UGK - UGK 4 Life

Posted April 1, 2009
Tags: UGK,

The break-up of Danity Kane is not a tragedy. The bar running out of Patron is not a tragedy. A...

UGK 4 Life Album Review

The break-up of Danity Kane is not a tragedy. The bar running out of Patron is not a tragedy. A tragedy is when someone of unmeasured greatness dies before they complete their life’s work. The death of Pimp C, and the resultant dissolution of UGK, is a tragedy. UGK was at the height of their creative powers when Pimp drew his last breath in a Los Angeles hotel room. They had just released the epic Underground Kingz, a double-album I called the bible of Houston hip-hop, and were finally receiving at least a sliver of the nationwide respect they deserved.

Now, just more than a year since Pimp C’s passing, the gospel of UGK will come to a definitive close with the release of their final album, UGK 4 Life. (Bun B promises this will indeed be the “final album.” There will be no postmortem Tupac-ization of unreleased Pimp material on Bun’s watch). UGK 4 Life was only partially completed when Pimp died, and it shows, but to be overly critical would be to miss the point. Instead, this should be more of an ode than a review, more of a memorial than an article. So now, for the last time, let’s walk together through a UGK album.

Intro – The intro is simple, clean - just the ghost of Pimp’s voice and a wailing guitar line. You can tell from the first two-minutes of UGK 4 Life that this will be a straight-up UGK album, not a melodramatic capitalization on Pimp’s death. By contrast, Diddy would have had a chamber orchestra and the entire Vienna Boy’s Choir singing while a fireworks display exploded in the background.

Still On The Grind – The real music starts with a banger that stomps along on a crushing bass line before giving way to a more melodic chorus, courtesy of the soulful Raheem DeVaughn. Grind is UGK in attack mode, with the always solid Bun rapid-firing lines and Pimp spitting his full on pimperish slang. Repeat worthy.

Everybody Wanna Ball – A return to the 70’s soul/gospel music production style Pimp was experimenting with on Underground Kingz. Wanna Ball likely would have been lyrically enhanced given more time, for his part Pimp primarily remixes his famous verse from Big Pimpin, but it’s still more than enough mellow wood-grained grippin to get the job done.

Feelin’ You – As close to romantic as UGK gets. Bun smooths out his flow and Pimp even drops his “she suckin on me like a chicken wing” repertoire more a couple minutes. More importantly, it’s a reminder that Pimp could drop a legitimately soulful hook. He voice was somehow simultaneously sweet and worn, a surprisingly powerful voice that will be missed.

The Pimp & The Bun – I like to listen to this song and pretend like UGK had a 70’s cop show called The Pimp and The Bun, in which they’d ride around in Cadillacs, wearing fur coats and karate chopping criminals who didn’t follow the G code. Like a trill version of Miami Vice, and this would be the theme song. That would have been the greatest TV show...ever.

She Luv It – On Underground Kingz Pimp obviously had a lot serious s**t he wanted to get off his mind, not here. On UGK 4 Life he seems to be primarily occupied with getting as much oral sex as humanly possible, and Bun is happy to follow along. She Luv It is not only one of the best stripper anthems to drop since Ayo Technology, it’s our first introduction to Pimp’s “I hate more shaved vaginas” campaign. More on that later. Seriously.

7th Street Interlude – One of two interludes on the album. We can only assume this was intended to be a full track. We’ll just have to be content with dreaming of what could have been.

Swishas & Erb – A more mellow and smoked out version of Swishas and Dosha that’s so hazy you could get a contact high just listening to it, thanks in no small part to Sleepy Brown’s vocals. It would have been good to hear Bun take his delivery down a notch, he doesn’t have to go hard every time, but in classic Bun fashion he manages to embed some covert social commentary into his otherwise pure street verses. He’s becoming the definition of underrated.

Purse Comes First – Purse is a full on 70’s celebration that’s impossible not to nod your head to, sort of like the instant classic Int’l Players Anthem, minus the energy. Pimp C takes a surprising lyrical detour into political commentary, and then follows it with a self-aware “I look like this, I talk it, I make em think I’m dumb.” Pimp was happy to let everyone underestimate his intelligence - nothing like some good old fashioned hating to add fuel to the fire.

Harry A**hole – If the FCC won’t let Eminem say “rubbers” on Crack A Bottle or Weezy say “vagina” on Turning Me On, than Harry A**hole would make their heads explode. There’s not much for me to write here - the title kind of says it all - other than to mention that Pimp extrapolates at length on his hatred for shaved pu**ies and Lil Boosie and Webbie drop appropriately explicit guest verses (are those two contractually mandated to appear together on songs?). You should probably make sure your grandma’s not within ear shot if you decide to bang this song.

Used To Be – A crusher of a Southern anthem that’s also my favorite on the album. This is the kind of infectious beat that’s the epitome of the Houston grind, and with B-Legit, E-40 and 8Ball and MJG stopping by for guest verses Used To Be’s an absolute beast. For my money E-40 absolutely kills it, delivering a perfectly balanced verse, but picking out the best rapper here is like picking the hottest Pussycat Doll; it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

Steal Your Mind – I think it’s literally illegal to drop a smoked-out track about pimping without inviting Too $hort and Snoop. Unfortunately though Steal Your Mind isn’t anything extraordinary, other than the fact that Snoop drops one of the album’s only “R.I.P. Pimp C” references. It’s remarkable how little Pimp C eulogizing happens on UGK 4 Life, but that’s how Pimp would have liked it: less cryin and more pimpin.

Texas Ave Interlude – See what I wrote for the first interlude. Ditto, plus a Bun B verse.

Hard As Hell – This is the only track on the album I kind of wish didn’t exist. It’s hard to figure out what UGK’s going for here; based on the Akon chorus they were looking for something that might get some radio play, but there’s no way any radio station in America would play Hard As Hell after Pimp’s X-rated verses. The amount of international alliances UGK deserves recognition, but they just don’t sound right with Akon.

Da Game Been Good To Me – A track that somehow manages to combine Spanish-style guitar, country-western and 70’s soul. Just classic UGK. If this is literally the last song UGK ever releases I don’t see how fans could have wished for more. Goddamn.

Outro – There’s nothing I can write that Bun B didn’t say better: “On behalf myself, Pimp C, and all the trill ni**ers worldwide, we are the Underground Kingz, in case you didn’t know. I’ll see you on the slab.”

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted April 1, 2009
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