Dirty Money

UGK Dirty Money Cover

UGK, the Underground Kingz. consists of Pimp C (born Chad Lamont Butler in December of ‘73), and Bun B (Bernard Freeman, born March of the same year). From Port Arthur Texas, the two formed UGK in 1987 and reigned in the rap game until the unfortunate death of Pimp C in 2007. These two best friends from Texas were trendsetters, and over time gained recognition from key players and producers in the music industry like Jay-Z and James (J.) Prince who started Rap-A-Lot Records (distributors of UGK’s music), managed talented athletes like Floyd Mayweather Jr., and recently put a powerful stop to the rap beef between artists Drake and Pusha T.

Years before Drake and Pusha would emerge on the scene, Bun B and Pimp C were monumental players in rap. Around the ages of 14 and 15, these two Southside players already knew they were destined to rock the mic, and after filtering through a few mutual friends, they started rapping together and joined forces to form UGK. Early in their careers, the two gained recognition from Jive and BigTyme Recordz.  They partnered up with these labels to release three albums prior to the drop of Dirty Money, which was released exclusively by Jive Records in 2001.

These two are braggadocious, flossy Southern lyricists who aren’t afraid to speak their mind and keep it 100. Most of this project may be too honest and explicit for some… so get your headphones ready and isolate yourself from sensitive ears before blasting Pimp C and Bun B, The Underground Kingz’ fourth studio album, Dirty Money.

Truthfully I find it hard to knock this organized piece of hype art because of how straight up they deliver their reality. It’s no surprise they sold over 500,000 copies of this album – the rawness is genuine and almost all the songs prove Pimp and Bun are very much trill, mindful, intelligent, and part of that Southern life..

For those who either don’t mind or relate to the particularities of life in the early 2000’s—when hoodstarz, ballers, gangster grillz, candy painted classic whips, flashy jewelry, money, drug dealing, and hoes were reality (or a dream)—this project is perfect. Seriously though, aside from the potentially true, explicit references made toward women and street life, this project is amazing.

Listening to the first few tracks of this album’s 14 total, we’re carried through many different motions and emotions. The intro, Let Me See It, is a hilarious pick-up where Bun and Pimp deliver lines that feel like they were made for the lionhearted: street-money makin’ pimps, pushas, and strippers. At then end, a clearly noted, nonchalant Pimp says:

Get yo’ mind on yo’ money
Hold up, hold up UGK, bitch
Representin’ that South
And this ain’t no muthafuckin’ hip hop records, fuck ass nigga;
These country rap tunes
So, you could separate us from the rest
Like I tol’ you the last time

These country rap tunes dramatically and distinctly describe what two young men experienced growing up in a Texan ghetto, a place I could only imagine until UGK’s lyrics and beats helped me bump, close my eyes, and visualize that world in full.  It’s a place of pure doing. Evidently, Pimp C and Bun B meant to make a statement to us all by combining their flauntingly smooth flows and top-shelf, shot caller lifestyles with their kingship in the business of the streets. Smooth really is the word for their rhetoric.  

Despite how particular and unrelatable the album is at times, there’s also a touch of the universal. On track 4, Aint that A Bitch (Ask Yourself), Bun B’s second verse is a read-through of a letter he received from the government:

I got a letter from the government, the other day
I opened, and read it, it said “Fuck UGK
We’ve been watching your success ever since you niggas dropped
We would’ve spoke a long time, but we thought you would’ve flopped
Man, two niggas got some nuts, to graduate to mainstream status”

I’m amazed at how common stories like this are in the music industry, both before UGK’s time and here in the present. It’s unfortunate one of the major points of common experience people can hear off this album is feeling others’ hate. Nonetheless, these guys deliver flawless, coherent logic in their lyrics and it’s not to be ignored. On the same track, under what initially feels like a different topic, Pimp C expresses his feelings toward unfaithful females.  But there’s a thread between these thoughts. The relaxed synchronization of diversity found here feels tighter than most duos’ best.

Bun and Pimp only had five main producers on Dirty Money: Pimp C himself, Jermaine Dupri, John Bido, N.O. Joe, and project co-producer Bryan Michael Cox.  In addition to the guys who made the beats and cleaned the tracks, there are a few guests on the project as well. DJ Doby D adds mixed-in scratches on tracks 1 and 3, a few guitarists pop in for featured riffs here and there, and a host of talented vocal stars appear, many of them Rap-A-Lot lablemates, like Devin the Dude, Juicy J, Too $hort, and Jermaine Dupri (who raps on the closing track while working behind the boards as usual). Digging into the album archives, I also discovered Pimp C was a multi-talented genius who published piano royalties under both his real name, Chad Butler, and alias. Pimp knew how to rock the mic and kill it on the keyboard, as demonstrated on Pimpin Ain’t No Illusion and Take it Off. The last track on the album, Money, Hoes & Power, feels like a bonus track forsure. Dirty Money’s finale, produced by Bryan-Michael Cox, features three additional vocal artists alongside Pimp C and Bun B: Pimpin’ Ken, Jermaine Dipri, and Manuel Seal. The jam has a suave sway feel to it, and vibes hard.  

Music is all about authenticity and having a great time getting out of your thoughts.  It’s an expression of emotion transmitted through an artist’s craft. UGK’s Dirty Money is the embodiment of trill Southern sound and it’s authentic from start to finish.