“UGK 4 Life,” the final studio album from the Underground Kings, signals the end of an era in Southern hip-hop. The Port Arthur, Texas rap duo Bun B and Pimp C recorded most of the album before Pimp C’s tragic death in 2007, but the album contains little indication of his absence — one unfamiliar with the UGK might not realize he’s gone if not for a few choice allusions. This isn’t really a tribute effort; it’s just a solid UGK album. And that’s a good thing.
The album has that stereotypical Southern rap feel: heavy bass beats holding down lyrics about substances and women. That may sound boring, but the dudes spittin’ happen to have basically invented this shit. Even if they aren’t saying anything original, they say it their own way. Pimp C, post-mortem, talks mad trash and feeds the hedonistic currents familiar to UGK fans. Bun B, with his deeper voice and smoother delivery, continues to mix traces of social commentary into his effortless wordplay. On “Purse Come First,” Bun strings together a criticism of the Iraq War, presumably, referring to Haliburton:
“They sent us off to war, killed our kids and got paid too. America, open your eyes, these niggas played you. And played me too. Shit, I paid taxes. They let these bitches wage war against the evil axis. Pull up all the e-mails, memos, and the faxes. So we can really see what all the facts is, you bastards.”
Political content as explicit as this is scarce, however. “Purse Come First” is sandwiched between “Harry Asshole” and a track about the pleasures of smoking marijuana. “Swishas and Erb” is one of the finest songs on the album — Sleepy Brown’s floating falsetto blows you into the clouds. The other outstanding track is “Da Game Been Good to Me.” The title and melody suggest humility, but what Bun B and Pimp C deliver instead is pure swagger. Listen to Pimp C:
“I ain’t dissin nobody, no particular name. Ya shoe fit nigga, get the fuck up out the game. Li’l bitch!”
UGK’s finale isn’t particularly deep musically or philosophically, and it won’t function as a monument to the departed Pimp C, but it is really fun to listen to. Bun B, before embarking on a solo career, can close out his UGK career respectably.