September 26, 2012 4 comments
History has been filled with many successful partnerships since the beginning of time. From Lewis and Clark to Batman and Robin to Jordan and Pippen, it seems like everywhere you turn there are dynamic duos tearing up the world and leaving destruction in their wake. All of these duos have varying degrees of contribution from each member, with some of them being equal partnerships – OutKast for example – and others where one member carries the other – such as Chris & Lil Neefy. It’s hard to talk about duos in hip hop without talking about the Underground Kings.
Chad Butler and Bernard Freeman, better known as Pimp C and Bun B respectively, hail from Port-Arthur, TX and are one of a very small handful of rap duos to ever achieve longevity in the fickle music industry. Their career spanned 5 albums and was cut prematurely short due to the legal issues and unexpected death of Pimp C. However before his death, Pimp C was undoubtedly the star of the group. It is interesting that these days Pimp is revered as an icon whereas Bun’s name doesn’t hold quite the acclaim that his rhyme partner had. The demand for Bun B verses has reached a peak but in my opinion he will never reach the legend status that Pimp C has attained, for a couple reasons.
I like to compare UGK to Mobb Deep in that one of the members of the duo was also the primary producer of the group’s production. Havoc gets much of the credit for giving them their sound and being a complimentary rapper while Prodigy did most of the lyrical heavy lifting. They were a nice compliment to each other and each had a different strong suit. In the case of UGK, a lot of people don’t realize that Pimp C was the primary producer for the group’s albums. Pimp C was responsible for giving them the sound that he dubbed “country rap tunes”. Producers such as Cory Mo, DJ Burn One and Big K.R.I.T. are still trying to replicate his production style to this day.
In addition to making the beats, Pimp was also the standout personality on the mic. While people proclaim that Bun was the more lyrical of the two, most of the quotables come from the Pimp C verses. Bun B was definitely a competent rapper, don’t get me wrong, but he didn’t have the life nuggets and gems that Pimp had in his verses. Pimp verses such as “Diamonds & Wood” could get someone through a hard day, while Bun lacks those life nuggets in his rhymes. You don’t have to be Lupe Fiasco on the mic, as long as you provide relevant lyrics. This explains Young Jeezy’s entire career, and that’s what Pimp C perfected.
While Pimp’s life was unfortunately brought to an early end, Bun is still alive and well, which means that he’s still able to rap. However, the quality of his verses really hasn’t improved since 2001’s “Dirty Money” LP. I can’t say that he’s declined but more so just rested on the same staples that every other Texas rapper rests on. People give Paul Wall a hard time for rapping about the same subject matter in every song or verse but it’s not like Bun B changes up the topics of his songs either. I like to call them generic Bun B verses in that you know exactly what he’s going to say and what cadence he’s going to use before he even opens his mouth. Bun B is the perfect guest feature in that he will never out-rap a younger newer artist on a track but has the clout of a living legend to attract attention to the project.
I think another reason that Pimp and Bun are revered as legends differently is their personalities. When you think of Pimp C that legendary Atlanta radio station interview with its multitude of quotables should come to mind. Pimp was simply a dynamic personality which made him a polarizing figure. Whether you liked or hated him everyone was aware of who Pimp C was. If the situations were reversed I don’t think the Free Bun B movement would have been as big simply because he didn’t have that type of personality that makes you champion for him. If Bun isn’t making the beats and isn’t the premier personality inside and out of the booth, then what is he bringing to the table that makes him so legendary?
To me, UGK are similar to those great Utah Jazz teams of the 90’s with Pimp C being John Stockton and Bun B being Karl Malone.
To me, UGK are similar to those great Utah Jazz teams of the 90’s with Pimp C being John Stockton and Bun B being Karl Malone. Both are undeniable Hall of Famers but it makes me wonder how successful they would’ve been if they didn’t play their entire careers together. Stockton benefitted from having a big man down low with great feet and a great touch around the basket but his great passing, fundamentals, and feel for the game definitely brought a lot to the table. Sure Malone was a force to be reckoned with in the paint but those NBA Finals series against Dennis Rodman and the Chicago Bulls show just how easily it was for a defensive player to nullify his skill set. Stockton had skills on the offensive and defensive ends, as he is currently the all-time steals leader. It’s hard to imagine Stockton wouldn’t have been successful for any team that he played for. However, Malone needed the perfect point guard that was able to exploit the matchup problems he posed to other teams.
Pimp C, like Stockton, ran the pick and roll to perfection and needed someone to finish the plays at the rim. Bun B, like Karl Malone, was just in the right place at the right time to benefit from playing with one of the 5 best point guards of all time. Bun B is viewed as a legend due to his affiliation to Pimp C moreso than any of his lyrical exploits. And the more recent years and multitude of generic verses have done little to establish himself as an icon in his own right. Every Bun B verse since “Dirty Money” feels like Karl Malone’s time on the Los Angeles Lakers, where it’s obvious he’s just going through the motions trying to get a ring. He wants to legitimatize his legacy and substantiate his claims to the rap Hall of Fame but we need better output from Bun if that’s going to change his perception. And if history repeats itself I doubt that ever will.