Since Uncle Chad’s passing in 2007, we’ve been gifted: the final UGK album, UGK 4 Life, two solo projects, one of his greatest verses ever on the remix to Jay Z’s “Tom Ford,” and now, finally, Long Live The Pimp. And with that effort now available to the masses (Stream the full album now via iTunes. Long Live The Pimp officially drops Friday, Dec. 4th via Mass Appeal Records–pre-order here) we can state with more confidence a few things we already suspected: a) posthumous albums are always tough to listen to; b) very few rappers could ever cuss with as much ferocity as Pimp C; and c) Pimp will always sound best over his own production.
There’s nothing here that grabs you as urgently as the “Tom Ford” verse or some of the cuts from his first two posthumous albums, The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones and Still Pimping, like “What Up” (which features some of Drake’s most quotable lines ever) or “Hit The Parking Lot,” visited by a maniacal Lil’ Boosie, or “Grippin’ On The Wood,” where his UGK partner Bun B drops an incredible Helen Mirren reference and Big K.R.I.T. cusses the shit out of his verse, which surely would have made Pimp proud. Still on “3 Way Freak,” the album’s first single, Pimp C assures us that he’s, “a young Marvin Gaye in ’68 in his prime,” over an expansive Mr. Lee beat. It sounds like Pimp and Lil’ Wayne are rapping in a candy-coated spaceship.
Pimp’s catalogue of unreleased solo material has to be running thin at this point, which is why production here is handled mainly by Mr. Lee, a Houston veteran, with contributions from Juicy J and Mike Will Made It. To his credit, Lee makes use of the Meters’ style church organs that have become synonymous with Pimp C, but we know that from the beginning, Pimp, like Dr. Dre, always preferred to work with real live musicians and there are few, if any, to be found here. This is a project that surely would have benefitted from the touch of Pimp’s country rap tune co-conspirators like Mike Dean, Steve Below, and Cory Mo.
For those who like thinkin’ with their pimpin’ (to parapharase Bun: Read A Book!) Julia Beverly’s Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story is an invaluable resource in understanding the music of Pimp C and Bun B from now until eternity. One of the most thorough biographies since Charles Cross took on Hendrix in Room Full of Mirrors, Beverly’s book was written with invaluable insight from Pimp’s mother, and long time road manager, Mama Wes (may she rest in peace). Whether learning about Pimp’s diagnosed bi-polar disorder, his own perceived schizophrenia, and the many characters he created to help himself cope with the cold realities of being both a) black in pro-death penalty, prison-happy, racist Texas, and b) an outsider in an industry run by a handful of offices in New York City, the context Beverly provides helps the listener understand which Chad Butler you’re hearing on a given record…