There's a big difference between being a fanatic and fan of someone's music. We all know this, but let's spell it out for the slow kids in class. For instance, Rocks Off is a fanatic of Death Cab for Cutie. We love their deep cuts as much as the widely known "Soul Meets Body."
We have their entire catalogue and listen to it intently all the time, counting down the days to their concert in Houston. We burn CDs for people, who don't listen to their stuff and force it down their throats. Fanatic.
Now with Big K.R.I.T, we have a measly five of his most popular tracks in our iTunes. We're a fan. We like him, but are far from being a fanatic.
Rocks Off considers ourselves UGK fanatics. A few points that qualify us:
We remember where we were during UGK's first-ever interview on Houston radio.
- We did not feed our little brother many times because two of our fingers were attached to the play and record buttons on our cassette players trying to catch "Front, Back, Side to Side" on The Box. Don't judge. He had arms.
- We allowed "Tell Me Something Good" to pump us up so much that we were convinced we could fight a gang full of Crips. That didn't turn out well, by the way.
- We forced our cousin from the Rio Grande Valley, who had no ear for hip-hop in 1999, to listen to "Belts to Match" so much that he was brainwashed into liking it even though he hated it with all his heart. Until this day, his brain loves it, but his heart hates it.
- We have Google alerts set for "Bun B," "Pimp C" and "UGK."
- We have bought UGK T-shirts entirely too small for us on the internet because no other sizes were left, but we thought it would be cool to have them anyway.
- We shadowed UGK at "The Game Belongs To Me" video shoot before having a formal role with Rocks Off.
- We dragged our very uninterested girlfriend a few years back to Premium Goods at 6:30 a.m. for an exclusive Bun B T-shirt signing, while swallowing the humility of being the oldest son of a bitch there (outside of Bun and our now ex-girlfriend). Let's mention that we were the only one without a fade and full head of hair, for good measure.
Depending on who you are, you either see all of that as really cool, really sad or really scary. But you can't deny that it qualifies us to rank UGK's Most Insightful Tracks, because as a total psycho who is now on Bun's bodyguard's watch list because of this self-revelation, we've studied the lyrics of UGK's entire catalogue.
Years of listening to UGK revealed to us this: Although the duo is known for more than a handful of incredible and memorable tracks that define childhoods, teenage years, young adulthoods and family brawls, there are cuts where they enlightened their listeners with heartfelt expressions and analysis that honed in on the state of hip-hop, death, life, the times, God, family, government conspiracies, police brutality, relationships, and poverty.
They were insightful. They penetrated an issue and gave an understanding to the listener about life, yours or theirs, and put the game in context, whether that be hip-hop or an injustice.
Through time, many of those tracks have become buried by the success of the mainstream classics, if you will, like "Big Pimpin'" "International Player's Anthem," even "Front, Back, Side to Side" and "Pocket Full of Stones."
As true fans of UGK, we can't let that happen. So here they are: UGK's most insightful tracks, 10 through six. And we can't forget the honorable mentions.
"Feds In Town": Insightful because Bun speaks in detail about the behavior modifications a drug dealer must make when, well, the "Feds In Town." This one doesn't make the Top 10 because outside the chorus, Pimp C is largely absent, but Bun kills everything on this one.
"Protect & Serve": Insightful because it was a brutal look inside the minds of Bun and Pimp as it pertains to the popular '90s rap topic of police brutality. This was a hit on the Super Tight album in 1994. Not necessarily fresh off the heels of the Rodney King beating of 1991 or the L.A. Riots of 1992, but the wound wasn't necessarily healed either. Still, that ship had sailed and although beautifully put together, compared to the messages of UGK's later works, it gets a pink ribbon. You know, the kind you got on Field Day when your slow ass didn't place in the top six.
"I Left It Wet For You": Insightful because it's important that you know, if you didn't know before, that the younger version of UGK would fuck you up and bang your girl and make her do unthinkable things. As Bun put it, "Suckin' dick while I'm taking shits/ I'll do a bitch bad and treat a nigga worse than that"
God in heaven, Rock Off doesn't want to know what he'd do to that poor man, whose woman gave oral at the feet of the porcelain god.
The last great track featured on the last UGK album, the video to this one pulls together a collage of old photos and video that tell the UGK story. If it doesn't tug at your heartstrings, you're not human.
It's insightful because there are some very strong statements made by Pimp C who is casting a wide net on sucker MCs who travel with body guards, become snitches, are declining in money and notoriety, lost their house and sleep on their mother's couch. The State of Hip-Hop, if you will. It's his perspective on the weakness hip-hop is displaying. He's calling out everyone to whom his descriptions apply: "I ain't dissin' nobody/ No particular name/ If the shoe fits nigga, get the fuck up out the game, lil' bitch."
The first track on the long-awaited reunion album, Underground Kings. It's important precisely because it was the first track you heard on a UGK album since the split up of the group due to Pimp C's incarceration. The anticipation was unbearable and you wondered what would be conveyed out the starting blocks. But that's not why it's ranked. It's ranked because of the message it would send to all of hip-hop. Would it be "We're back bitches!"? Or, "Hey mother fuckers, we're back and we're shitting on all of you." It was the latter. Pimp C raps:
I remember when a rapper was a go getta/ Now all these rappers is some hoe niggaz/ Hide behind the guards at the show nigga/ Don't want no pussy, homosexual, on the low nigga
Uh, Atlanta, we think that last line's at you. Bun B attacks a generation of rappers who lack grind as he spits:
So step your game up, build your name up, quit your talkin and quit your doin/ All that planning and contemplating/ When the fuck you gon' start pursuing?/ Cars ain't driving themselves, mansions ain't building themselves/ They waiting for Ed McMahon/ They need to stop feelin themselves/ They wealth ain't comin until they earn it/ But that somethin they won't know 'til they learn it, while burnin'
Pimp C does an amazing job of chronicling the plight of a man who starts off having some casual sex and ends up in court giving up half of his earnings. Oh and he's got a baby with her too. Haven't we all been through it? This is insightful because Pimp was really good at calling out the obvious, everyday situations of the hood and making it sound like an epiphany. He took a life story, consolidated it into 16 bars and slapped you all around the face with the facts.
Tryin' to get your paper calling it child support/ Takin' half of your (shit) talkin' bout a divorce/ If you don't know the game, well here's the crash course/ They say "You live with the (bitch) so common law married."/ And the (bitch) got accustomed to the paper she's been having
Bun's no slouch. We love his verse on this track. He recites a fictional letter - or is it? Bun describes the success of the group's unlikely, or rather, unexpected rise, while serving as orator to big brother's warning letter.
From being two broke bastards from off the cut/ Growing up in a town where's population 50,000/ Only 3 high schools, but 8 sets of low-income housing/ Look, when you two did 'Too Hard To Swallow' we thought it was a fluke/ When you boys came 'Super Tight' we played it cool hand luke/ 'Ridin Dirty' went gold with no video we gave a break/ But this MTV award nomination (shit) just took the cake
Money is the driver of all things, conspiracies are rampant, and the government plays the hell out of us on the daily, UGK claims in what seems like a slow moving, easy going beat. It's far from it. On this largely overlooked UGK track, we can remember being really impressed with Bun's Da Vinci Code/W.M.D. falsehood/government back-room-deal mixed bag of a verse. He took the cake on this track. More of this kind of social awareness lyricism is needed in hip-hop.
This Halliburton contracts and war profiteering with Cheney on the board/ Is you mother fuckers hearing?/ They sent us off to war, killed our kids and got paid too/ America open your eyes/ These niggas played you
This Ridin' Dirty staple is where Pimp C digs deep into the lives of conflicted, poor, ghetto raised, broken home individuals who turned to the drug game for survival. His lyrics don't feel like a made up, fictional verse. Whether it's real or not there's an authenticity and seriousness in his voice that we feel is unique and special to "Hi Life." And you can't forget how he attacks the deliverers of religion.
But what you gonna do when the devil poke you with his fork/ And everybody sittin' in the pulpit ain't saved/ Most preachers is false prophets/ Fuckin' hoes and gettin' paid
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This track came extremely close to breaking the Top 5. It was a tough call, but this is no doubt one of the most important tracks UGK put together. Visit Rocks Off on Monday to read about UGK's Top 5 most insightful tracks.
Email Rolando Rodriguez at rolandorodriguezjr22 at gmail dot com.