pimpc.jpgWhen Chad “Pimp C” Butler got locked up in 2002, the UGK MC probably had no idea that his name would soon be hotter than the Texas sun. While the Underground King sat in his cell, his partner in rhyme, Bun B, used his veteran status and newfound success as a solo artist to drum up support for his “Free Pimp C” campaign. Artists nationwide were soon paying homage to the Houston legend. Last year, Rap-A-Lot Records attempted to further bolster Pimp’s credibility by releasing The Sweet James Jones Stories, an album comprised of some of his un-released material. Paroled in December ’05, Pimp C is finally able to satisfy fans’ thirst for new music with his highly anticipated solo debut, The Pimpalation (Return of the Trill).

Rightfully so, Pimp opens the album with “Free,” a folksy, feel-good record where Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” gets the crunk treatment, and details the MC’s jail experience: “I was plottin’, and plannin’, and schemin’ every day/Gettin’ ready for my release, so I can steal the game away.” Then on “I Miss U,” a sugary remake of Aaron Hall’s 1993 hit, C owns up to some of his own mistakes and reminisces over deceased family and friends.

Aside from the aforementioned tracks, though, there’s very little substance to be found here. And it seems like the opportunity to really make a powerful statement is squandered. Instead, there’s cliché subject matter that doesn’t always uphold the UGK standard. Both “Working the Wheel,” with Slim Thug, and “I Don’t Fuc Wit U,” featuring Vicious and Smoke D, rehash the same “keep it trill” theme. And the Mr. Lee–produced “Overstand Me,” complete with a rapid-fire verse from Chamillionaire, adopts the sampled-and-scratched-hook formula that every other Southern artist is using nowadays.

Still, Pimp C isn’t considered a legend in this game for nothing. Mr. Butler proves that by stringing together a few potent hits. Bun B and Scarface help turn the organ- and guitar-laded “Rock 4 Rock” into a new Southern anthem. The same can be said of the triple-time ode to Houston culture “Pourin’ Up,” featuring Mike Jones and Bun, and the Jazze Pha–produced “The Honey,” featuring Jody Breeze and Tela. Pimp’s elder statesman status truly shines through on the Myke Diesel–produced “Knockin Doorz Down.” Over deep 808 subs and haunting pianos, Pimp offers insight into the numerous beefs going on in his own backyard (“I’m down with Lil’ Flip/And I’m down with T.I.P./If the niggas come together, just imagine how much paper we’d see”).

Despite these notable highlights, the fact still remains that out of the album’s 16 tracks C manages to only hold down a song by himself just once (“Free”). After spending almost four years as state property, the Houston rep-resentative should have a lot to get off his chest. Instead, he opts to enlist a cornucopia of guests, resulting in his project coming off more like a glorified compilation than a true solo disc. That’s not to say The Pimpalation isn’t a noteworthy release. But Pimp fails to take full advantage of the platform to finally have his voice heard, and ends up being a guest on his own project. That ain’t keeping it trill.—PAUL CANTOR