The New Classics

April 17, 2009

Album Review: UGK, 4 Life

04.17.09

UGK 4 Life
Everyone knows that half of the legendary Houston rap duo UGK, Pimp C, died in late 2007 in what was probably the most crushing blow to rap since Big Pun’s untimely death in 2000. Riding the wave of their most successful album in fifteen years, it was a huge shock and a tremendous loss for music. But Pimp’s other lyrical half Bun B decided to carry on for one last bow before putting the UGK name to rest, with an album that is more of a continuation of their career rather than a final chapter.

UGK certainly doesn’t stray far from their familiar style or subjects. A good portion of UGK 4 Life consists of breezy Cadillac music about money, weed & women. But obviously it shouldn’t be written off as by-the-numbers rapping, because if that were the case, they wouldn’t have had such longevity in the industry. The duo is cool and witty enough to pull this off from album to album and song to song and still able to throw some curveballs. For instance, in one of my favorite songs of the album ‘Purse Come First’ the chorus is by Pimp C: (Flippin’ and dippin’, sippin’ and grain grippin’ / watching life through my rearview mirror I ain’t trippin’ / I done rolled with the best and acted bad with the worst / dick is a commodity bitch, the purse come first). Nothing too introspective there, but once you dig into the verses you start hearing lines about Pimp questioning the Catholic church, or Bun B’s big brother & war profiteering conspiracy theories. By the time guest rapper Big Gipp shows up on the third verse, he seems lost and out of his league rapping about swisher sweets and candy colored coupes because that seems to be ALL that he knows. UGK are at least able to rhyme about a variety of topics, even if it is just under the surface, and that’s what sets them apart from the by-the-numbers rappers that they can easily get confused with.

Another favorite of mine from UGK 4 Life is the Ron Isley-laced ‘The Pimp and the Bun’, a jam that’s so easy to kick back and enjoy thanks to Mannie Fresh’s dope summer weather beat, and would make a perfect “final” single for the group to cruise out on. The first single from this album however is the colder ‘Da Game Been Good to Me‘, whose video is a must-see for any hip hop fan.

When I said that UGK is capable of curveballs, that isn’t necessarily always a good thing. I was downright fucking puzzled when ‘Harry Asshole’ came on (got a young brown stallion and she twenty years old / when she pop it from the back you see the hairy asshole). I can’t tell if this is a joke song, or if this is really what these guys (and featured guests Lil Boosie & Webbie) are into. Or maybe it’s a down-South thing that I just don’t get?

Ironically, ‘Hard as Hell’ is the softest joint on the album, featuring Akon, who I guess hasn’t lost his Nate Dogg pass yet to guest on everybody’s records. I doubt that this will be released as a single though despite Akon’s sugary appearance, because it’s a song about popping a boner. It also sounds like UGK is rapping over a beat made for children, which isn’t a good thing, especially when Pimp C spits lyrics like (tryin’ ta see where I’m coming from / get it in ya eye). The song fails badly, and I lay all the blame on whoever thought that combining a boner jam with something that sounds like it came from a Kidz Bop cd was a good idea.

But missteps like those are so easy to ignore when you have a record full of other ill songs like the aggressively melodic ‘Still On the Grind’, the smooth strip club cut ‘She Luv It’ or the drowsy good times of ‘Steal Your Mind’ featuring Too Short & Snoop Dogg.

The Pimp may be gone, but Bun did an excellent job carrying on his name and music with this album, and I’m sure there are still plenty of unused Pimp C verses that will sporadically pop up as random guest spots down the line. But as a final official UGK album, if you have a car this summer with windows that roll down, UGK 4 Life is an album for you.

Album: UGK 4 Life
Artist: UGK
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Label: Jive Records
Featured Artists: Snoop Dogg, Too Short, Akon, Ron Isley, E-40, Raheem DeVaughn, 8Ball & MJG, Sleepy Brown, Lil Boosie, Webbie, Big Gipp
Featured Producers: Pimp C, Mannie Fresh, Akon, Avarexx, Cory Mo, DJ B-Do, Steve Below
Highlights: ‘Still On the Grind’, ‘The Pimp and the Bun’, ‘She Luv It’, ‘Purse Come First’, ‘Da Game Been Good to Me
Rating: 7.5

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