On this day, August 7, in hip-hop history…
2007: “Big Pimpin” was supposed to be their moment in the sun. After the gigantic success of their legendary guest appearances on Jay Z’s classic party anthem, Texas rap legends, UGK, were poised to finally break out of the underground and become a mainstream success. However, an unfortunate parole violation had gotten one half of the group, Pimp C, locked up behind bars for an eight-year bid and UGK’s momentum ground to a halt and Bun B was left to hold the torch for the duo.
Bun B was more than up to the task as he became a one-man-guest verse-wrecking crew, going on a legendary run of guest features that made him one of the most ubiquitous presences in rap in the mid-2000s. If you had a hot rap album in that decade, there was a strong chance that Bun was murdering you on your own shit. Combining this with his one-man campaign to “Free Pimp C,” Bun became the savior of the group that could have easily faded as one of rap’s great forgotten groups.
As Pimp C returned home in late 2005, a fever pitch was reached for their first new rap album since 2001′s Dirty Money. The result was Underground Kingz, a massive double LP, that served as a fitting book-end to UGK’s storied career.
Underground Kingz was both a commercial and artistic success becoming the group’s first and only record to debut at #1 on the Billboard Charts. The album was powered by the group’s classic lead single, “International Player’s Anthem,” with OutKast. The song featured a triumphant Willie Hutch sample and had a memorable video (Andre in a kilt!) jam-packed with southern rap dignitaries. The album itself featured a diverse array of guests including everybody from Rick Ross and Charlie Wilson to Willie D and the UK’s Dizzee Rascal. Underground Kingz also tackled a bevy of topics including rap’s regional hatred (“Quit Hatin’ The South), covers of classic singles (Life Is 2009) and the ever-present allure of a nice car (“Chrome-Plated Woman”).
Unfortunately, the album would prove to be the group’s last studio album of their careers as Pimp C would tragically pass away a year later from complications due to cough syrup abuse. Underground Kingz remains a fitting a testament to the group’s enduring legacy and a reminder that “one day you’re here and the next day you’re gone.”