(Today's Reader Review adds to a chapter in HHID's history that it seems that I'm completely avoiding at this point, that of UGK's back catalog, which I do eventually plan on getting back to. Anyway, Alex skips ahead to the third full-length project from the Underground Kingz, Ridin' Dirty, and somehow includes one of the most bizarre introductions that a reader has ever submitted. Enjoy, and leave your thoughts below.)
Decades from now, when the general public looks back at our generation's most impressionable and introspective philosophers, the list will include many. But one man who will undoubtedly be overlooked is the all-knowing, omnipotent Chad Butler. Rumor has it that the one they also refer to as Pimp C woke up on a ship one night feeling extremely nauseous, his shirt littered with crustacean tails, and suddenly it was quite clear he had eaten so much shrimp that he suffered from iodine poisoning, somehow causing amnesia. As the whiskered fellow came to his senses, the owner of the boat took notice and introduced himself. The captain of the ship was the one and only Bernard Freeman, a man who truly could give a fuck about the value of a dollar. Like his partner, he had stopped smoking with haters back in 1994 and instead roamed the seven seas in his candy painted vessel, selling the devil's love potion.
The fellow named Bernard had a heart, though, and offered his assistance in helping find his guest's identity. Once they hit land in their candy toys, they roamed the streets getting swallowed up by city lights and meeting herds of beautiful and exotic women. Each was familiar with the almighty Pimp, yet they all referred to him by countless different titles, most commonly Sweet Swisher Jones, Tony Snow, and, to women and men alike, quite simply Pimp C.
Pimp saw no use in dwelling over his past, so he joined forces with Bernard to form a duo. Inspired by Pimp C, Bernard attempted to conjure up his own rap name: after “Bagel B” failed to resonate, he settled for the moniker “Bun B” (against his creative integrity). The two then took a leave of absence from the ever-demanding and tiring chores of pimping and selling crack to your mother to work on their music.
After a slew of successful underground releases, the duo known as UGK (or Underground Kingz, hence all of the underground releases) released what many consider to be their magnum opus, their third full-length project Ridin' Dirty. Set on continuing the tradition and seeing if anyone was even fucking paying attention, Ridin' Dirty, like its predecessors Too Hard to Swallow and Super Tight, was given a title that could be looked at as sexual innuendo, among other things.
And now lets analyze the Pimp’s preaching. And the other guy? He's not too shabby, either.
(May Chad Butler pimp in peace.)
1. INTRO (FEAT. SMOKE D)
Completely forgettable dialogue (monologue?)-driven intro, one which I suppose gains points for giving the album a cohesive feel, as it weaves its way throughout Ridin' Dirty. Clearly the members of UGK were aware of Max’s fondness for rap album intros: pretty much every other song or so includes an intro and/or an outro just to win him over.
2. ONE DAY (FEAT. Mr. 3-2 & RONNIE SPENCER)
One of my favorite rap songs ever. N.O. Joe & Pimp C sample a smooth Isley Brothers tune. UGK associate Mr. 3-2 lends a very memorable verse about supporting himself through illegal means and knowing the fate he ultimately faces. Bun B doesn’t upset, reminiscing on his dead peers, his incarcerated sibling, and the fact that he could soon follow suit. Pimp delivers the last verse, giving details on his day-to-day activities (which include smoking sweets and cooking ki’s before the clock strikes nine - multitasking at its finest), his incarcerated friends, and God’s reasoning behind the lives he takes. Because of the the emotion in his verse, Pimp C's verse has always reminded me of Scarface's cameo on Jay-Z's “This Can't Be Life”. “And when I got on my knees that night to pray / I asked God why you let these killers live and take my homeboy’s son away?” Classic and heartfelt.
A complete 180 from the previous track, as this features an in-your-face, blaring instrumental complete with whistles and what I imagine are the didgeridoos John C. Reilly needed more of in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. After years of finding this song too blatantly noisy and not actually, oh, I don’t know, pleasing to the ears, I recently had a severe change of heart. While most of Ridin' Dirty consists calmer songs, “Murder” is a welcome change of pace, and it brings back memories of other aggressive, unapologetic trunk rattlers from the Kingz. Bun B delivers one of his strongest verses of the entire album, too.
4. PINKY RING (FEAT. KRISTI FLOYD)
To put it simply, the production on here is extremely funky. Pimp C showcases his southern-drawled singing ability while the duo brag about their assorted vehicles, marijuana, women and pinky rings (of course). I feel Bun B might have even outdone his partner, as he comes through with another commendable performance. Side note: when I was young I did my share of hustling, and I used to think it was cool to be flashy, but even as someone who stupidly wore gaudy gold chains and watches, I never could understand how a grown man would want to wear a pinky ring. Then again, it became fashionable to dress like Steve Mercury, so wearing pinky rings is pretty masculine by comparison.
5. DIAMONDS & WOOD (FEAT. REGINALD HACKETT)
After a short talk with our narrator again, we get another introspective song in nearly the same vein as “One Day” and just as satisfying. If I were to choose one song that summed up UGK, this would probably be Exhibit A. Everything necessary is present: a screwed hook, a signature Houston-style instrumental, and the two rappers (especially Pimp C) spilling their respective hearts out, touching on various subjects but mainly focusing on adversity. Pimp gives one his most polarizing and heartfelt performances ever, making some very keen and astute observations. Pimp C is a great example of the complexities and flaws in all people: with the same breath that may get him swallowed under a street light, he will make you want to give up criminal ways and better yourself. His bevy of subjects include his baby mama denying him the right to be a father, the jealously and envy he is subjected to, and, most importantly, the guilt on his conscience from hustling and the substances he abuses to ease his mental and physical pains.
6. 3 N THE MORNIN' (FEAT. BIG SMOKIN' MITCH)
One of the most subdued tracks on the album. Laid back almost to a fault, but still holding your attention, and Pimp C knocks his melodic hook out of the park. Just a carefree, relaxing joint to cruise to.
7. TOUCHED (FEAT. MR. 3-2)
Our orator returns for a short period of time. Afterward, Bun B spits a verse that’s probably most notable for containing lines that Jay-Z borrowed for his own “99 Problems”: “Now once upon a time not too long ago / a n---a like me once had to strong arm a ho”. A serviceable song, but maybe the closest thing resembling filler on Ridin' Dirty, although Pimp C's charisma stands out as always.
8. FUCK MY CAR
Pimp C and Bun B aren’t stupid. They’re crude, overweight and chances are girls don’t view them as all that handsome, but they don’t care, because according to them, your woman is a materialistic bop who will consent to absolutely anything after seeing their expensive flashy vehicles. This is secretly your “happily married” father’s theme song whenever he cruises in his Porsche to either pick up some Rogaine or to loiter in the parking lot of the local community college. Oh, the song? Pretty damn comical and great.
9. THAT'S WHY I CARRY (FEAT. N.O. JOE)
As the title suggests, this song is obviously about those male purses Kanye West and his colorful group of Village People stand-ins are fond of. If you somehow missed the memo distributed on every other gangsta rap album, you should know that people like to start shit everyday, in every possible way, so it is recommended that you carry a weapon. This was another good track that can only be considered weaker when compared to the other exceptional music on Ridin' Dirty.
10. HI-LIFE (FEAT. N.O. JOE)
Features more of Chad repenting. The guilt isn’t a facade: he seems to be treating the studio as his own private confessional. Bun B and Pimp C could reiterate the same things again and again, but when they do it with such conviction and truth, it rarely gets tiring.
11. GOOD STUFF (FEAT. REGINALD HACKETT)
I don’t find it wise to start a song with some barely decipherable mumbling regarding “n----s still kissin' and jackin' they dick under the car”, but hey, Ridin' Dirty has nearly reached platinum status with zero videos shot and no official singles ever released, so the gibberish (is it homoerotic or homophobic? You decide) could have very possibly led the marketing campaign. Mr. Butler and N.O. Joe utilize an extremely popular sample that helps provide a very 1980’s-esque vibe that Pimp and Bun mesh with perfectly. Good stuff, indeed. The production and hook are just so feel-good that you'll want to start scatting as well. Pimp C gets pretty explicit and raunchy, as one would expect from a pimp.
12. RIDIN' DIRTY
The duo conclude the actual musical portion of the program with another sparse, extremely mellow and slower instrumental. Chad keeps it on a somewhat lighter note, talking about his car, his love of lean and swisher sweets (as he was contractually obligated to do on every song he ever recorded), and as one would cleverly assume, “Ridin' Dirty”. Bun B makes me laugh every single time when he notes how now cops instruct him to put his hands on his head, as opposed to as a kid, where the song instructed to to put your hands on your knees.
The Narrator is aware the album is reaching an end, and yet he has something important to get of his chest first. Remember those guys from “Good Stuff” who were making out? Yeah, they're still at it, and it apparently really gets his goat. Also, he thinks you should know that prison is not fun, because a little fun fact they neglect to elaborate on in the brochure is that your freedoms are severely limited. Afterward, Pimp C gives some random words of wisdom and shout-outs, one of them aimed at, interestingly enough, Lil' Boosie. My last thought as the album ends is how fucking high-pitched Lil' Boosie's voice must have sounded as a child: he probably made dogs go crazy whenever he spoke. Thankfully, human ears aren’t in tune to such high pitches.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Ridin' Dirty has few faults. Almost every track is entertaining, and even the ones that pick at your brain and conscience are largely fun. The songs don’t grow tired even though the subject matter and production style is fairly similar throughout: instead, the project ends up sounding even more cohesive. As far as Bun B and Pimp C go, this album is, in many ways, a showcase for their mastering of the craft and illustrates a very natural progression in their careers. The production is also noticeably smooth, as N.O. Joe helps Pimp C refine and enhance his sound to create their signature Texas soundtrack. UGK, unlike many of their more popular and clearly inferior peers, don’t find joy in tricking you into believing that selling drugs is the key to a lavish lifestyle that always results in piles of money, luxury cars and beautiful women with no sacrifice. Pimp C and Bun B don’t reinvent the wheel, but they offer their brand of gangsta-ism in a very sincere and uncanny way. Ridin' Dirty is one of the smoothest, consistent, and refreshingly different albums to be released during one of the most prolific periods in hip hop history.
BUY OR BURN? Buy this, obviously.
BEST TRACKS: "One Day"; "Diamonds & Wood"; "Murder"; "Pinky Ring"; "Good Stuff". However, I suggest you let the whole album play through.
(Questions, comments, and concerns go below.)