This is easily one of my favorite rap stories, one I've been telling for years, but have yet to see it just straight up typed out. So today I'm setting out to be the change I wish to see in the world. The short version is that Pimp C disliked the "Big Pimpin" beat so much he initially refused to rap on it and then no-showed on the video shoot. Here's the long version.
Close followers of Pimp's story have known that he wasn't exactly jumping at the chance to work on "Big Pimpin for a while." As he told MTV way back in 2005:
"It sounded like a pop record to me. I didn’t want to do it. It scared me, because I didn’t know how people was going to take us going in that direction. But I remember Jay telling me, ’Look, family: It’s going to be the biggest record of your career. If you don’t do it for yourself, just do it for me.’ That was good enough for me, so I jumped on it.”
But that's only scratching the surface of the story. Here's the complete story, as told by Bun B on the now dearly-departed "Hype Men" podcast I was involved in back in the day:
- JAY-Z, coming off his 5x Platinum Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life album, calls Bun B out of the blue, but Bun at first hangs up on him, believing it's a prank call. Jay calls back again, convinces Bun it's really him and says there's a song for his upcoming album he wants UGK on.
- Right off the bat, Pimp is unimpressed. He was originally supposed to be on Jay's "Just a Week Ago" but Pimp refused to fly to New York City to record it. If JAY-Z wanted him on the song so bad, let Jay fly to Houston, and so the song never happened. Pimp moved for no man.
- Bun convinces Pimp to at least give the song a listen, but when the tapes arrive in the mail—yes, tapes, this was way before email—Pimp's adamant. Fuck that. There's no way he's rapping on such a weird beat.
- Bun's not about to let the opportunity pass, so he flies to New York, gets a taste of Roc-A-Fella at its peak, records his verse and then slowly but surely wears Pimp down and convinces him to get on the song, if only as a favor to him. Pimp relents, but on one condition—he's only giving Jay eight bars. Not a word more. "I said that's cool, eight bars, no problem, just get on the fucking record," said Bun. "This song's gonna be a big deal. He sent it [his verse] back to me and I listened....eight bars. I just rapped for something like 20 bars trying to out rap Jay Z, and this motherfucker just did it in eight bars."
- "Things U Do" with Mariah Carey was initially supposed to be the big lead single off Vol. 3, but when that song fails to catch on Jay and Dame decide to change plans and give "Big Pimpin" the full single treatment. Plans for a huge video shoot in Trinidad with Hype Williams get underway.
- Bun B misses his first flight and arrives at the video shoot in Trinidad a little late, expecting to see Pimp already there. Nope. Pimp has once again refused to leave Houston. Hype Williams can't believe Pimp would actually bail on the video shoot so keeps trying to convince him to come. It doesn't work, though, and they leave Trinidad with a massive video for a massive single that has exactly and precisely zero seconds of Pimp C in it.
- New plan. They find a mansion and beach in the U.S. that looks vaguely "tropical" enough to pass for Trinidad and this time Pimp C shows up for the shoot.
"Pimp pulls up in the Benz, with Gloria Velez, and parks near the trailers. The bodyguard' says, 'You can't park here. This is Jay Z' trailer.' Pimp says, 'Well that's my trailer, right there. So I'll tell you what. I'm fittin to park right here, and if you got a problem with it...' Next thing him and the security guard get into it, it's a big fucking deal, people talking about pulling guns and all this crazy shit...but five minutes later Pimp and the bodyguard are best friends. Pimp's like, we're fittin to get dressed and shoot with this car.' Hype says, 'Well, we wanted to shoot on the beach.' Pimp says, "Nah, we fittin to shoot right here, with this car, we fittin to get dressed, we'll be back in five minutes," and then he comes out the trailer with a mink on and no shirt." - Bun B
So with all that in mind, I want you to watch the "Big Pimpin" video again. Fair warning, you're going to have a Matrix moment. As many times as I had watched that video before I heard the full story, it never even occurred to me to wonder why Pimp's verse is so short, why the video changes locations, and why Pimp C is the only rapper to do his verse in that second location.
Prepare to have your mind blown...
The real takeaway here is that Pimp C was the greatest. He dictated the terms of his life, his way, and wouldn't move an inch even for some of the most famous and wealthy rappers on the planet. Long live the pimp.
Bonus: For more Pimp C goodness, pick up a copy of "Sweet Jones: Pimp C's Trill Life Story" by author Julia Beverly.