Tuesday, December 04, 2007

RIP Pimp C

So, how do you eulogize a gangsta rapper?

I'm not prepared to do such a thing, but in light of the news that rapper Pimp C was found dead in Los Angeles Monday morning (read the LA Times story here), I've got to wonder wonder, how do you go about remembering a young man who died mysteriously and was a fixture in a scene, in this instance, gangsta rap, that is constantly being criticized as an instrument for social ill.

Pimp C, real name Chad Butler, was born 33 years ago in Port Arthur, Texas. He founded the legendary group UGK along with Bernard Freeman, aka "Bun B." The group released eight CD's, most recently "Underground Kingz" which debuted in the No. 1 spot on Billboard Top 200 charts in August.

Despite his success, Butler's life was beset with missteps: he served time in a state penitentiary, battled alcohol abuse. His partner Bun B was left to weather the storm as a solo artist (a feat he managed with on the surface ease), and the UGK brand became a symbol of Southern rap pride. At one piont, "Free Pimp C" became a mantra, and the rapper was viewed in his native land as a street martyr of sorts.

But anytime a musician is found dead in a hotel room, it is not a good look. His record label asked that the news of his death not be left to rumor or speculation, but like the recent passing of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor and recent news of rapper Spice 1's shooting on Monday(read the SF Bay Guardian blog here), it's fair to say that this will serve as another tragic circumstance involving a black man, this time a rap artist, who died too young.

It wasn't like Pimp C was a murderous thug who rapped about killing on every track. His style was akin to his namesake, and he rapped about pimping women and selling drugs with equal aplomb. In the realm of gangsta rap, his style was actually pretty tame compared to others (including Spice 1). And by rap standards, Pimp C was considered "Old School" by his southern counterparts. While he certainly maintained his relavence, Pimp C was a hardened veteran who had found his way back into rap's heirarchy and appeared to be doing well.

So the eulogy might go that Pimp C, Southern Son, gangsta rap role model, father, brother, mentor, lived life according to his own rules. He was not the victim of his haunts so much as a man who struggled with freedom, struggled with himself. He fostered an image that he may or may not have been able to live up to, but in the process inspired a legion of fans, friends and colleagues to seize the day, live strong and don't give up on your dreams.

Hopefully, somewhere, Pimp C is finally free. RIP.

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