LUKE BURBANK, host:
He may not have been a household name outside the South, but the guy some people are calling the Tupac of Houston was found dead in an L.A. hotel room yesterday.
The L.A. county coroner's office says it appears that 33-year-old Chad Butler, who was also known as Pimp C, died naturally. Police though, are still investigating.
Pimp C was half of the rap duo UGK, also known as Underground Kings. To those outside of Houston, they first probably heard of Pimp C on Jay Z's mega hit "Big Pimpin."
(Soundbite of song, "Big Pimpin")
Mr. CHAD BUTLER (Pimp C of UGK): If I wasn't rappin, baby, I would still be ridin' Mercedes. Chromin', shinin', sippin' daily, no rest until whitey pay me. Uhhh, now what y'all know 'bout them Texas boys comin' down in candied toys, smokin' and talkin' noise.
BURBANK: That track came back in 2000, but Pimp C had to wait to see the fruit of that success, that's because he went to jail on aggravated assault charges in 2002. He stayed behind bars just as Southern rap, which he had kind of helped to build came to dominate the national scene.
He was released at the end of 2005, and before his death things were on an upswing for UGK. After 20 years together, they released they first number one album this summer.
With us now is Joey Guerra a musical writer and critic for the Houston Chronicle.
Mr. JOEY GUERRA (Music Writer, Houston Chronicle): Hi.
BURBANK: Listen. Tell me a little bit more about this UGK record that came out over the summer. This was - they finally got their number one hit.
Mr. GUERRA: Right. Well, the record was actually - it's a two-disc collection, so there's 26 songs on it. It was their first CD in five years. And for - I guess for a lot of people it was sort of trademark UGK. It had the club bangers, it had, you know, the explicit lyrics, the references to the street and life. But it was also a really sort of well put together, well sequenced album. I mean, it had some really great tracks. It had some thoughtful stuff on it. The single with Outkast is probably one of the best singles of the year, so it was sort of really a step forward for them, not only in terms of commercial liability but artistic vision as well.
BURBANK: Let's hear a little bit of that track, actually.
(Soundbite of song, "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)")
Mr. CHAD: (Singing) Not the lesser. Trash like to - $40 in the club - up the game, it gets no love. She be cross country, givin' all that she got. A thousand a pop, I'm pullin' Bentleys off the lot. I smashed up the gray one, bought me a red. Every time we hit the parkin' lot we turn heads.
BURBANK: So for those folks not from Texas, can you just kind of explain what Pimp C and UGK's importance to us, to Texas, to the Southern rap scene.
Mr. GUERRA: Well, I think, for Texas, UGK sort of represented, I think, the faith of chopped and screwed, which was something that was pioneered by DJ Screw which is where he slowed down the vocals and slowed down the beats to almost to a really sluggish pace.
A lot of - a lot of artists still use it in their music. They used it on this past CD, and it was sort of a sound that a sound that defined Houston and Texas. People like Paul Wall and Chamillionaire still use it in their music. So it was something that, you know, for this younger artist was something they were able to use to take them to a national level as well. And UGK really pioneered that.
BURBANK: You actually talked to Pimp C earlier this year, I understand. What was he like in real life? Was he this guy that you would see in rap videos with all the gold, and the ladies, and the fur or, I mean, what he like as a real person?
Mr. GUERRA: He's a - in a lot of ways, he is that larger-than-life character. I think we talked for maybe half an hour about the new CD and about the frustration he had with the label who had pushed the CD back for several months until it was finally released.
He sort of dominates the conversation. He is engaging. He's funny. He tells a lot of jokes. And he sort of would go back and forth between being a really a high spirited and in a good mood to just sort of ranting against stuff he didn't like about the music industry, about the label. But he was always sort of forthcoming and honest with his opinions.
BURBANK: I guess we can imagine that we'll be hearing a lot of Pimp C, either things that he recorded that weren't released, dropped into songs or people just name checking them on songs. I mean, he's probably gone but not forgotten.
Mr. GUERRA: Oh, definitely. I mean, there's already - there's a collective here in town of rappers who sort of had a loose gathering last night at a record store that sold a lot of their music. So I think, if anything, it's just going to take that music to an even bigger audience from now on.
BURBANK: Joey Guerra, a writer, a music critic at the Houston Chronicle.
Thanks a lot, Joey.
Mr. GURO: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.