“Bury me in Hiram Clarke next to the Come & Go…”
2016 has found a way to be beautiful at times (read: rare occasions) and absolutely agonizing everywhere else. Election 2016 aside, it has literally ravaged music with death. Beyond the usual suspects, it snatched Lil Will of “Wanna Be a Baller” fame in a car accident. It sucked because memorializing Lil Will mostly zeroes in on remembering “Wanna Be a Baller” and how much of a low key presence he was. That’s never the greatest way to remember somebody, especially if they contributed to a generational local rap song.
Last Thursday night, a shooting occurred in Southwest Houston; one of the men involved was shot in the back of the head and died at the scene. It didn’t take long before the name of the man who died was released. It was Christopher Barriere, the man who found far more notoriety as Mr. 3-2, influencer and a hell of a rapper of the 1990s and parts of the 2000s. He was 44.
It may not feel like it now, but Rap-A-Lot Records was one of the more progressive labels around some 25 years ago. The Geto Boys ushered in a glimpse of mental-health awareness and paranoia in rap with We Can’t Be Stopped. The label promoted a foul-mouthed female rapper in Choice, a prelude to the mid-'90s run of Lil’ Kim & Foxy Brown. Big Mike and 3-2, then part of The Convicts released a concept debut album about, you guessed it - what two convicts would do should they break out of prison. Plenty of the album rolled around Big Mike’s rubbery rap voice but 3-2 was an equal, a baritone that was unmistakable and carried more weight as time went on. On “1-900-Dial-A-Crook,” later refocused as “1-900-Hustler” by Jay Z in 2000, 3-2 broke down cooking up crack cocaine as if it were a 10-point plan for instant riches.
3-2 was great at that. It may have never translated into a full-blown solo career for him but when he was on, he was on. One of the best off-the-dome rappers available, “The Governor” had plenty of wit to him, someone who famously carried himself as an every man despite being a whirlwind of a rapper. During his stint as a member of The Convicts, he headed out West with Big Mike to Los Angeles. Enticed by Suge Knight and the execs from Death Row Records, a deal was nearly in place before Mike found himself loyal to J. Prince and Rap-A-Lot. The Geto Boys needed someone to replace Willie D and Big Mike took the job. What did 3-2 do? Record with Warren G and Snoop Dogg in LA, imparting more game to Snoop than anyone.
“He was the one who told me, 'We don’t love these hoes,' Snoop said in a memorial post on Instagram. We could argue that 3-2’s personality, however in demand it could be on the microphone, helped Snoop push his out further after “Deep Cover” and more. 3-2 was like a comet in this regard: when he was on, he was on and when he wasn’t there, you could most certainly feel it.
Once Rap-A-Lot fell into gooey, damn-near-perfect rap label status in the mid-90s, 3-2 found himself on the outskirts. A year before he gave his most memorable verse, he was part of Blac Monks, who may not have been the greatest of Houston rap groups, but as a precursor to weed-heads worldwide they stuck. Given 3-2’s later eccentrics and need for wet cigarettes, it was perfect for him. He took on the moniker of Buddah Baby, a guy who rapped atop those springy, West Coast-stylized productions that mimicked whatever Das Dillinger dropped on Dogg Food. 3-2’s solo album, The Wicked Buddah Baby, was supposed to hit large but ultimately didn’t. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise.
The original “One Day” wasn’t meant for UGK’s Ridin’ Dirty. According to Julia Beverly, 3-2’s version was originally produced by DJ Boss & Original E. A Wicked Buddah Baby track everyone knew would be a hit. Yet he was reluctant to do anything with it. His Rap-A-Lot deal was almost up. He could have done whatever he wanted. Instead, he spent most of 1996 working on tapes, freestyling with Bun B and pressing his own inimitable flows. Even if Bun didn’t want to rap over 3-2’s version of “One Day,” Pimp C did. The Isley Brothers sample of "Ain't I Been Good to You” would remain intact. Same for Ronnie Spencer on the hook. The new beat with its molasses-thick bass line and 808 drums, would be all Pimp. Together, the three of them would lead Ridin’ Dirty.
3-2’s verse is somber. There’s a slow tick to it as it feels more like a eulogy and admittance of sins than anything moving towards progress. As if he’s resigned to the same ideology he preached some five years prior. Death and the penitentiary are the only things he’ll admit are an end game for him. Everything else, whether it be forms of protection, identifiers of man child tendencies (“Mama put me out at only 14…”) or positions of being vulnerable? Human. Pimp himself could admit that UGK didn’t do much in regards of showing emotions before Ridin’ Dirty. The same group who gave up coke tales on “Cocaine In The Back Of The Ride”? There had been flashes of it. It took what could have been a throwaway 3-2 track to get it out of them.
“One Day” immortalized 3-2. The Governor, a 2000 rap album that made him adopt yet another moniker let him toy around even more in the pools made by Big Pokey and other Screwed Up Click guys. It gave us "G.O.V." as a fun, shit talking rap record. “Ball N Parlay,” from Pokey’s Hardest Pit In the Litter, is another smooth 3-2 moment where calling your haters “funny bunny busters” was both effective and hilarious. He didn’t outright disappear from rapping, but you saw him around. He was gracious, he was kind and there were even times he let people film some rather erratic behavior of his for YouTube laughs.
There’s no way around it. Mr. 3-2 was a Screwed Up Click and Rap-A-Lot legend. A guy who probably wielded more influence on one of the more game changing rap careers than one would think. He was always around, even if he wasn’t. Even if he told us 20 years ago on his most famous verse that tomorrow wasn’t promised — he didn’t deserve to go out the way he did.
Yet in 2016, we’ve learned that reality doesn’t care how we go. Or what happens to us. Because 2016 is a cruel, fickle beast that even Buddah Babies deserve better than.