Today, March 31, marks the fifth year anniversary of UGK 4 Life, the sixth and last studio album from two of the pioneers of Texas and Southern hip-hop, Bun B and Pimp C. The album, released posthumously after the Pimp's death in 2007 and mostly completed before his passing, was the final farewell for the duo, whose pioneering sound and tough lyricism inspired an entire generation of rappers, both inside and outside the South while also inspiring rappers of their own generation.
While the music lives on, and Bun continues to carry on UGK's mission, XXL spoke to 11 rappers—peers, disciples and those in between—about the legacy of UGK 4 Life, the importance of the duo, and what Bun B and Pimp C brought to hip-hop that can never be replaced. Stay trill. —XXL Staff
"[UGK 4 Life] was the album that birthed one of my favorite UGK songs, 'Da Game Been Good to Me,' and [it's the] album that gave us some of the final remaining UGK duo songs. When Pimp C passed a lot of people were missing him and to me this album was a bittersweet reminder of why UGK is so timeless. This album made us feel like Bun B would successfully continue carrying the torch for the UGK legacy, and he's been doing so ever since.
"UGK is one of the most authentic representations of Texas and southern culture. Just the name 'Underground Kings' in itself represents the thought that you can come from nothing, become great, and still never forget where you come from.
"My favorite thing about UGK is that they have never been scared to go against the grain, be brutally honest, and be different. They have always stayed true to the authentic southern sound that they created, and have always dictated the trends and never followed them."
"Come on, man. Let me break this shit down. First of all, what niggas know about this shit? "I'm still Pimp C bitch, now what the fuck is up? / I'm puttin' powder on the streets cause I got big fuckin' nuts / Comin' back from Louisiana In a Fleetwood Lac." That's actually ["Murder" from] Ridin' Dirty, but that's my favorite UGK album. Come on, what the fuck? And Bun B killed that shit. Those dudes the most, fuckin' underrated.
"Let me break this UGK shit down, and it goes back to OutKast, too. I'm from the South. I'm born and raised in the mothafuckin' South, Atlanta, GA., Decatur, east side. I'm the epitome of the mothafuckin' East Side. So in Atlanta, for a minute, we wasn't known for spitters, and the South in general wasn't known for the spitters. The South was known for booty-shakin' music, and that's cool, it's cool for the strip clubs, it's cool for the ladies. But I don't think we got the scope of lyricism until OutKast, until the light started shinin' on Bun B and Pimp C. Who else, man? Scarface; actually, Scarface was the first to shut it down, but he's looked at as bigger than the South.
"But those dudes, especially UGK, they put the South on the map. They gave us respect. Mothafuckas made you look at the South and say, 'Oh, it's not just pimps and booty shakin' and drug dealers; there's lyricism in the South.' So I always tip my hat to them. That's what UGK was for—those are the dudes, them, OutKast, Scarface, Goodie Mob—they shined light for the South as far as spitters. Niggas like me, can come out the South because they paved the way. Hell yeah."
Curren$y"In comparison to all the other jams, just to see where they ended up after the people started to pay attention. Underground people were already on them. But once they got to the point where they started doing a lot of collabs with other people—to see how that happened and they didn’t change, they didn’t switch the formula, because they knew that people was paying attention that weren’t paying attention when they first started rolling. [My favorite song] is the one with Ron Isley, 'The Pimp & The Bun.' that’s my tour bus record. I can’t even talk about nothing else, all other joints is cool. But my jam off of [UGK 4 Life] had to be 'The Pimp & The Bun.'
"Independence is a symbol for people maintaining their sound and not switching up to reach a certain level of success. Anybody that was riding with them since day one, they never changed. It was the same, it's just now more people knew. You listen to Ridin' Dirty, you listen to UGK 4 Life, you listen to Underground Kingz, and it was still the same music. You look at things now, you can tell when success hit and when they let the one record drive whichever way the rest of their shit go. Even though 'Big Pimpin'' wasn’t their record, they could have just said, 'Okay, everything is going to sound like this record now because this what everybody wants.' UGK, to me, that’s why the call themselves the Underground Kings, because they never had to adopt their gimmick or change their shit to get something further. They stayed the same until the game change for them. All the levels of success, they touched it on all levels.
"Outside of everything I said about not changing, I guess the whole package was always tight. If you look at the inside of their albums, look at other albums, the rest of their shit. Because I never had super tight in my hands but to see how the design was for it, when you look through that shit, it always had that same player feeling thing going on."
"We grew up with UGK, you know how it is. I'm from Houston, you know. I mean, for me, I was a youngin, so I didn't understand the significance of that album back then. At the time, I didn't even know it was their last album. People were like, 'This is their last album, you ain't never gonna get another one of these.' I know people back then that remember them representing not just Texas culture, but the South.
"UGK? They gods. You can't even put it into words, they're just UGK. Nobody will be another UGK, there will never be another Pimp C or Bun B. So how do you explain it? When it comes to representing, UGK were the gods. They taught me that in certain situations, stand up behind your shit. The rhyming shit, and how they just talked about shit that they were talking about with the hoes and the bitches at the same time. They always talked about the real shit, holdin' down your people, holdin' down your family and shit.
"Shit, they brought the South. They brought the South. You hear now, people got the guitars and shit like that? It ain't just no boom-boom-bap shit, they really got the music in it now. Bun and Pimp, UGK, they had music in that shit, they was playin' shit. There was actually some musical shit going on, so I think they brought that shit to the game, especially from the South."
"It was raw. They was on they South shit and where they come from. They wasn’t trying to impersonate nobody else, trying to do it for the radio. They was doing it for them, doing it for where they come from. That’s what I liked about them the most. I always liked people that stand for where they come from. A lot of people try to alter my music and get me to do certain type of music. Nah, I do where I come from in this. I have a beat that I like. It can be any type of beat. It can be poppy. If I like that beat, I feel like flowing off that beat, that’s what I'ma do. But let me just do what I do with my music.
"I think mainly probably their relationships [was my favorite thing about them]. Just growing up in this game and sticking together for as long as they did because you don’t really find too many people that stick together as long in this game. Nine times out of ten, after five years running, the money get involved and other people get involved. Everything starts to split. I think their relationship is my favorite part. Loyalty."
"It’s South, they pioneers. South, they did it for the South. They broke the ice and brought everybody on a national level. Down to what we had going on [in Memphis.] That’s pioneers for the South. That’s one of the major groups that pioneered out of the South like 8 Ball & MJG. They made a very strong impact on a lot of people’s lives. They do rap, period, all over the world. Salute to Pimp and Bun all day long.
"The music in [UGK 4 Life] is influential. Pimp and Bun, they always using samples. I mean it was a hard ass album. It was a hard motherfucker. It goes hard. It’s in your face hard. The flows was smack-me-in-your-face. Pimp and Bun, they always kept it real. When I say keep it real, they just flat out rapped about it.
"My favorite thing about UGK is the realness of it. Pimp and Bun, I know they whole story. It’s real, it’s not like... I rap now. I think there are real people everywhere you go. It’s funny people everywhere you go. And rap was more realer. It wasn’t watered down Fugazi. They set the tone."
“These guys were respected in hip-hop. I remember feeling real from Pimp C, that he was real, but I never delved into their catalog. I really appreciate the grind and seeing them move beyond their independent hustle and all that. They paved the way. Seeing stuff like that—like going back and doing my research on people that paved the way—I’ve always been interested in business, and now the music is there.
"The last decade I’ve been interested in the music and all that, so when I get into new artists the thing that sticks out most to me is the branding or the moves that they make—the hustle. Like, when I meet someone I usually forget their names because I’m feeling the energy first. If I feel your energy physically in front of me or through your song or whatever and I feel like it’s real? Then I’m cool after that. I know I’ll fuck with your stuff because I can feel that you’re real and that’s definitely something that I felt listening to UGK and seeing the moves that they made and how they were getting out. Everyone I know knows them. They’re a household name.”
Snow Tha Product
"Pimp C in interviews and everything he would say, I can apply that to how I feel about a lot of stuff. 'Take that monkey shit off, you embarrassing us' [from 'Sippin' On Some Sizzurp']: there's people in the Latin community that are doing smoe shit where it's like, 'Don't do that. Don't do that to our people right now. We need us to look not like the joke.' He would say a lot of stuff that took a lot of character, that took a lot of conviction, and to really be able to let people know, 'You're wrong, I'm not hating on you, but you need to do something for your culture, or respect the game.' Don't sell out that easy. A lot of people think selling out is only pop. It's not; selling out is something that's not really gonna benefit our culture, or our people, or our generation, you're just doing it for a check. I see that happening a lot. So yeah, Pimp C was definitely an influence on that, speaking the truth in interviews and stuff like that. Sometimes I can make a song that's funny or whatever, but then if you ask me about the real shit, or real political stuff, I'm gonna give you a response that you probably wouldn't expect from a rapper, because we have to have brains and we have to prove to people that we're not fucking puppets, we're out here rapping or whatever.
"And Bun B, too, but the first time I ever interviewed Bun B... I used to do DJ drops for people, 'cause I was trying to get in the game or whatever. And people just looked at me as the girl who could get drops. So I was like, okay, whatever. And the first time I came up to Bun B, he was like, 'Who are you? I don't know who you are. I don't know who they are.' And I was just like, oh man, Bun B, that's a legend! [Laughs] But it was cool; after that I've met him a few times, and I don't even think he remembers, I'm sure he just kinda didn't know who I was. But he's cool.
"[They brought] good music to fuckin' rhyme to. Right now everybody's sampling that shit. It's classic. You have people from New York, people from Cali, everywhere, sampling the same type of music, the same everything, and it's like, everybody gives credit to UGK and that underground shit for what it's done for hip-hop. And it's dope, because you're able to hear it all over the radio without hearing all this techno bullshit and all the rappers that are doing that. It's real Texas shit, and that's dope. I mean, everybody's sippin' lean, and they're all ballin up, and all that. It's a culture that's invaded the whole mainstream, which is really really dope."
"They were not afraid to be themselves, ever. [They brought] Reality Rap in a down South way, but inner city neighborhoods all across the nation could relate to them.
"The influence of their music in Hip-Hop was soulful; the beats were unique, plus their voices and styles of rap, pimp/hustler mentality... Their spit was straight game."
Freeway"I can’t imagine hip-hop without UGK. They definitely represented where they are from and they brought that Houston, Texas to the world. I’m from Philly and they had niggas in Philly sipping syrup and want to do chop-and-screwed songs. Me and Bun B real close. I had a pleasure of meeting Pimp C. I got nothing but love for him. Me being apart of Roc-A-Fella and 'Big Pimpin’,' they mean a lot to me. They mean a lot to hip-hop.
"[UGK 4 Life] is just powerful music. It’s just, you can feel what they mean and what they are saying. It’s 100. My favorite thing about UGK is they are underground kings. They keeping it underground they whole career. Keeping it trill for the streets. Got a lot of love for them. Rest in peace Pimp C."
"I’ve been saying this for years. Once I get Bun B on one of my records, I know I officially made it. Everybody who been in the game, if you get Bun B on your shit, you’ve officially made it. And R.I.P. to Pimp C, if he were alive, I’d have him on my shit too. UGK—they legends. That’s classic shit.
"My favorite thing about UGK is they kick that flavor. That pimpin’. They know how to keep it trill. They from the H-Town. I love the H-Town shit. They brought that real to the game. People that stay 100, that stay down. That’s what they brought. A lot of folks they don’t keep it real, but UGK brought that real player shit and that Texas mud."