if- at least for the moment- you take ‘So Sad’ as sincere, then it’s almost as if Gallo just gives up, too depressed to properly finish his song. At the same time, there’s this sense of insincerity to the song that I suggested earlier. I own ‘So Sad’ as a record and I think I dropped like $8.99 on it whenever it came out and the only song on the single being really short and kind of anti-climactic could feel like a bit of a “fuck you” but if it’s a fuck you, well then, it’s the song itself exemplifying what Gallo so sadly and honestly sings about: His ability to make everything “so sad”. It’s easy to leave the song ‘So Sad’ being sort of annoyed.

The most apparent contrast between ‘So Sad’ and ‘So Tired’ is how although both are expressing a similar feeling of “I know what’s wrong with me but I’m too fucked to do anything about it”, Gallo still subscribes to conventional rock and folk intimacy signifiers, while ‘So Tired’, even at its most lethargic, still kinda bangs. That it is mixed so loud, exemplifies the confidence that rap music always employs even when delving deep into emotions. Hi-Tek’s decision to fade-out the guitar however, brings it back down a few notches and has it slowly falling away rather than abruptly cutting-off like Gallo’s solo. If this loudly-mixed solo, however pensive it feels, just suddenly stopped, it wouldn’t sound right. Hi-Tek and the rappers are sort of expressing their concern of deterioration and so, the guitar kind of deteriorates through the fade-out.

Fading-out a guitar solo has always seemed like a bullshit move in my opinion. Go listen to Neil Young’s ‘Cortez the Killer’, one of the best and wanky-in-a-good-way solos I know of and then think about how awful it is that it fucking fades-out. Maybe it was to fit it on the side of the LP or whatever, but it’s awful because it feels cheaply anti-climactic and even lazy. The fade-out on ‘So Tired’ isn’t a cop-out, it’s the only place for the song to go. The same could be said of Gallo’s anti-solo on ‘So Sad’. All that would happen after that solo is for it to go on a little longer, and then another chorus and two more verses and then it would end. There would be a confidence to the song’s structure that would make it one more sad-bastard song and not this weirdly, conceptual lament.

Written by Brandon

April 24th, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Top 10 Non-Album Tracks Pt. 2

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‘Stress’ by Justice off : I love Justice the way I love my Nike Vintage Runners as like an example of hipster douchebag effrontery so extreme it becomes great again. And like those vintage runners,’†’ is great enough that its context or fans or what it may or may not represent just stop mattering. Justice are the great part of the French, the side that realized that Jerry Lewis is really fucking funny and that Poe can’t really write well but his stuff is really interesting and smart in its own way…more Derrida than Foucault, more Barthes than Baudelaire…you know??!!

‘D.A.N.C.E’ is a fun track but like a lot of singles from kinda out-there albums, it’s sort of an anomaly on the record…’Waters of Nazareth’ is a more telling single but was previously released as a stand-alone single, so I’m going with ‘Stress’ which comes before ‘Waters’ and is the point where ‘†’ gets really crazy again. The dentist-drill breakdown, the stiff poor man’s ‘Thriller’ drums, the way the trick of letting the beat like really fucking drop is used a couple of times in the song and is still exhilarating, and this randomly placed shard of static noise throughout, it sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a Romero Mall Zombie dance party or a bunch of Jersey dudes pumping their fists and pouring water on one another in some kinda gross club or my dumb-ass driving to work.

‘Top Drop Dyne Remix’ by UGK off Underground Kingz: This is the version of ‘Top Drop Dyne’ that follows-up disc 1’s closer ‘Trill Niggaz Never Die’, I just put it through Cool Edit and turned it into its own track. It’s representative of how dense and overwhelming ‘Underground Kingz’ can be: When a track like this is relegated to a hidden track at the end of the first disc, you made a fucking solid album. The number of Southern rap tracks that use clean-ish like near-hair metal guitars must be entering triple digits, but it doesn’t really get old and its one of the more non-soul samples that generally succeeds.

I was sort of in denial of it when this album came out, but yeah, overall, Bun B is a little disappointing on ‘Underground Kingz’, especially- unfair as this might be- when you compare it to anything he drops on ‘Ridin’ Dirty’. Maybe it’s my fanboy justification here, but it seems like Bun’s underwhelmingness(?) was on-purpose. With Pimp C getting out of jail and this being the first genuine UGK release in awhile, it was Pimp’s turn to shine. This, of course takes on even greater meaning because of Pimp’s death (it’s still crazy to type that out, that Pimp C is dead). On this track in particular, Pimp’s Southern whine sounds even more extreme and confident and it’s great that he not only addresses his annoyance with East-Coast elitism, but takes time to address the fact that he gets shit for addressing East-Coast elitism. Ending his verse with “get your fingers out your ass, bitch!” is about as unapologetic as you can get.

‘Can’t Say No (featuring Trick Daddy’ by Kanye West (unreleased): The best Kanye West song since the shit from ‘College Dropout’? This song should be the blueprint for how Kanye could continue to do different stuff with his beats but not be out-there in this predictably “out-there” way. The beat mixes chipmunk soul with some total retro dance-party bump that people like M.I.A or A-Trak and stuff are into. But over it, instead of funny rap sloganeering, Kanye gives a totally sincere verse that apes the content of ‘Spaceship’. What exactly is this song? If Trick Daddy’s verse didn’t mention ringtones and gas prices, I’d swear it’s from like 2003 and on one of those pre-’Dropout’ mixtapes.

Similar to the opening track on ‘Graduation’, Kanye’s sloppy rapping and embrace of his normal speaking voice, gives one a feeling of like, slowly moving into something shitty or at least, not so fun. When he says “Wake up, new day, same shit” his voice feels like he really is waking up to deal with some bullshit. The stuff about not only wanting to quit but come back and “go postal” and the whole idea of “tak[ing] shit too far” nods toward the very real frustration turned self-destruction you feel working some annoying job. Cynics can say Kanye’s day isn’t like that anymore and maybe never really was, but his ability to articulate those feelings in a way that is ultimately, inspiring, matters more than whenever was the last time he worked at the GAP or something; he clearly remembers those feelings well.

Written by Brandon

December 28th, 2007 at 12:09 am

Pimp C (1973-2007)

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“One day you’re here, and the next day you’re gone…”; 2007 is fucked the fuck up. On the personal tip, the year started with the suicide of a best friend and the year sorta kinda ending on the death of Pimp C is uh, a little devastating. I woke up about an hour ago to see a few e-mails from friends (and some readers!) about Pimp’s death and then saw it plastered all over the rap-focused feeds on my iGoogle page. I mention this because this info-age way of learning of the news- not even from a television- did nothing to lessen the weird feelings and shock that fucking Pimp C from UGK is dead.

I recall in high school when Dee Dee Ramone died and how it was when MTV sorta showed videos so they interrupted with ‘MTV News’ to tell their listeners and that death too, really got to me. Never was this super-Ramones fan (the group’s way better in theory), but Dee Dee seemed so great and his crapped-out bridge on ‘53rd & 3rd’ (“then I took out my razor blade…”) and him playing in the shower in that one scene in ‘Rock N’ Roll High School’ both came to mind upon hearing of his death and now, it’s the same with Pimp C, only as an artist, he means a lot more to me…That first verse on the first song of the first disc of ‘Underground Kingz’ with Pimp C coming in, his Southern accent upped to cartoonish extremes: “I got candy in my cup/Candy on my car…”, and it’s him wearing a Nirvana shirt in the ‘Use Me Up’ video, when his voice lowers and he says “I really miss Robert Davis” on ‘Chrome Plated Woman’, and just about everything he does on ‘Ridin’ Dirty’, and his voice wheezing out “Fuck how ya’ feel” on a number of recent songs and it’s him on that UGK Bonus DVD speaking with absolute conviction as if he’s making sure he’s using the right words to make his real-life, lesson-learned points with this hard, prison stare but Pimp himself is only focused on the future because, for all Pimp’s disses and beefs, it was all reactionary, standing up for what he saw necessary; one gets the impression he would’ve rather not had to tell everyone to “quit hatin’ on the South” and done his thing, and given everybody a hug or a pat on the back.

“Real” has totally devolved into another hip-hop cliche but it really does describe Pimp C, and not because he went to jail or gets high a lot, or beats-up his girlfriend or whatever, it’s because he really didn’t give much of a shit what people thought of him; he was sincere. Sincere when he subtly bemoaned the loss of DJ Screw or when he told whole regions to take their fingers out of their bootyhole and even if you’re the type who thought he could have conveyed his message in better ways…dude was pretty much right about everything- and when he rapped, the stuff was tied-up with everything else he was observing so his verses, half-rapped, half-yelled, not always totally rhyming, could bounce from pissed-off observations to emotionally honest stuff and back again. And those beats, don’t forget those beats…instrument-based country rap tunes, palpably funk and soul-based that really were the basis for UGK’s near-two decade significance. We’ll soon see shirts with “R.I.P Pimp C” and they’ll replace those “Free Pimp C” shirts and in-song shout-outs. R.I.P Pimp C.

And, whether or not it turns out Pimp’s death is drug-related, seriously, be careful with that purple stuff kids.“My world’s a trip, you can ask Bun B bitch, I ain’t no liar
My man Bobo just lost his baby in a house fire
And when I got on my knees that night to pray
I ask God why you let these killers live
And take my homeboy’s son away?
Man, if you got kids show ‘em you love ‘em
‘Cuz God might just call ‘em home
‘Cuz one day they here and baby, the next day they gone”

Written by Brandon

December 4th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Pimp C, UGK, the South

New Biographical Dictionary of Rap Entries: UGK & Big Moe

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But first thing’s fucking first: We’re all going to die of Staph infections! Are you ready??

Christopher wrote an excellent entry on UGK for this weird project being called ‘The Biographical Dictionary of Rap’. I really like how personal and honest it is and how that moves into some great comments on UGK’s very rarified sense of “trill”-ness:

“Like most people not up on southern rap, my first experience with UGK was in early 2000 when “Big Pimpin’” came out, and I kept thinking “Who the fuck is Ug-kuh?” At the time, I thought one of them was UGK and didn’t know which one. I also wondered why they were on the song, but stopped thinking about it when I heard Pimp C’s verse, which was pretty fucking great. It turned out to be a classic single, but I didn’t give the guys another thought, even after BET’s Rap City started programming a lot of southern rap around late 2000, until Spin did one of those “hip” magazine genre/sub-genre starter kits and name dropped a bunch of southern rap albums they thought were the best. The only ones I recall from the article were an 8 Ball and MJG record, and Ridin’ Dirty…”

I also wrote an entry on Big Moe; sort of an extension of what I said in my quick entry from Monday…

Written by Brandon

October 19th, 2007 at 4:03 am

Baltimore City Paper Article: UGK and Common Review

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My first article in-print! I’m excited! Thanks to Ray and Tom. If you live in the Baltimore area, the City Paper is free and available all over the place. I’ll probably run out and get it and cut it out and keep it (no seriously, I will!)…

“Common’s Finding Forever and UGK’s Underground Kingz are “albums” in the true sense of the word: a group of consistent, thematically cohesive songs. This fact alone elevates both above most of the year’s rap releases, but while Common coasts by on his consciousness, UGK sounds dissatisfied with delivering product and offers something more than meeting expectations.”

I ignored it to not sound ungrateful and because it ultimately doesn’t matter, but the online version is a little messed-up. It’s labeled only as a review of UGK, so when I start talking about Common, it seems kind of weird. The print version is properly labeled and gets the last name right too (Jew-BERG)…

Written by Brandon

September 12th, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Posted in City Paper, Common, UGK

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In Defense of Pimp C
There’s a point on the UGK Bonus DVD where Rick Ross praises UGK, talking about “Bun B’s flow” and then he stumbles for a second before praising Pimp C, finally committing to “Pimp C’s charisma” and the way Pimp well, sounds like a pimp. Ross stumbles because what makes Pimp C great is a lot less tangible than Bun B’s articulate drawl or ridiculous ability to stay on beat.

By any conventional standard, Pimp is a poor rapper and while praising him for his “charisma” is apt, it is the kind of half-bullshit argument guys like me make to defend Young Jeezy and well, Pimp C brings a little more to the table than the Snowman. Pimp is unbridled in his flow and rhyming, which can lead to some cringe-inducing clunkers, but he’s equally unbridled with his content, making him more honest than just about any rapper out there. He sincerely asks, “I wonder if there’s a Heaven up there for real Gs” and also angrily threatens to put “dick up in your daughter”. Pimp can talk more shit and drop more tear-jerking lines; there’s no filter or rather, he gives the illusion that there isn’t a filter so on, ‘Swishas and Doshas’ he rhymes “sparkling” and “chocolate” but he also drops the very-honest line about how he “ain’t got no friends since [he] got out the pen”. That honesty, to me, is more significant than being technically good or even adequate.

I can’t help but think of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who although technically better, has a similarly polarzing way of navigating emotional extremes. In a poetry class I took, the ODB was brought up jokingly by the professor causing a dread-locked, militant, light-skinned (surprise, surprise) girl to roll her eyes and go on a rant about what the ODB “represents”. Of course, he represented everything that is wrong with black people and blah blah blah. The professor calmly replied with an anecdote his mother told him as a child; that “some people’s farts smell worse than others but no one’s smell like roses”. It was profound and scatological, like the ODB; it applies to Pimp C as well.

Why do people crave consistency? Pimp’s flow and attitude is an embrace of chaos that most people like to believe doesn’t exist. Whether they believe in radical politics or some Platonic sense of “good rapping” it’s all complacency employed to keep the real and horrible out. I used to understand critiques of Pimp’s flow and still laugh about it, but after hearing ‘Underground Kingz’ at least 50 times in the past week, all I hear is real. Not some “soul-bearing”-bullshit-need-to-express-himself real, but honesty rooted in experience and an understanding of just how fucked up shit can get. You see it too, on that aforementioned Bonus DVD when Pimp, talks of how the people in prison aren’t all bad but have caught a bad break or made a mistake or can’t hack it once they get in there…and this comes from the guy whose catchphrase as of late is “Fuck how you feel”.

Written by Brandon

August 15th, 2007 at 4:15 am

Posted in ODB, Pimp C, UGK, the South

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Random Thoughts On the New UGK
-‘Best Buy’ has the CD for $9.99 and the “exclusive” edition with a DVD for $12.99. Even though the DVD isn’t really worth three bucks I had to buy it. The DVD is actually nice, the documentary is well-done and you get video for ‘The Game Belongs To Me’ and ‘Int’l Players Anthem’. The main nerd appeal of this version however, is the old-style double-disc case; you know, that extra thick one that ‘Life After Death’ or ‘Sign O The Times’ comes in? The CD is also an “enhanced CD” and when you put it on your computer, this little icon of the cover shows. I don’t know if it was on purpose, it had to be sort of, but it’s all this nerded-out rap nostalgia. Like its 1997 and I’m accessing the enhanced content of ‘Forever’ and going through the virtual Wu Mansion…

-I was truly excited about the album because I didn’t download the leak. In part because the widget thingy that Noz posted gave me an adequate preview of the album and also it being two discs, it’s just a lot to download and my connection would cut-out or some prick would sign off before I got the whole thing. The result was, I had only really sort of heard the songs. I heard it as a totally new album upon purchasing which hasn’t happened since ‘Late Registration’. There was also sharing the excitement of the album with my friends. At noon, I talked to Monique in Delaware who was buying it, and my friend John who works in Annapolis, MD bought it on his lunch-break. There was enthusiasm shared and text messages sent back and forth (“Pimp C needs a ghostwriter haha”, “It gets really good at the end of Disc 1”, “I think Disc 2 is even better!”) and last night, my friends and I sat around and watched the bonus DVD. It’s just fun in a way that fucking iTunes and torrent-downloads can’t be.

-Speaking of the DVD. Are UGK the coolest fucking guys ever? They just really get how shit works and they are really modest and real about everything. When Bun and Pimp talk about ‘The Story’ from ‘Trill’ its genuinely moving, especially the way Pimp C says they don’t even really talk about it. That’s how it is with real friends, especially if you’re a guy, sometimes you just nod or share a look and it says more than actually discussing your feelings.

-One of the more disturbing things on the DVD is how Pimp C definitely has this prison-stare now. If you’ve ever met anybody that’s been in prison, they pick up this stare, probably part out of survival and also because their mind’s still blown from being in fucking prison; Pimp C really has it. Every word or point he makes is emphasized by his piercing stare and a tone that kind of feels like what he is saying is life or death urgent.

-‘Underground Kingz’ is perfectly paced. It’s too long but that’s obvious, it’s a double album. However, it works by having the pacing of a single album. It really doesn’t start to get amazing until late on Disc 1 and from there on out, it all just kills. From ‘Grind Hard’ to the second half of ‘Trill Niggas Don’t Die’ (which I guess is a remix of ‘Top Drop Dyne’) with these Randy Rhodes heavy-rocker guitars, oh shit.

-I think Southern rap actually gains a lot from the length of the albums. Every ‘Cash Money’ record is “too-long” but the length also works as complete immersion into the ‘Cash Money’ world. There’s something about rap that doesn’t need to be concise and even loses something in brevity. I went crazy over ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ and ‘Return of the Mac’ when they came out but I barely listen to them now. They’re just fairly easy to “get”, you know? The stretched-out, more conventional musicality of Southern beats too, caters to longer song-lengths and borderline “jamming”. Every beat feels urgent but once you get caught up in it, it just sort of bumps and whirls around you, sometimes for like seven minutes straight. Black Moon could fit three great songs into seven minutes, depending on your point of view, that could be good or bad or both…

-For old-ass whiny rappers, fuck Common or Jay-Z, ‘Underground Kingz’ is how you age gracefully. The album undoubtedly sounds like UGK but they have their eyes and ears open to the current trends of the South and totally body the songs. They don’t have any interest in reaching-out beyond the new and old trends of their region and they don’t need the jerk-off from Coldplay on their songs to sound “mature”. Their voices are mature, their style is mature, and they take plenty of time to address the more complex aspects of “the street” without making excuses for their age or condescending to younger rappers, although there’s plenty of condescension to New York.

-Besides a roster of recent Southern rappers, you get Talib Kweli, Dizzee Rascal, the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson, and true rap legends like Scarface, Willie D (!!!!!!), Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane. What other rap album pulls that off or even attempts it?

-‘Quit Hatin’ On The South’ is like a thesis on why hatred of the South is retarded. Seriously. One thing that certainly affects record sales is that essentially an entire coast refuses to buy anything Southern. While those in the South, Midwest, or West don’t worry too much about regionalism, at least in terms of music purchasing, the East coast refuses to even take true legends like UGK seriously. Fuck everybody.

-Do not listen to this album on your little computer speakers or your iPod earbuds. Play it really loud. In your car, on your stereo, anywhere, just play it loud because that’s how you need to hear it. The production is supposed to hit you, you’re supposed to feel it the same way a really good line hits you.

-My friend Jesse made this:

-I love the DJ Screw style but most other chopped-and-screwed stuff is terrible. Michael Watts doesn’t have any of the subtlety or genius of DJ Screw. The chopped-and-screwed version of ‘Int’l Players Anthem’ is amazing though. It isn’t just formulaic chopping and screwing but a real understanding and focus on making a listenable song in the screwed style.

-”Disc 1 is better. Disc 2 is like, R & B for boys”-Monique

-Buy this album. I won’t front like my enthusiasm may not wane as it has for just about every other rap release this year but right now, this is all I’m listening to.

Written by Brandon

August 9th, 2007 at 4:36 pm

Posted in DJ Screw, UGK, the South