“Do you need help?”
Clearly I did. Not only had I foolishly worn heels, I’d parked on the opposite side of Rice University’s sprawling campus. As I searched for the Rice Media Center, a student offered to help, leading me to the building as we made small talk about the reason the city had come out in droves. A legend was being honored.
“Pimp C is speaking tonight? He’s the one from UGK, right?”
For a moment I was taken aback before reminding myself that even a duo as legendary as Bun B and Pimp C aren’t known by all. But their influence is definitely felt, as terms like 'trill' have quietly slipped into mainstream America. There was something about Pimp C. You couldn’t explain it, but you damn sure knew what it was when he walked into a room.
According to Long Live the Pimp producer Mr. Lee, "When it comes to Pimp C he was like, the energy of the city. I remember when he first heard the beat to "Big Pimpin’," he was like, ‘What kinda monkey shit is this? I’m just gonna rap the countriest shit I can do on there.’ When the video debuted on BET he was like ‘Man the stock is going up today, better believe it Jack!’ You can’t come to Texas without mentioning Pimp C."
A few days before the Super Bowl, the city of Houston packed themselves into Rice University's media center as a 97.9 The Box’s own Madd Hatta moderated a panel that included UGK co-founder and brother Bun B; Swisha House's Michael “5000” Watts; Lil Keke; E.S.G.; Pimp C's widow, Chinara Butler; and Mr. Lee.
As we walked to the building I explained how the legacy of Chad “Pimp C” Butler would now be preserved inside of Rice’s Fondren Library, thanks to a collection of the late rapper’s memorabilia, artwork, handwritten lyrics and more. It’s been nearly a decade since he’s passed, but his story has only grown. Securely cemented in hip hop history, if you’re talking Texas, Sweet James Jones’ name better be mentioned.
That night, Lil Keke would say it best: “Everybody gotta Pimp C story. UGK gave me an opportunity to make me think that we could make it. From ‘Tell Me Something Good’ to ‘Pocket Full of Stones’ — just their whole influence, I was just happy. These were people that we were getting to hear on Screw Tapes that really had something going on. Pimp C and Bun were influential.”
Upholding a legacy is a job in itself, one that family, friends and supporters have gladly done in an effort to keep Pimp’s name alive. As Chinara Butler has admitted, “It’s very territorial in this city; it’s like, ‘What right do you have to speak on Pimp C?’ Sometimes the pressure hits me because I don’t want to cheapen Chad’s legacy down. It’s way beyond me.”
More than just a musical partner in crime, for Bun B the loss of Pimp C also meant losing a brother and friend. Acknowledging the importance in dealing with grief, he explained, “Pimp saw the good in everyone. He believed in people. When he passed one of the first things I did was call into the radio [97.9]; we let the people be a part of the struggle and the people carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. That’s where I was, finding fault in the situation and pretty much just having a pity party.
"People allowed me to up to a certain point, but I credit my wife for getting me out of that," Bun continued. "For bringing me around like-minded people and individuals. When people pass away you don’t get over missing them, you just learn how to cope with it. Day by day.”
Kicking the night off, E.S.G. said, “He was one of the realist people that I’ve ever met. One night everyone was like, ‘UGK gotta show tonight’ and the promoter brought me out there. Pimp was sitting there, Bun was there. The first word’s out of Pimp’s mouth was ‘So little ni**a, you want to be a rapper?’ Do what you do baby, keep going hard.’"
Giving a glimpse of what might of been, E.S.G. added, “Before he passed he told me, ‘Man, I’m getting all these boys together. I want you, Slim and everybody to be down with this empire.’ Being real is just about speaking your mind. Sometimes you may offend people, but Pimp just spit the real and unfortunately he was gone too soon. Way way too soon. He wasn’t S.U.C. but he might as well been, he was there with us the whole time.”
For artist and producer David Banner a love of music would unite the two, after Banner sampled UGK’s 1999 classic “Take It Off” for his own ‘Lil Flip-assisted hit. Making it clear that you can't ignore the South, Banner revealed how he first met the UGK co-founder.
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“Please don’t allow them to take that out of history; Texas taught us that," Banner said. "Between you all and the Bay, you showed us how to hustle. Whether it were E-40 or Too $hort, they all taught us. My whole career is based off one line, 'Real girls get down on the floor.' The only reason I used that beat is because Pimp C was on the hook. Pimp was in jail at the time, but as a man I know I needed to reach out to him. So I wrote him a letter and he said that it meant so much to him. I began taking pictures of everywhere I went and sending them to him. I took pictures of a drum machine, and I taught Pimp how to use it through the mail. People don’t know, but that’s how we became friends," said Banner.
Diving into the good and the controversial, the panel also took questions from the audience, including one that oddly questioned the circumstances around the late rapper’s death before Chinara Butler confirmed that the "International Player’s Anthem" rapper had indeed succumbed to sleep apnea, explaining that it’s a condition she’d like to bring more awareness to.
When asked on how he really felt about Pimp’s infamous rants and opinions, Bun confirmed that loyalty overshadowed everything else. “Whether I agreed with him or not, I stood next to my brother in solidarity," Pimp's partner said. "In the heat of the moment, you don’t hesitate for those that don’t hesitate for you.”