Most rap groups would be happy to have an album featuring Scarface, Too Short, 8Ball, E-40 and others in record stores. UGK aren't like most rap groups.
The Port Arthur, Texas, duo of Bun B and Pimp C are not pleased with Side Hustles, the UGK LP that was released last month by Jive Records, the group's longtime recording home.
"Side Hustles was basically an idea of the label's," Bun B said. "It was not a UGK idea. It was something that they tried to put together right quick. They were sitting on a few songs that they had already paid for and they felt they were sitting around on the product, so why not reissue it and make some clean cash?"
A Jive Records spokesperson did not return calls by press time.
Side Hustles contains a number of hard-to-find UGK collaborations that include songs they've done for other artists' albums or for soundtracks. Some of the material is old (the lyrics from "Cigarette" are about six years old) and some are newer (the "Dirty Dirty [Remix]" and "The Game" are from Mil's 2001 album, Street Scriptures).
By the way the album is packaged, however, Bun B is concerned that people might confuse it with a bona fide, full-fledged studio album from UGK (short for Underground Kings).
"It's not top-quality UGK. Not to say the songs aren't top quality, because everything we do is top notch, but I think it's giving people the impression that this is the fifth album by UGK and this is what Pimp and I sat down and put down to present to the public," Bun B said. "That's not what it is, and I wouldn't want people to get it twisted like that.
"Yes, there's good music on there and I'm proud of the songs that I've done. But, no I'm not proud of the way it was presented to the public," he continued. "UGK has a way of doing things. Those are all songs that we did with other people. I just want the public to know that that is not the follow-up to Dirty Money."
Dirty Money, the long-delayed fourth album from UGK, came out in 2001 but did not receive the push that an album from a group fresh from collaborating with Jay-Z on "Big Pimpin' " and Three 6 Mafia on "Sippin' on Some Syrup" would typically receive. Part of this lax promotion was the result of Pimp C's legal problems, a long-time hurdle for the group.
The charismatic rapper is now incarcerated on a probation violation, according to Bun B. Pimp C's legal team is fighting for his release and is in the middle of the appeal process.
"Hopefully we'll have him home in the next couple of months while the appeal process is going on so we can put together that fifth album that people need to hear, the right way," Bun B said.
As Bun B waits for Pimp C's legal problems to be resolved, he's working on his real side hustle, Mddl Fngz, a Houston rap group of which he is a member. The collective, whose follow-up to 2000's Live! From Da Manjah album is scheduled to arrive by the first part of 2003, represents a newer version of UGK.
"We're taking it back to a real rough, raw feel," Bun B said of Mddl Fngz. "It's nothing complicated, no complicated music or hooks. It's just raw, stripped-down music, the way music used to be done. It's music that feels right, not music that seems right or looks right because it was produced or presented this way.
"Too much of the music right now, the thought process is to what is going to be done after the music," Bun B continued. "How is the product going to be promoted? Who's going to be on the album? We're just trying to concentrate on making real music."
Pimp C's legal fate will determine the course of UGK's next album. Bun B said he hopes his partner in rhyme can make the Dirty Money follow-up with him, but that if Pimp C loses his appeal and has to serve a few years in prison, Bun B said he has enough material to make a real UGK album on his own.
A long-time underground favorite, UGK debuted in 1992 with Too Hard to Swallow. They later released what most Southern rap fans consider to be a classic with 1996's Ridin' Dirty. Their subsequent collaborations over the years solidified their position as one of the most respected rap groups in the South, even if their profile in the rap industry was lower than Craig Mack's after he left Bad Boy. Jay-Z, Three 6 Mafia, Scarface, Ludacris and others were big fans of the pair and have featured UGK on their own albums, showcasing Bun B and Pimp C's distinctive Southern street reportage.
"UGK is a 10-year legacy of representing the unseen, the unheard, the untold, the unspoken of the South," Bun B said. "We speak for those who don't have a voice down here. Those people want to be represented just like everybody else and that's what we do."
It's something UGK does regularly, including on Side Hustles. There, on "The Corruptor's Execution," they pay homage to legendary West Coast rap group Above the Law by reworking the crew's "Another Execution."
"We always wanted to do some Above the Law," Bun B said. "That's what we came up on, sh-- like Above the Law and DJ Quik, the Geto Boys. That was it for us. We want to bring OG n---as up every now and then. Cats be forgetting. Like WC, you've got to have respect for the OG.
"I always give love back, because those records meant a lot to me and that's why I'm doing what I do. Instead of building off the Isley Brothers or whatever, I can build off this old rap sh--. I'm respecting my elders."