Texas duo of Pimp C and Bun B (U.G.K.) are pioneers of the southern rap scene, just as much as the Geto Boys before them, or Outkast whom came after. Their first foray into the game was on the Menace II Society soundtrack, of which they were the only southern act, surrounded by artists like MC Ehit, DJ Quik, and Too Short, (not to mention Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s only gangster rap song, “Death Becomes You”). U.G.K.’s entry was perhaps the album’s most popular song, with “Pocket Full Of Stones”.
Despite developing a twelve year cult following, and the adoration of Jay-Z (who featured them on “Big Pimpin”), U.G.K. have never had the crossover success that would seem natural for a group that primarily raps about pimpin’ hoes and selling drugs. That all may change with Underground Kingz, however, led by the already classic single, “International Players Anthem” (featuring Outkast), which helped them score a number one spot on the Billboard charts during the first week of sales.
Make no mistake, Underground Kingz is a long album. Two discs, spanning almost 30 tracks, including remixes of the lead single, listeners definitely get their money’s worth. But why not? After Pimp C’s jail stint, the group hasn’t released a proper album together for six years (2001′s Dirty Money), despite solo projects in between. That being said, the album has its share of filler on the record, but at the same time it is remarkably consistent.
If you’ve never heard a U.G.K. album before, Undergroundz Kingz is the perfect jumping on point. Although don’t expect the raucous bounce, snaps, or chants that you might find other areas of the region; the sound of U.G.K. is a slow rolling drive music with a Texas twang. The album begins with the beautifully mellow “Swisha’s and Dosha”, which sets the tone for the first half of the record. Here, the duo raises their frustrations with the current state of the game, while Pimp C laces the hook with mellowed out, 70′s style soul. This mood continues into laid back hustle anthems like “The Game Belong To Me”, “Like That (Remix)” and “Gravy”, each glued together by Pimp C’s silky smooth, cooler-than-a-snowman hooks. Even when the subject matter is as bland and overdone as it is here, you can’t help but nod your head, thanks to Pimp C’s soulful choruses and Bun’s natural rhyme delivery.
U.G.K. takes the time to address certain issues outside of the game, in several places on the album. “Quit Hatin’ The South” finds the duo frustrated with the lack of props the dirty region gets from New York City. Geto Boy Willie D joins in (as Charlie Wilson provides the hook), and while his verse probably isn’t the best representation of why the South deserves it’s respect, the overall point of it is felt. “Cocaine” is another excellent track, which comes from more of a conscious perspective, rather than celebrating it’s easy street sell. Here Pimp C talks about how the drug got him into trouble, while Bun B delivers a memorable, conspiracy theory laden verse that covers everything from Coca-Cola to George W. Bush. But sometimes it’s less serious than all of that; and they simply rhyme for the things that really matter to them (cars). Both “Candy” and “Chrome Plated Woman” find the two rhyming passionately about their rides, and you can’t help but nod along with them.
The album packs an interesting guest list; who in most cases add something to the equation, rather than subtracting from it. They pay homage to one of the greatest years in hip-hop, 1988, by remaking two classic jams from east coast (“The Symphony”) and the west coast (“Life Is Too Short”), both of which still bang today. Here known as “Life Is 2007″ and “Next Up”, U.G.K. even gets original artists Marley Marl, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap, and Too Short to come out for these hype remakes. Also guest appearing on the record is Dizzee Rascal, who steals the show on “Two Types Of Bitches”, with his Yardie accent sounding massive over a southern beat. Talib Kweli and Raheem Devaughn help flip the script on “Real Women” (which follows “Two Types of Bitches”, actually), where C, B, and Kweli pay respect to the “queens” (not to be confused with the bitches, hoes, tricks, and sluts, mind you).
If the album has a flaw, again, it’s the length. Pimp C isn’t exactly spitting brain food here, reiterating several times on the album his new mantra (“pimpin’ ain’t dead, it just moved to the web”), but his hooks and production easily earn his worth in the group. Bun B on the other hand is almost a conscious rapper in disguise, as his beautifully fluid verses are laced with jewels and inspiring life lessons that one might not catch on the first listen. It’s arguable that this album could be a contemporary classic, but for that to happen it would probably have to be cut down to about half it’s length. But in today’s age of digital music players, listeners will probably do that themselves anyway. U.G.K. are the original Kingz of the South.
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