30 Things I Learned From Reading ‘$weet Jone$: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story’
Chad Lamont Butler (December 29, 1973 — December 4, 2007) is one of my heroes.
He really is. Not because I aspire to “have a fucking ho for every letter in the alphabet,” or because I agree with some of his ridiculous stances, such as when he vehemently claimed that Atlanta, GA was not part of the southern United States because it’s on Eastern Standard Time.
No, Chad Lamont Butler is one of my heroes because he knew no other way than to be Chad Lamont Butler. As I stated in the conclusion to this piece on why I prefer UGK’s music to OutKast’s, Pimp C was “possibly the most fearless and uncompromising artist in the history of rap music.” He was one of the truly rare individuals who couldn’t help but say what he felt all the time. He didn’t have a fake bone in his body, and he’s the primary reason why UGK is my favorite rap group (I got mad love for you too, though, Bun).
Pimp C rode for his beliefs all the time, not just when convenient, and after reading $weet Jone$: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story, I have come to understand that riding for what he believed in was never convenient for Pimp C. The doors that Pimp and his UGK partner Bun B kicked down for southern hip-hop in the 1990s were made of steel and teflon, with dead bolt latches running up and down the sides and fire breathing dragons peeping around the corners.
For a follower of the Trill Testimony such as myself, $weet Jone$ is 686 pages of pure bliss (no, that’s not a typo). Author Julia Beverly, who founded the south’s premier hip-hop magazine, OZONE, at the age of 19, absolutely crushed it. Seriously, I have never read a book that covers any particular topic in such vivid, magnetic detail. Dare I say, $weet Jone$ easily puts 99% of biographies to shame. It’s the best hip-hop related book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them. You feel as if you’re there in those moments. It’s more diary than biography, really.
What $weet Jone$ conveys better than anything else, though, is the torturous struggle to be an individual in the world today. Not just a person, but a real individual — somebody who does not succumb to any sort of outside influence, who cannot and will not let pressure from the establishment dilute what they feel is true to their soul.
That was Pimp C.
He was far from perfect, highly misunderstood, stubborn as they come, and utterly brilliant. He was the mastermind behind UGK. He looked out for everybody who he respected, and rarely got the same respect back. His story is one of a rise, fall, rise, and unfortunately, one last fall. He was taken from the world nearly eight years ago, at the young age of 33, but his spirit lives on in every single so-called “MC” who claims to represent southern hip-hop — nah, fuck that — country rap tunes.
I understand that some people might think they don’t have the time to read a 700-page biography, but if you claim to be a Pimp C, UGK, or southern rap fan in any capacity then you have no excuse. You must read $weet Jone$: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story. If you need a little motivation to get started, then continue reading below to hear about 30 things that I learned from the exceptional biography, in loosely chronological order. There’s plenty more where that came from in the book itself.
Props to Ms. Beverly for taking the time to bless the world with this gift, and as always, Long Live The Pimp.
P.S.: Mama Wes is Chad’s mother, Weslyn Monroe, who was by far the most important person in Chad’s life and the most important character in the book besides Chad himself.
1. On Chad’s health issues as an infant
Chad was born prematurely. He had a birth defect that caused his feet to awkwardly point inward, so at six months old doctors equipped his legs with bars in order to straighten them. After four months the bars came off and he learned how to walk. Here are some of Chad’s other problems during infancy: He had to be propped up at night to sleep due to a serious digestive problem, he had his tonsils removed, he suffered through nine bouts of pneumonia (the last of which nearly killed him), and he had poor eyesight that turned him nearly blind after a serious case of pink eye. Anybody who can survive an infancy like that was born to do something special.
2. On finance lessons, or lack thereof
Pimp C never learned how to balance a check book. According to Mama Wes, he “didn’t want to keep up with his money because he didn’t want to know when he didn’t have none.”
3. On “Smoke Somethin’, Bitch!” and inside jokes with friends
The popular Pimp C catchphrase “smoke somethin’” (or “smoke somethin’, bitch!”), which is present on the intro to many of his songs, originated as an inside joke with Too $hort. Apparently, every time Pimp and $hort saw each other, instead of greeting with a normal ‘hello’ they would tell each other to “smoke somethin’,” leading to the creation of one of the best rap trademarks ever.
4. On the meaning behind “It’s Supposed To Bubble” (hint: it’s not about champagne)
“It’s Supposed To Bubble,” the classic ode to champagne off UGK’s 1994 sophomore album Super Tight, is not actually about champagne. Instead, it’s about smoking PCP-laced cigarettes, a trend that became popular in Texas in the early 1990s. Widely referred to as “fry,” the PCP at the tip of a cigarette “bubbles” when it burns, hence the clever title of the song. Speaking of which…
5. On Bun B turning into a rapping machine
Bun B’s vastly improved rapping in the two years between recording Super Tight and Ridin’ Dirty was largely due to smoking excessive amounts of ‘fry’ and freestyling for entire days at a time with Mr. 3-2 and Big Mike.
6. On recording environments
When it came time to work on their third album, Jive Records flew UGK up to Chicago to record at Battery Studios. After recording for three weeks, they flew home to Port Arthur and debuted the songs for Mama Wes. Usually jovial and complimentary, Mama Wes said nothing. After Chad asked, “It’s not good, is it,” she responded, “No. It’s boo-boo.” They scrapped all of the songs and started all over again in Texas. Ridin’ Dirty is the album that came from these Texas sessions. The Chicago trip would mark the first and last time UGK ever recorded songs outside of the south.
7. On Lil’ Keke almost appearing on “One Day”
Initially, Bun B didn’t want to write a verse to “One Day,” a Mr. 3-2 (from The Convicts) throwaway track that Pimp C bought and revamped. Bun’s reasons for not wanting to do the song were twofold: he didn’t want to redo someone else’s song, and he didn’t want to rap about vulnerable, sensitive subjects. With Bun out of the question, Chad invited Lil’ Keke to hop on “One Day” instead.
On the night of December 4, 1995, Chad, Keke, and DJ Screw were on the way to the studio to record the song, but stopped at a Stop-N-Go first to pick up Swishers, styrofoam cups, and soda. Keke went around the corner to use the restroom, and while he was gone an undercover police officer who happened to be parked in the Stop-N-Go parking lot radioed for backup to arrest Chad and Screw after smelling a strong marijuana odor emanating from their car. They spent the next two days sharing a county jail cell together before being bonded out, while Keke, who was already on probation for cocaine possession, lucked out and fled the scene.
Bun heard the nearly finished version of “One Day” sometime later and, inspired by Chad’s potent verse, decided to get on the song after all. Alas, “One Day” was completed without Keke’s assistance, and went on to become one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever made.
8. On “Murder”
The UGK classic, “Murder,” which features Bun B’s best verse ever (and arguably the greatest verse in the history of ‘country rap tunes’), came about as a favor to Bun B from Pimp C. After Bun reluctantly agreed to hop on the vulnerable, introspective “One Day,” he told Pimp that he needed an aggressive uptempo track for him to showcase his new and improved skills (something to “go off to”). Pimp created the “Murder” beat and the rest is history.
9. On the realness behind Ridin’ Dirty’s interludes
The now classic “Live From The Pen” skits performed by UGK affiliate Smoke D, which build the conceptual framework for Ridin’ Dirty, were not studio skits… Smoke D was actually doing time in a Mississippi state penitentiary, where he managed to sneak in a tape recorder. He documented his life in prison on the recorder, and would send the tapes home to Pimp and Bun so they could stay updated on their homeboy’s life. Pimp then decided to use bits and pieces of Smoke’s recordings as interludes for Ridin’ Dirty.
10. On resentment towards Master P
After No Limit Records blew up in the mid-to-late 90s, Pimp C resented Master P for becoming so rich and famous. This was primarily due to P – and most of the No Limit roster, for that matter — being such terrible rappers. I really can’t blame Chad for this.
On a Master P-related sidenote, the UGK-featuring “Break ‘Em Off Somethin’,” from P’s 1996 album Ice Cream Man, marked the first time Pimp C ever used double-time hi-hats in a beat. The technique has long since been a staple of southern hip-hop production. Pimp was the first.
11. On the legend of ‘Trill Azz Mixez‘
In 1999, with UGK’s fourth album Dirty Money stuck in label limbo and Pimp and Bun both at a lack of income, they took things into their own hands. Knowing that their fans were desperate for new material, they linked up with a Nashville DJ named C-Wiz who was a huge fan of the group and had been pleading with them to let him drop a UGK mixtape. Trill Azz Mixez hit the streets of the south and midwest in early ’99 and instantly became a rabidly sought after underground phenomenon, fueled by the fact that supply was limited and demand was through the roof. It contained 13 tracks of classic UGK a capellas blended with popular beats from the era, such as “Pocket Full Of Stones” b/w 2Pac’s “Hail Mary,” “Murder” b/w Lil’ Keke’s “Southside,” and “Front, Back & Side To Side” b/w 5th Ward Boyz’ “Pussy, Weed & Alcohol.”
It also included the previously unreleased Pimp C solo track “Top Notch Hoes,” in which Pimp disses The Roots and east coast hip-hop, claiming, “’What They Do‘, ‘What They Do’, niggas was corny as fuck/ You gets no play in that Texas, yo’ shit don’t bump in the trunk.” It’s one of my favorite songs of all time, backed by an impeccable instrumental and one of Pimp’s most incredibly sung choruses.
“Everywhere we went, people wanted it,” Bun said about Trill Azz Mixez. “We’d never have enough copies of it.” The buzz behind the tape was so strong at one point that UGK would perform nothing but Trill Azz Mixez at their shows. All in all, they estimated that Trill Azz Mixez sold around 40,000 units at $8 a pop, resulting in handsome profits for Pimp, Bun, and C-Wiz.
12. On borrowing from Big Gipp for “Big Pimpin”
Pimp C didn’t know how to approach the “Big Pimpin” beat, claiming that he “wasn’t a lyricist” like Bun B or Jay-Z. He called his boy Big Gipp from Goodie Mob to ask him if he could borrow his rapping style on the song. With Gipp’s permission, Pimp went on to write undoubtedly the most quotable eight-bar rap verse ever. On that note…
13. On eight bar verses, flutes, and Jay-Z
Pimp C’s “Big Pimpin” verse was only eight bars because he never wanted to do the song in the first place. He thought that UGK would alienate their core fanbase by doing a crossover record (“How is Texas muthafuckers gonna look at us?”), and that Timbaland’s beat wasn’t good enough, saying, “I don’t know about them flutes, man.” When Jive Records A&R Jeff Sledge later asked Pimp why he only wrote eight bars, Pimp responded, “Man, fuck Jay-Z, man. I ain’t giving him 16. I’m only giving him eight.”
14. On rocking mink in the summer time and TV’s not having temperatures
The “Big Pimpin” video, in which Pimp C infamously rocked a black mink coat with no shirt beneath it in the sweltering Miami sun, was the true beginning of the Pimp C “image.” When Bun B asked him how he could stand to rap in a mink coat, Pimp responded, “TV ain’t got no temperature,” implying that his visual introduction to the mainstream rap world had to look perfect.
15. On being bipolar
Pimp C was clinically bipolar, and his mood swings were often accentuated by heavy drug use. At any given time,close friends and family claim to have been able to recognize what kind of mood Pimp was in by what codename he was using. His codenames, or “characters,” included: Sweet James Jones, Jack Tripper, Tony Snow, and Percy Mack.
16. On “Ain’t That A Bitch”
UGK’s Dirty Money was finally rushed out in 2001, a full three years after its originally intended release date and five years after their previous album Ridin’ Dirty. Pimp C never gave his final approval on the project, which led to some “oddities.” For example, the Devin The Dude featuring “Ain’t That a Bitch” was censored on both the explicit and clean versions of the album, and still is to this day. This is due to a sample clearance issue with the estate of Johnny “Guitar” Watson, whose 1976 song of the same name was sampled on the track. However, an explicit version has indeed surfaced online:
17. On Bun’s depression and alcoholism
Bun B entered into a deep depression when Pimp C went to prison, before eventually snapping out of it, starting the “Free Pimp C” movement, and wrecking every single guest verse he appeared on. While he was depressed, Bun claims to have broken “at least six” windshields in anger, and drank at least a fifth of liquor every day, also stating that he was a “terrible drunk.”
18. On Bun’s lack of prison visits
Bun B only visited Pimp C in prison once, in mid-July 2005, after Pimp had already been locked up for nearly three years. Pimp was very disappointed in Bun for this until the day he died, but he was never mad at him about it. He understood that Bun was keeping the UGK name alive, and that he himself was to blame for UGK’s career nearly getting derailed when he went to prison.
19. On Paul Wall being a prison pen pal
After initially reaching out one time, Paul Wall became a regular pen pal with Pimp C when Pimp was in prison. Paul soon became friends with Mama Wes and often took Pimp’s children to the mall, the swimming pool, or McDonald’s when he was in town.
20. On the prison experience lacking flyness
Pimp C never wrote about his experience in prison because there was “nothing fly to write about.”
21. On crying over spoiled shrimp
Always staying true to his love for shrimp that he famously alluded to on Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ On Some Syrup” (“We eat so many shrimp, I got iodine poisonin’”), Pimp C once literally cried over 100 pounds of spoiled shrimp that Mama Wes had to throw away after damage from Hurricane Rita cut the electricity in her Port Arthur home for several weeks.
22. On dealing with east coast media
Pimp C held a grudge against The Source and other east coast media outlets for his entire career. He claimed that hip-hop media was unfairly biased towards east coast rappers (true) and didn’t understand the first thing about southern rap. When he was released from prison in late 2005 to a southern-dominated hip-hop landscape, the rap media was finally ready to give him all of the access that they had denied him before. He exacted his revenge on them by routinely showing up four or five hours late to interviews, if at all. However, he always tried to be on time for interviews with southern media, such as OZONE Magazine.
23. On ad-libs and backing vocals
According to Killer Mike, Pimp C didn’t change the volume or add any studio effects to his ad-libs or backing vocals. Instead, he would “[repeat] his line while moving backwards in the booth (‘gone… gone… gone… gone’) to create a real echo.”
24. On the UGK day shift and night shift
Following Pimp C’s release from prison, him and Bun B were on opposite recording schedules while recording the Underground Kingz album. Bun was a “family man and an early riser,” while Pimp preferred to work all night until the morning. This turned into a “UGK day shift” and “UGK night shift” scenario, wherein Bun would complete whatever songs Pimp had left for him from the night before, and vice versa.
25. On the creation of “Int’l Players Anthem”
UGK’s most popular record, the OutKast collaboration “Int’l Players Anthem,” was originally a song called “Choose U” on Project Pat’s 2002 album Layin’ Da Smack Down. Pimp C wanted to use the DJ Paul & Juicy J produced beat for a UGK/Three 6 Mafia collaborative single, but Sony, Three 6’s record label at the time, didn’t want the group featured on anybody else’s single.
Meanwhile, Big Boi from OutKast heard the song on a Jive Records sampler and laid a remix verse on it. With Sony clearing Three 6 Mafia to appear on the UGK album but not on the single, Pimp reached out to Andre 3000 to make “Players Anthem” an official UGK/OutKast collaboration, as well as an official single. Andre, who had always been a diehard UGK fan and friend to the group, laid the verse for Pimp and returned it within 24 hours, a rapid turnaround that shocked everybody who knew Andre. His one stipulation? He only wanted to rap on the loop without drums, which is why the drums don’t drop until Pimp C’s verse.
26. On cocaine
Although he often rapped about drinking codeine with promethazine (like most Texas rappers), Pimp C’s real vice was cocaine, stating that everybody had “they thang” (meaning addiction).
27. On the struggling rapper discount
Pimp C would charge local and up-and-coming rappers sharply discounted prices for featured verses and beats — if he liked the rapper. If somebody couldn’t meet his normal asking price of $30,000, he would often take a couple grand, or whatever they could spare.
28. On straining his relationship with Bun over his Young Jeezy beef
Pimp C’s relationship with Bun B got severely strained over Pimp’s decision to beef with Young Jeezy, who Pimp comically referred to as “Mr. Potato Head.” Bun had a great working relationship with Jeezy after lending his voice to some of Jeezy’s early street classics, such as “Over Here,” “Trap Or Die,” and “Rollaz & Riders.” Pimp believed that Jeezy unfairly reaped the benefits from his connection with Black Mafia Family, but didn’t support BMF once federal indictments disbanded the organization and many of their leaders went to prison.
29. On hating athletic activity… especially golf
The only athletic activity Pimp C enjoyed was swimming. He never played sports or worked out while in prison. When Scarface, an avid golfer, invited Pimp to play golf with him, Pimp responded, “I’m not going nowhere and hitting no lil’ white ball, and then pick that lil’ bitch up and hit it again. That shit don’t make no sense.”
30. On calling Mama Wes, and the moment everybody knew he was gone
The night before Pimp C’s death marked the first time ever that he went a full two days without calling Mama Wes. UGK affiliate Big Munn claimed, “That nigga, no matter what the fuck was goin’ on – high, drunk, whatever – he was gonna call his Mama. Always.” Pimp C’s friends and family knew there had to be a serious problem if Chad hadn’t called his mother in two days, and sure enough, they were right.