NEW YORK — Almost four years passed while UGK's Pimp C was locked away for a parole violation stemming from a previous aggravated-assault rap. And that time did indeed pass him by.
For example, according to his rhyme partner, Bun B, Pimp — who was released from a Texas prison in December and is on parole until 2009 — missed the entire throwback craze, the button-up era and even the most ubiquitous hit rap songs in recent memory.
"I heard 'Oh Boy' for the first time, not long ago," Pimp, laughing, said of Cam'ron's Juelz Santana-featuring track from 2002. "I was like, 'Oh yeah, that's jamming!'
"I missed a lot of stuff," he added, ruefully.
But if the years were unkind to Pimp, they've certainly been good to his group, UGK (a.k.a. Underground Kingz). The underground duo have been immensely influential, in particular to recent breakout artists T.I., Young Jeezy and Rick Ross.
Now Bun and Pimp have finally reunited to reap the benefits of their status with UGK's long-anticipated seventh album, UGK: Underground Kingz, due December 19 on Jive Records. The double album will be the group's proper studio effort since 2001's Dirty Money.
"This is definitely a grown-man project," Bun explained. "And we don't mean old, but showing growth from the last time you heard us. Some of these songs you're gonna have to take serious," he continued. "We talk about a lot of issues in society: politics and religion, home, relationships and family. We have people we're responsible for now. When we were 18, we could be a little more frivolous, but I think with us having learned some things, we just giving what we learned back to the streets."
UGK enlisted the efforts of producers Jazze Pha, Swizz Beatz and the legendary Marley Marl to help them teach the streets. Marley helmed the Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap-assisted "Next Time." Bun and Pimp said the collaboration was an extension of the warm reception they receive from younger artists, and they in turn reached out to Kane and G Rap as people who influenced them.
"We've been very fortunate to have the up-and-comers reach back to us," Bun said.
"And who's rocking with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap?" Pimp offered, adding he'd also like to record with Too Short soon.
Pimp hinted this project would offer a more reflective tone for the Port Arthur, Texas, duo compared to their previous album. The rapper said his incarceration wasn't glamorous by any means, nor is it something he wants to glamorize or talk about much in particular (see "UGK's Pimp C To Be Released From Prison Within A Month"). Since his release, he's been outspoken about his rap peers romanticizing prison.
"It's not a party, it's not fun," Pimp said. "Jail affected my whole family. My family got locked up. My group got locked up. I lost when I went to prison. That's something to be ashamed of, and that's not a badge of honor. My youngest son was 8 years old when I went in. I came back and he's a teenager. I can't get them years back."
Bun and Pimp are currently putting the final touches on the album, and their first single, "Stop and Go," has been released to radio. Plans for the video are in place as well.
Although UGK will touch on a wider range of issues on their new LP, they admitted fans of their earlier underground hits like "Pinkie Ring" and "Pocket Full of Stones" will still be satisfied with UGK: Underground Kingz.
"Even if I'm not as underground as I used to be," Bun said, "I still rep for the people who may not be as reputable as I am right now. We rep for the 'hoods and the cats on the corner, and those people are always gonna be there and gonna always need a voice. So as long as I can write these rhymes and Pimp can make this music, that's what we gonna represent."