PORT ARTHUR, Texas — He lived his life too "trill," he was gone too soon. UGK's Chad "Pimp C" Butler was given a royal going-home service on Thursday (December 13) in his hometown. He passed away earlier this month at age 33.
Several hundred fans began lining up as early as 7:30 a.m. to ensure admittance to Pimp's funeral here at the Robert A. "Bob" Bowers Civic Center. Thousands were expected. Not only was Pimp a hip-hop legend whose music many of them have bumped for the past 15 years, he was their legend. C and his partner, Bun B, tirelessly repped their hometown throughout their career. Bun personally escorted Pimp's son, "Lil Chad," into the funeral.
Pimp's longtime friend was just one of several hip-hop peers in attendance: Chamillionaire, Slim Thug and members of the Boss Hog Outlawz, Mike Jones, David Banner, Rap-A-Lot Records CEO J. Prince, LeToya Luckett, 8Ball and MJG, Willie D from the Geto Boys, Big Gipp and Khujo from the Goodie Mob, and Pimp's protégé Webbie were also there, as was NBA All-Star Steve Francis.
While people filed in, instrumental versions of UGK songs (many of which Pimp produced himself) were played.
"Oh Lord, don't play that! You're gonna make me cry," one lady yelled from her seat when the opening notes of the "One Day" rang out.
For some, the beginning of the funeral was very somber: DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia sunk down in his seat in sorrow, and some women were crying before they even made it into the building.
Once inside, though, words of hope and joy were spoken throughout the service.
"We are here to celebrate not just this young man's leaving but a life well lived [and] all he's done all over the world," Port Arthur Mayor Deloris "Bobbie" Prince said at the podium during the service.
Still, she even got choked up at points while talking about the bond Pimp had not just with his community, but with his family. She admitted that giving the speech was more difficult than she'd expected because "I'm a mother."
Pimp's mom, Weslyn "Mama Wes" Monroe, spoke during the service as well, and appeared to be a pillar of strength. Like many of Pimp's inner circle, she wore a black, short-sleeve shirt with UGK's logo emblazoned on the back.
She told the people who came to honor her son that she'd tried to write a speech several times but couldn't.
"C said, 'Go 'head and wing it, mama,' " she added, regarding what she was about to say.
"I'm all right, you're all right, cause he's all right. My C is celebrating. He's happy to see you. 'Cause Jesus is all right," she said.
Mama Wes also said that Pimp was an only child but called several of his peers in rap "brother," and she asked for all of those brothers to carry the torch.
"He's all right," she repeated. "He got there [to heaven] and told them, 'The Souuuth is here!'
"You say he was your friend — he got three children, holla at 'em," she continued. "Take them under your wing.
"Thank you. You've done my baby right. Churrrch!"
The eulogy from the pastor, Dr. John R. Randolph, was memorable as well. Earlier, he made mourners chuckle by quoting Three 6 Mafia's Oscar-winning song from "Hustle & Flow," saying, "It's hard out there for a Pimp," to raised eyebrows. He continued by saying how difficult the eulogy was to write.
"It pushed me to my prayers because I didn't know how to handle this, this pimpin' business," he said, continuing about how the definitions of certain words have changed. " 'Sugar Daddy' was a piece of candy on a stick. 'Chronic' meant you had a pain. 'Mouse' was a rodent to be dealt with a trap and cheese." He said he has come to understand that "big pimpin' " means living large — the dream of the kids from the ghetto trying to make good in life.
"It's hard out there for a pimp," he repeated. "It may be hard out there, but I have hope in here! Your tomorrow is better than your today if you believe in God."
He then led a prayer around Pimp's closed gray casket.
Also during the funeral, UGK's longtime label rep, Jive Records Senior Director of A&R Jeff Sledge, got a standing ovation after asking Mayor Prince to name a street after Chad Butler. Sledge also spoke about how much Pimp had wanted to win a Grammy. Although C didn't live to see it, he and Bun were recognized with a Grammy nomination for their "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" just days ago. (The pair were nominated in 2001 for "Big Pimpin'," their collaboration with Jay-Z, but this nod is for a UGK song.)
"It was a blessing and curse at the same time," Sledge said of the Grammy nod. "His dream since day one was for him to go to the Grammys and win for his and Bun's music. For that to happen [after] he passed away was hard. But me, Bun, Wes, his wife, the kids — we all going to the Grammys and bring a Grammy home for him."
Sledge described Pimp as an artist with endless drive.
"He had the most passion and most integrity of anybody I worked with," Sledge said. "Maybe some will equal but no one will surpass. He loved what he did with a passion. He loved Texas with a passion. He loved it — every record, every album, he mentioned it. He's a hometown hero, as you see by the turnout today. He put this town on the map.
"I'm gonna miss everything about him," Sledge continued. "Laughing and fussin' with him. When he would see me, he would say, 'What's up, my friend?' That meant so much because we been through a lot."
After the funeral, Bun B shared the tone of optimism that came forth during the service.
"It's not about the loss," he explained, "it's about the gain. We lost our homie but we gained so much from his life. That's what people are realizing. People been so stuck in their grief and their pain, the pastor came and gave some good words. His mom, especially, got up there and gave people a lot of encouragement. To see his mom so strong made a lot of people realize, 'Let me stop wallowing in my self-pity. If his mom can get right, we all can get right.' It's UGK for life — and Monday morning I'm back on these boys, so watch your a--!"
Outside the Civic Center, Webbie talked with reporters about his mentor.
"I'm here to show my respect," he said. "He was like a brother to me."
"He's a pioneer in this music," rapper Aztec said. "He always showed me love. When I felt like giving up, he would see me in the club and say, 'What's up, man? Keep going!' We lost a great leader and great teacher in this game. He was a humble dude. A true gangster in that you don't step to him the wrong way, but if you showed him love, he showed you love.
"We used to say 'Free Pimp C,' " Tek continued. "Now Pimp C's truly free. That's what we give thanks for, celebrating his life."
"He really gave back, donated money," Port Arthur native Elisia Sampson said. "He gave people hope, especially aspiring rappers."
"We always looked up to him," a fan from Port Arthur said. "He was a role model. Out here in Port Arthur there's not too much opportunity. For them to go out and do rap was unheard of at the time. Pimp was always in the neighborhood showing love. He was always giving back, him and Bun.
"This is what Pimp C wanted for us, to come together — but not like this," he added. "We're gonna sit out in the rain for Pimp. We ride and die for UGK."
[This story was originally published at 5:09 p.m. ET on 12.13.2007]