UGK (short for Underground Kingz) was an American hip hop duo from Port Arthur, Texas, formed in 1987, by Chad "Pimp C" Butler and Bernard "Bun B" Freeman. They released their first major-label album, Too Hard to Swallow, in 1992, followed by several other albums charting on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, including the self-titled Underground Kingz album, which contained their single "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)" and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, in August 2007. The duo has also been featured on hit singles by several other artists, such as "Big Pimpin'" by Jay-Z and "Sippin' on Some Syrup" by Three 6 Mafia. Pimp C founded UGK Records in late 2005. On December 4, 2007, Pimp C died in his West Hollywood, California hotel room.

UGK
Bun B (left) and Pimp C in 2007
Bun B (left) and Pimp C in 2007
Background information
Also known asUnderground Kingz
OriginPort Arthur, Texas, U.S.
Genres
Years active1987–2007
LabelsJive, Rap-A-Lot, eOne Music
Past members
Websitewww.the-ugks.com

Hailing from Port Arthur, Texas, UGK members Pimp (Chad Butler) and Bun (Bernard Freeman) shared roots in the same town as iconic figures like Janis Joplin and Robert Rauschenberg. Despite the town's population of 60,000, with a notable African American community, it wasn't initially recognized for its rap scene. The duo, adopting the moniker "Underground Kingz" (UGK), did so due to their unique country rap style, rich in "slang and twang," which they believed might be challenging for outsiders to grasp. UGK's musical fusion seamlessly integrated "deep bluesy textures, triumphant church organs, thick funk, and meaty soul" into their compositions.

Bun, born Bernard Freeman, earned his nickname "Bunny" in childhood, later shortened to Bun. His rap delivery was likened to a "speeding-train," characterized by lyrics that felt meticulously crafted and coated with a heavy lacquer.

Pimp, son of a trumpet player, developed a passion for music early in life. His musical background included exposure to classical genres, Italian sonnets, and Negro spirituals. Even before formal musical education, Pimp displayed a remarkable ability to play instruments by ear, including piano, trumpet, drums, and flugelhorn. His vocal style was noted for being high-voiced, unstable, and provocative—equally likely to deliver a powerful message as to croon a love song. Influenced by Run-DMC, Pimp began crafting beats to rap over after receiving a drum machine and keyboard as a Christmas gift. Responding to advice from Pimp's stepfather to "put some music in that," he ventured beyond the conventional kick-snare formula, embracing 808s and emphasizing hi-hats in their productions. This musical evolution became a defining aspect of UGK's distinctive sound.

Career and recordings edit

In 1992, UGK was signed to Jive Records under a five-album contract, releasing their major-label debut album Too Hard to Swallow.[1] While it featured several new recordings, it also featured several songs that had been culled from The Southern Way.[2] However, several songs that had been intended to be included on the album were excised at the last minute, apparently due to their overly explicit content. Five of these songs would surface two months before the release of Too Hard to Swallow, on an EP distributed by Bigtyme Recordz; appropriately enough, the EP was titled Banned. A popular song from the album "Pocket Full of Stones" was also included on the Menace II Society soundtrack in 1993.

Their second album, Super Tight, was released two years later, on August 30. Unlike their previous album, Super Tight managed to break into the Billboard Hot 200 and ultimately peaked at #95; their third album, Ridin' Dirty, peaked at #15.[3] Ridin' Dirty would also be UGK's last album for the time being, as they went on a five-year hiatus not long afterward.

The year 2000 became a breakthrough year for the group. UGK made a high-profile guest appearance on Jay-Z's smash hit "Big Pimpin'" and also appeared on Three 6 Mafia's hit "Sippin' on Some Syrup". Both of these collaborations greatly increased their reputation, and helped fuel anticipation for their next project[citation needed]. Jive Records failed to capitalize on this new-found interest in the duo, as their fourth album, 2001's Dirty Money, came and went with little fanfare.

Further problems arose when Pimp C was incarcerated for an aggravated gun assault charge in 2002.[4] Throughout the time of his incarceration, Bun B carried on the UGK name by making numerous guest appearances on songs by other artists, with every appearance either mentioning Pimp C or featuring a "Free Pimp C!" or "Free the Pimp" chant. Many of UGK's peers did the same, and mentioned Pimp C in their own songs with or without Bun B.[5] During this period, Jive Records released a Best of UGK album, as well as a Chopped & Screwed remix album.[6] As a result of Pimp C's incarceration, both members of UGK began solo careers out of necessity.

Rap-A-Lot Records released Pimp C's solo debut, Sweet James Jones Stories, on March 1, 2005. Bun B later released his own solo foray, Trill, on October 18, 2005. It opened at #6 on the Billboard Hot 200, and also peaked at #1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-hop Album chart.

On December 30, 2005, Pimp C was released from prison and was to be on parole until December 2009.[7][8] He released his first post-incarceration album, titled Pimpalation, on July 25, 2006.[9]

On August 7, 2007, the group released their fifth studio album, the self-titled Underground Kingz. It was a double album, containing 26 tracks and spanning two discs.[10] Featured guests included Talib Kweli, Too Short, Rick Ross, Z-RO, Three 6 Mafia, Slim Thug, OutKast, as well as hip-hop legends Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane on a Marley Marl-produced track titled "Next Up". The album also featured British rapper Dizzee Rascal on the track "Two Types of Bitches",[10] following UGK's guest appearance in Rascal's own album Maths + English for the track "Where's Da G's". The album featured production by DJ Paul & Juicy J, Jazze Pha, Swizz Beatz, The Runners, Lil Jon, fellow Texas legend Scarface, and Pimp C.[11] DJ Paul and Juicy J produced the second single, "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)".

The album got a positive reception, both commercially and critically. It received a 4-star rating from Allmusic, and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 album charts. "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" became the group's only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts, where it peaked at #70.

2007–09: Death of Pimp C and breakup edit

On December 4, 2007, Pimp C was found dead at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, California, after Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to a 9-1-1 call. They arrived to his sixth-floor hotel room to find him dead in bed. This was three days after he performed with Too Short at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.[12][13]

Bun B was interviewed a few days later by radio DJ Madd Hatta, and an audio recording has been posted online.[14]

In 2008, Bun B stated in an interview that there would be one last UGK album released, before he permanently becomes a solo act: "Yea, we’re still putting together this last UGK record too, because there’s a lot of music that we’ve already recorded for it," said Bun B. "I think that album itself is going to be a little bit weird."[15] UGK 4 Life was released in 2009.

Style and influences edit

Bun B said that they grew up listening to the Geto Boys, Eric B and Rakim, N.W.A[16] and A Tribe Called Quest.[17] UGK (most notably Pimp C) has also influenced other rappers such as Big Boi of OutKast, Boosie Badazz and Paul Wall.[18]

Discography edit

Studio albums edit

Extended plays edit

Awards edit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
BET Awards
2008 "International Players Anthem" (featuring Outkast) Video of the Year Won
UGK Best Group Won
BET Hip Hop Awards
2007 "International Players Anthem" (featuring Outkast) Best Collabo, Duo or Group Won
Best Hip Hop Video Nominated
Grammy Awards
2001 "Big Pimpin'" (with Jay-Z) Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group Nominated
2008 "International Players Anthem" (featuring Outkast) Nominated
Ozone Awards
2006 UGK Legend Award Won
2008 Best Group Won
"International Players Anthem" (featuring Outkast) Best Video Won
Underground Kingz Best Album Nominated

References edit

  1. ^ Bush, John. UGK biography. Allmusic. Accessed December 9, 2007.
  2. ^ Jeffries, David. Too Hard to Swallow. Allmusic
  3. ^ UGK Billboard Album Chart Positions. Allmusic. Accessed December 9, 2007
  4. ^ Harris, Chris. UGK's Pimp C To Be Released From Prison Within A Month. MTV News: December 6, 2005.
  5. ^ Jeffries, David. Pimp C biography. Allmusic. Accessed December 9, 2007
  6. ^ Jeffries, David. Jive Records Presents: UGK Chopped and Screwed. Allmusic: 2004
  7. ^ Rapper Pimp C Released from Prison. Associated Press/Billboard: December 30, 2005.
  8. ^ Rodriguez, Jayson. Ex-Con Pimpet C Juiced For UGK Album, Says He Has Lessons To Teach. MTV News: November 13, 2006.
  9. ^ Jeffries, David. Pimpalation. Allmusic: 2006
  10. ^ a b Jeffries, David. Underground Kingz. Allmusic: 2007
  11. ^ Cohen, Jonathan. UGK Dropping Double Album In December Billboard: October 25, 2006
  12. ^ "TMZ.com - Rapper Pimp C Found Dead(R.I.P.) in Hollywood Hotel Room (December 4, 2007)". Tmz.com. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  13. ^ "BillBoard.com - Report: UGK Rapper Pimp C Found Dead In L.A. (December 4, 2007)". Billboard.com. December 30, 2005. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  14. ^ "Bun B Interview". Hiphopdx.com. December 7, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  15. ^ Burgess, Omar (March 10, 2008). "Bun B Says Another UGK Album Is Forthcoming | Hip Hop News >". HipHopDX.com. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  16. ^ "Allmusic-UGK". AllMusic.
  17. ^ "Bun B Breaks Down The Origins of Trill to ASAP Rocky-Hip Hop DX". October 10, 2013.
  18. ^ "Allmusic-UGK". AllMusic.

External links edit