The life of Chad “Pimp C” Butler was tragically short, but the UGK rapper-producer’s legend looms large for fans of hip-hop, and Southern hip-hop, in particular. Much more street than OutKast but less macabre than Scarface, UGK’s legacy is as much a part of Southern hip-hop music and culture as those iconic mainstays. Surviving member Bun B carries the torch, but with her biography of the late Pimp C, Julia Beverly reminds us how much of a void was left by his untimely death.
“People often remember Pimp C for his flamboyant style and controversial interviews, but few understand just how complex and talented he was and how connected he was to the success of many other artists,” Beverly says via press release. “Initially, I felt this was an important project because he hadn’t received a proper tribute. The more I researched, I realized his story is one that needs to be told, and I’m in the perfect position to tell it.”
Beverly worked on the book with the help of Pimp C’s late mother, Weslyn “Mama Wes” Monroe, who died in 2013. Over more than four years, Beverly compiled interviews from Mama Wes, Bun B and UGK’s hip-hop contemporaries like Rick Ross and Paul Wall. Sweet Jones reveals Chad Butler to be a complex and intriguing individual beyond the Pimp C image, someone who was able to draw people together and influence his environment in a way that made him an influential figure in Texas rap and a respected man in hip-hop circles all over. But the most touching component of Beverly’s book is the way that Mama Wes frames Pimp C’s story. The role she played in his life and legacy form the soul of Sweet Jones. It elevates the book from mere hip-hop recollections to something deeper; an examination of one man’s impact as defined by how his family shaped him.
One of the most pervasive myths about hip-hop is that it’s still a “young” art form. It isn’t, really. It may be younger than blues, jazz, R&B and rock, but it’s been around 42 years and 36 years as a genre. That’s about as old as rock and R&B were in the ’80s and ’90s — and no one was regarding those genres as still “young” by that point. So hip-hop is well past the point of canonization. The legendary artists, albums, eras and styles should be elevated by literature and film. Biopics like Straight Outta Compton, documentaries like Time Is Illmatic; all help to champion the genre. and Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story is another win for that aspect of celebrating the genre. Beverly captured the spirit of Chad Butler and helps to keep that spirit alive for a new generation of fans. And UGK’s music is too good to ever be dismissed or forgotten.