Pimp C, Free at Last

Remembering a Down South legend

Willie says that the worst part is that many of Pimp's (and his) imitators don't give credit where credit is due. "Take a pro athlete, and you ask them, 'Who did you follow when you were growing up?' and a boxer will say 'Muhammad Ali' or 'I patterned my style after Joe Frazier.' Barry Sanders will say Gale Sayers, or some QB will say he got his from Johnny Unitas. But with hip-hop, just because it's such a braggadocious genre of music, it's not necessarily cool to shine light on another rapper."

Willie likened Pimp to a "quiet storm," because he says his mind was always churning. "He always had something going on. He was always thinking, no matter what he was doing—thinking." And you can hear that in UGK's development—Super Tight and Ridin' Dirty are both light years beyond Too Hard to Swallow, their major-label debut. While it's hard to argue that this year's Underground Kingz was their best album ever, it did sport a few tracks that were as good as anything they had ever done and you got the feeling that it had laid the groundwork for something even better.

"They were what the down South was, the A-grade for that," says Zin. "They were the bar for what Houston was, next to Scarface, on the grimy hustler's side. Bun kind of picked up the slack after Pimp got locked up. They still held that lane, but it was a little different after Pimp got locked up, just because Bun had done so much work, you know? But Pimp was extraordinary, man. It was kinda hard to place him. He was in his own little category."

Pimp C—he was country when country wasn't cool.
Pimp C—he was country when country wasn't cool.

All over the Internet and in the news, moralizers are coming out of the woodwork to preach sermons on the theme of "The wages of sin is death." We don't know how Pimp C died December 4 in Los Angeles, and we won't for another six weeks. An initial coroner's report has ruled out homicide and suicide and that's about all we know now. That, and the fact that a giant of Texas music has been silenced.

Who knows what was going through his mind that final night?

"People think 'cause you got money and people around you that it means somethin', and that shit don't mean nothin'," says Zin. "And you never really know what is on a person's plate, what they are really doin'. People always say 'Man, I know him, I got all his records.' No you don't. You never know. And then just seeing some of the stuff Pimp was saying about different rappers and stuff. I think there was a battle goin' on. He really wanted to do somethin' else."

And now, tragically, all we have left in store from Pimp C and UGK is his unfinished solo record and the scraps from other sessions. His passing is as tragic and shocking as any in Texas since Selena and, going way back, Johnny Ace. The Dirty South now has its Tupac.

"The worst thing about death is the void," says Willie D. "It ain't that the person is dead, it's just that void. If Pimp was still livin' and we knew that he was alive and just livin' overseas and we just wasn't gonna lay eyes on him, [that's one thing], but it's just the void, knowing that he's not there anymore, period. And there's absolutely no chance in getting any of that extra energy and talent that he possessed. That's over. All we have now is the catalog and the stuff that he was working on. Which is real good."

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