Pimp C: I Kept It Real For You Part 1

Feel free to nod in agreement if you’ve heard this one before. Rapper on the brink of huge crossover finds his success stalled by the inevitable penitentiary sentence; in a shocking turn of events his subsequent prison stay not only creates more of a buzz for the hugely successful album but also generates street credibility upon said rappers release. While the above scenario sounds like the ultimate gangsta’s fairy tale, K-Solo, Slick Rick, and a host of A&R’s with lackluster album sales to show for their faith and financial investments in such outcomes will probably tell you differently.

Just ask Pimp C. After years of paying dues and influencing today’s generation of “Trap Stars,” UGK was poised to trade in their pockets full of stones for platinum plaques by milking the commercial success of their Jay-Z collaboration “Big Pimpin.’” While no one would doubt that the Port Arthur natives had seen their fair share of adversity, the lukewarm reception of 2001’s Dirty Money surely couldn’t have been part of the plan. Neither was Pimp C’s four year prison bid, stemming from missing community service following an aggravated-assault conviction. If that seemed unlikely, surely no one could predict that UGK would be one of the few groups to benefit from America’s penal system.

Aside from inadvertently creating two successful solo albums, the incarceration of “Sweet Jones” turned “Free Pimp C,” into a rallying cry for virtually every artist below the Mason-Dixon Line—the movement even came with matching t-shirts and hats. The man whom the government has been calling Chad Butler for the last four years has no aspirations on glorifying his prison experience. He’d much rather talk about his role as a “Slab Music” ambassador for fellow Texans such as Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire and Mike Jones. But, what else would you expect from “The Trill One”?

AllHipHop.com: When you first came home a lot of people wanted to interview you about being in prison. You originally stated that you would avoid doing media such as 20/20 and BET and just release a DVD, what’s the status of that?

Pimp C: We dropped the Pimpalation DVD and it talks about it a little bit. I don’t like to comment too much on it though because it’s nothing positive down there. You can turn that positive into a negative, but for the most part it’s negative. I prefer to talk about the music.

AllHipHop.com: That’s understandable, I can respect that.

Pimp C: I’m not saying that to you, like I don’t want you to ask me those [prison] questions. I’m telling you that that’s the reason I haven’t done any interviews on that level. I don’t mind answering your questions about that, though.

AllHipHop.com: That’s all good. I didn’t have any plans to dwell on the subject, but I did want to address a few things. You mentioned wanting to change how bad some of the conditions were in the Texas prison systems, how are you efforts going so far?

Pimp C: Some other people in powerful positions have to want to go down there and investigate. It’s common knowledge of what’s going on in Texas, it’s just that the powers that be are so strong down there that the media doesn’t even really want to open up that can of worms. When the time comes somebody will go down there and expose that there are people dying every other day. You’re talking about a system that tells you, “You’re a slave.” I mean, Ray Charles can see that it’s f**ked up and he’s blind and dead! No disrespect to Ray Charles, but do you see what I’m sayin’?

AllHipHop.com: Definitely. You reportedly wrote over 2,500 songs while in prison, with that much material why didn’t you release a solo effort instead of a compilation?

Pimp C: Coming from the type of group that I’m involved with, we’re so serious about our music that we never got to have a good time making music. I’ve never had a fun album in my career; everything was like giving birth to a baby—painstaking and such. I wanted to come out and do something I’ve never got to do.

These are the types of things I was thinking about when I was laying up in that place like, “Why haven’t I gotten to work with these beautiful producers and these guys that make this beautiful Slab Music?” So I finally got to work with them on this project. We always made guest appearances on other people’s projects all through the ‘90s and early ‘00s, but I wanted to make records with some people too. I figured now was a good time to do it, so I did it. Truth be told, I’m not excited about a solo career, I’m in UGK. I don’t even enjoy being onstage without Bun. If I look over to my left, or I look over to my right and he ain’t there, the s**t ain’t right. All of my solo projects or anything that I get involved in is going to have to be something exciting. The day that I make a serious solo album and produce all of the songs myself and really get in there and do that, it’ll be my last album. When you hear that one you’ll know that there will never be another one after that.

AllHipHop.com: Since you opened that topic up, do you ever look forward to the day when you guys focus solely on the artists on UGK Records?

Pimp C: I wanna pull a Dr. Dre and sign a guy or some guys that are serious enough to where I don’t have to actually be in the spotlight; I’d want to nurture there careers to a point where they were important. Of course I would like to evolve into that executive type, but right now I’m still on the front lines. I’ve got some good artists though like Viscous and Smoke D.

AllHipHop.com: Well we just got you back, so we still need another UGK album. Are you guys still signed to Jive as a group?

Pimp C: Yeah, we owe them one more record.

AllHipHop.com: In the past people such as A Tribe Called Quest and Clipse haven’t been happy with their situation at Jive, how about you guys?

Pimp C: I’m not unhappy; things are going good. I’ve been unhappy in the past, but this time around I’m just hoping that everybody does their job. When we bring a project in that we’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into we just want them to step up and do their part—no more, no less. If you’re in promotions, promote. If it’s your job to get the videos played, go get ‘em played. As powerful as they are, they’ve seen acts come and go, so they have an understanding about what needs to be done to get records and videos played.

AllHipHop.com: You were one of the few people to initially support T.I. taking the title “King of the South,” how did that come about?

Pimp C: I don’t think the kid meant no disrespect to anyone by saying that. He meant that he was the king. As black males we have a fixation with things that are royal, like jewels for example, kings wear jewelry. Take the nice cars, for example, the kings had the nicest horses and carriages along with fine fabrics and nice homes. I think the fact that he said “The King,” might have been misinterpreted and I could see how that would offend someone if they were insecure with themselves. What I was saying on his album was that I never got it twisted, I know what he was saying and I support T.I.

I am a little disappointed about what’s going on with him and [Lil’] Flip—in fact I’m more that a little disappointed. I’m not angry, but I’m concerned about how far this s**t has gone. When I see side artists and n***as that don’t even have nothing to do with the beef getting into it and saying s**t it concerns me, I don’t like it. I support all these kids and I want to see them all sell records, but I just don’t think that pouring gasoline on that fire right now is the right thing to be doing. Now I’m not choosing no sides in this s**t, I’m just saying that I’m concerned about the situation, I don’t like it. I like T.I. and I respect him as a man and as an artist, but I don’t like what he and Flip are doing.

AllHipHop.com: You guys have collaborated with just about everyone who is relevant in the South. Did you get the feeling that working with Jay-Z on “Big Pimpin’” was the point were everyone acknowledged that the South was taking over?

Pimp C: He did what nobody else was willing to do, but Jay-Z has always been ahead of the curve. He was the first one, besides Shaquille O’Neal, to talk about platinum. He was the first n***a to come out there with a tennis-bracelet necklace on, he had that s**t on back in 1999. Go back and check “Big Pimpin’” and you’ll see that Jay-Z’s got tennis-bracelet necklaces on in that video. He’s always been ahead of the curve; it’s like he’s got a vision of what’s about to happen. He saw that eventually the torch was gonna get passed to the South—I’m convinced that he saw it. He never told me this, but he’s a very insightful person. He’s witty, observant and he watches what happens in the game. He saw a way to help us and at the same time help himself. You’ve got to understand that a lot of people who would never buy a Jay-Z album bought a Jay-Z album off the strength of that record.

It was great for our careers, and he knew what he was doing. I think he helped influence all this s**t that’s going on with Houston right now. Hats off, nothing but respect goes out to Jay-Z and his organization, as well as the old regime. I worked with all of them back at Roc-A-Fella when that record was going down. I’m cool with both sides – Jay and Dame and everybody and truthfully, I liked it when they was all together. It was something special at The Roc at that time. It’s a good thing to see young blacks getting rich like that together and staying unified.

AllHipHop.com: I’d have to agree with you there. I’ve heard that you were reluctant to do “Big Pimpin’”

Pimp C: Coming from where I come from, our whole fan base is based off of street credibility. Making this kind of music, this beautiful “Slab Music,” as I like to call it, that [song] was not that. It’s not a lot of records before or after “Big Pimpin’” that sound like that, unless somebody tried to go and remake that record. Hearing it finished and watching the video is one thing, but imagine hearing that beat and then rapping on it in the studio after you’ve been rapping hardcore s**t all night. To my ears, it was sabotage and I really didn’t wanna go that route. It only happened after having four or five conversations with Jay and him staying in my ear about it. Our conversations basically went like this:

“Family, this is going to be the biggest record of your career!”

“I know. That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“Come on family, just do it for me.”

“I respect you and it’s your record. If you wanna do it, let’s do it.”

We ended up doing it and we had an indication of what it was going to do in radio. I remember being on the video shoot and him coming up to me saying, “See family, I told you [laughing]. I told you this s**t was gonna be the biggest record,” and I was like, “Yeah, I know. You told me. I was wrong and you were right.” Again, that’s the genius that Shawn Carter has. He’s a fan of this s**t, but he can separate himself and see what’s going to happen ahead of time. He’s not scared to do different types of records and he’s not caught up in one certain sound if it’s the right thing to do. He saw that he had to go get that Timbaland sound and put them country boys from Texas on it—so all credit goes to him.

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