Saturday, December 13, 2008

UGK -- Underground Kingz

Rating: 3/5 stars

Pros: Long-awaited collaborations with fellow Southern greats
don't disappoint.

Cons: Bloated two-disc tracklist will thrill long-time fans, exhaust
the uninitiated.

Bottom Line:
UGK makes a triumphant return with Pimp C out
of jail.

Recommended Tracks:

International Playaz Anthem

How Long Can It Last

Before Southern rap dominated the airwaves and long before Big Pimpin, Bun B and Pimp C "put out a record at the age of sixteen / rapping about moving work, candy paint and sipping lean." Fifteen years later, not much has changed, as the two Port Arthur rappers follow this same formula over laid-back bass lines and sparse '70s soul samples.

Their unique sound influenced a generation of rappers. And while those same rappers (Jeezy, T.I.) tweaked that blueprint to sell millions of records, UGK stubbornly stuck to their guns.

Underground Kingz, like their previous work, is a relentless chronicle of the street life – cars (Candy), women (Like That) and drugs (Cocaine). But as Bun B makes explicit on How Long Can It Last, it's not a lifestyle they're terribly proud of: "People think hustling is cool or hustling is live / They don't understand hustlers only hustling to survive / They wish they daddy was home, mama wasn't on drugs / And they didn't have to grow up to be dealers and thugs."

The duo share a unique chemistry, which they showcase International Playaz Anthem, the brilliant first single with Outkast. Over a lush loop of a Willie Hutch song, Pimp C's flamboyant charisma makes an undeniably crass verse about pimping seem endearing. Bun B is the thoughtful lyricist, mirroring the menacing drum line perfectly.

At more than two hours long, "Underground Kingz" is equal parts exhausting, uncompromising and triumphant. There is a great album buried somewhere in the midst of its 28 songs, but the listener will have to dig to find it. You get the feeling UGK wouldn't have it any other way.

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