Pimp C of the long-running Texas hip-hop group UGK was found dead Tuesday in a Los Angeles hotel room. He was 33.
Pimp C was found dead in a room at the Mondrian hotel. Captain Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office told The Associated Press that Butler had apparently died in bed, possibly of natural causes. “At this time there’s no signs of foul play,” Winter said. “It appears to be possibly natural, but pending autopsy and toxicology we can’t say the cause.” Winter told the Los Angeles Times, “There were no signs of trauma, no signs of drug paraphernalia.”
No official cause of death had been cited at press time.
The rapper had been in Los Angeles to work on his next solo album for Rap-A-Lot Records, label head James Prince told the AP. He had performed Saturday night at L.A.’s House of Blues alongside Too Short.
No official cause of death had been cited at press time.
A press release issued on behalf of his family Tuesday reads as follows:
“It is with great regret that I must confirm that Chad Butler, a.k.a. Pimp C, one half of the legendary UGK, was in fact discovered dead this morning.
“Manager Rick Martin is asking that everyone please respect his family and those close to him at this time and refrain from rumors and innuendo.
“A formal statement will be released later this afternoon. Thank you all for understanding.”
That statement came from Pimp’s manager, Rick Martin. It reads: “This morning saw the loss of a man that was not only a client, but a very dear friend at a time when he had the most to live for. He was my best friend and I will always love him. Chad’s tragic passing leaves behind mourners the world over, including his mother, wife and children whom Chad loved more than anything. An official cause of death has yet to be determined.
“I was so very proud of Chad and the growth he has shown since his release from prison; as an artist and businessman and as a person. As one half of the legendary Texas group UGK, Chad was finally seeing the results of the years of love and labor that he and Bun B have put in over the years, culminating in the tremendous success of their album, Underground Kingz. Chad was set to soar with not only a new solo deal on Jive Records, but a lucrative publishing deal, a new satellite radio show, several group projects and a national cologne endorsement. Chad had everything to live for, making his unexpected passing a travesty.
“Right now, my number one concern is the well being and livelihood of his family who are the ones most deeply affected by this loss. All efforts will be made to ensure that they are properly cared for in this tragic time and beyond.
As Chad’s friend and manager, and on behalf of his family and those closest to him, we ask that you, the press, keep reports of his passing to tributes to his amazing contributions as an artist and wait for the facts surrounding his death to come to light. Please let us all remember Pimp C as the kind and warmhearted man and rap music pioneer that he was.”
Barry Weiss, president and CEO of Jive Records, UGK’s longtime label, said in a statement released Tuesday: “We mourn the unexpected loss of Chad. He was truly a thoughtful and kind-hearted person. He will be remembered for his talent and profound influence as a pioneer in bringing southern rap to the forefront. He will be missed and our prayers remain with his family and Bun B. I’ve known Chad since he was 18, and we loved him dearly and he was a cherished member of the Jive family.”
The Mondrian Hotel released the following statement to the Los Angeles Times: “Mondrian received calls this morning from the family of Chad Butler inquiring about his whereabouts. Mr. Butler had checked into the hotel on 28 November and, according to the callers, was to have checked out yesterday. Security personnel went to Mr. Butler’s room and found him in bed, apparently expired. A 911 call was placed at about 9:20 a.m. and paramedics from the Los Angeles Fire Department responded and pronounced Mr. Butler dead.”
Based in Port Arthur, Texas, UGK — Pimp C and Bun B — formed in the late 1980s and released their first album, Too Hard To Swallow, in 1992. While the group long enjoyed a strong underground following, Pimp C was perhaps best known in recent years for the “Free Pimp C” campaign launched by Bun B. Butler was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2002 for failure to comply with probation restrictions following a conviction for aggravated assault, but was released late in 2005. .
In the wake of Pimp’s imprisonment, Bun B. brought greater fame to the group as scores of hip-hop fans donned “Free Pimp C” T-shirts at shows and shouted the refrain in call-and-respond chants led by Bun B.
The buzz helped the group’s comeback LP, Underground Kingz, debut at #1 on the Billboard albums charts upon its release in August. The album spawned the hit single “Int’l Players Anthem,” the video of which featured an all-star cast including Outkast, Three 6 Mafia and others.
Early this year, UGK was voted the #10 Greatest Hip-Hop Group of All Time in an MTV News feature.
UGK entered the mainstream in 1999 after collaborating with Jay-Z on the single “Big Pimpin’ ” from the Brooklyn rapper’s Vol 3: Life and Times of S. Carter. Pimp C said the song, UGK’s most mainstream track, was a collaboration he wasn’t entirely fond of at first, as he felt the track was too soft for his group’s image.
MTV News visited the rapper in prison and spoke with him regarding his tribulations while being incarcerated. Upon his release from prison, Pimp C became an outspoken critic of hip-hop’s glamorization of jail .
“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.”
MTV News will have more on this story as it develops. Head here for an in-depth MTV News feature on UGK from 2005.
[This story was originally published at 2:57 p.m. ET on 12.04.2007]