By Julia Beverly
Paperback, 726 pp., $24.99
Mythmaking is part of writing a biography. Whatever research you’ve dedicated to certain stories or tall tales, the more the myth grows. In the larger context, any myth about Pimp C may give you a myriad of answers. Either the myth is true, has been toned down or is so engrossing that layers get added to it. Stories about Chad Lamont Butler eschew reactions from the best of us, those who knew the UGK rapper personally or heard about him in terms of folklore via interviews and music.
Former OZONE Magazine editor-in-chief Julia Beverly sought to write about the rapper who dubbed her “the only media person” he would even talk to. She sat down for over 40 hours in the Shreveport Ave. home belonging to Butler’s mom, the late Weslyn Monroe to speak to her. "Mama Wes" eventually helped contribute to Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story, another arc in the growing canon of literature created around the ups and downs of Houston hip-hop.
Beverly’s book, which clocks in at more than 700 pages, is filled with anecdotes, interviews and a constant timeline that shows how Chad Lamont Butler escaped being a shy, quiet kid who went to New York City as part of an esteemed choir in 1990 and became arguably the most revered character in the history of Southern rap. Sweet Jones does not mince words or attempts to cover for others. It’s an honest, revealing glimpse into one half of the greatest rap duo that the state of Texas ever produced.
The anecdotes and revelations, built from the backbone of Beverly’s conversations with Mama Wes, offer insight into Pimp’s brash persona and reactions. There’s many a tale, including a moment where, at Cory Mo’s MAD Studios following his release from prison, Cory Mo’s brother Mike admired Pimp’s Red Monkey Evisu jeans. Pimp quickly acknowledged that he paid $800 for them before taking them off and gifting them to Mike, walking out of the studio in his underwear in the process. Plenty of longstanding rumors are clarified, such as the one that Master P kidnapped Pimp C and threatened to kill him until J. Prince told him otherwise. Many confirm in Sweet Jones the tale of P, along with his No Limit bodyguards-appearing at a Stafford-area hotel and pistol-whipping Pimp over many comments he made disparaging the No Limit mogul over his business practices and threats to Mama Wes. However, that tale mostly gets spliced with the one in which a Dallas-area man, Ron Robinson, had hired a hit man in 1999 to kill Butler only for J. Prince to intervene.
Sadly, the most intriguing tale revolves around Butler’s mysterious death in December 2007. Beverly retells Mama Wes’ reaction to her son’s passing, how the coroner initially had zero answers as to how the rapper died and how everyone suspected murder more than an overdose. Sadly, it comes on the heels of arguably UGK’s greatest year: the year of the infamous Hot 107.9 interview, whose legend has grown as the years pass; the Underground Kingz double album, which finally legitimized UGK to a national audience after they, in Bun B’s words, “fumbled” the group's potential following “Big Pimpin” in 2000. "Until the day he died," Mama Wes told Beverly, "[Chad] didn't like 'Big Pimpin'."
Sweet Jones at times reads like a companion piece to Lance Scott Walker’s Houston Rap, the 2013 chronicle that broke down Houston’s bumpy ride to national rap prominence. Beverly doesn’t take Pimp C’s story or UGK’s rise as an outlier to everything else going on at the time, but carefully attaches each moment with asides or split conversations. J. Prince’s ordeal with the DEA in Houston beginning with a February 1987 traffic stop of his cousin in Sierra Blanca gets an entire chapter dedicated to it. Breakdowns of the prison industrial complex; recording contracts; Port Arthur’s dynamic as a city; the friction of UGK in its final days; the origins of "Short Texas"; how often UGK rolled through terrible management and tax issues and were jerked around by their labels, Jive and Bigtyme Recordz; Pimp's extensive feuds with Jeezy and Master P; and more roll through. By the time the book reaches its conclusion with a fitting bit of closure for Mama Wes, Sweet Jones has also run through the bond that Pimp C shared with her, how she cooked for everybody, and almost acted like a wise matriarch who could sense the good and evil in people and more.
Nothing about Butler goes unscathed or shielded from the public in Sweet Jones, either. His trials and tribulations battling substance abuse and his infamous 2000 arrest at Sharpstown Mall are laid bare. Beverly continually offers all sides of the story, from Pimp's chief accuser never changing her ways from being a petty thief to Mama Wes and company lamenting how they should have taken the case to trial. What the book accomplishes in full is offering a glimpse of Pimp C as a man, one with faults who became a myth in death only due to unfinished work.
As Mama Wes reveals in conversation with Beverly, Butler was diagnosed as bipolar, his moods and erraticism causing him to create multiple personalities such as “Tony Snow”, “Sweet Jones,” “Rick James,” and more. But, the calmest of all personalities was Chad, the one who constantly came home and asked for his mother’s advice, the one who lovingly doted for his children Christian, Chad Jr. & Corey.
Was Pimp C a constant target of the federal government for drug trafficking and being a cocaine distributor, though they had zero proof? Yes. Did he have his vices, which more often than not helped him create better music? Yes. But, to have known Chad Butler is to have known a genius, one with as many ups, downs and friendship ties to as many underworlds as you may possibly think. Too $hort offers a foreword, and Pimp’s tales of living in Atlanta for five years and making friends for life are stamped throughout. Pimp C was a myth. The larger story about Chad Butler’s memorable 33 years on Earth offers a moment to reflect one of music’s more appreciated singers of the blues.
Pre-order the book at pimpcbook.com. The book will be available on Amazon & Kindle on July 28. The author will be autographing copies alongside Chad's youngest son, Corey at Trae Day, July 22nd and at SF2 on Thursday, July 23rd.