Pimp C Died From Accidental Cough-Medicine Overdose, Sleep Condition: Autopsy

UGK member rapped about his affinity for codeine in Three 6 Mafia track.

UGK rapper Pimp C’s death was the result of an overdose that was triggered by a large consumption of codeine medication combined with a pre-existing sleep condition, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

The autopsy ruled that the rapper (real name: Chad Butler) died accidentally.

Pimp C was found dead December 4 in a Los Angeles hotel after headlining a few spot tour dates in California with Too Short. He was 33.

As one-half of UGK, along with rhyme partner Bun B, Pimp C was instrumental in shaping the sound and influence of Southern rap, which dominates hip-hop today. On “Sippin’ on Some Syrup,” a track for which UGK collaborated with Three 6 Mafia, Pimp C boasted of his affinity for codeine. Cough medicine combined with a number of mixers is a popular beverage in some Southern regions.

“I got the red promethazine, thick orange and yellow ‘Tuss,” Pimp C rapped on the track.

According to the autopsy report, Pimp C had prescription promethazine/codeine in his system when he died. Initial reports at the time of his death suggested the rapper had over-the-counter codeine in his possession. Pimp C also suffered from sleep apnea, which causes blockage of the airways during sleep.

The assistant chief coroner in the L.A. County coroner’s office, Ed Winter, said the effects of codeine, when combined with a condition such as Butler’s, are deadly.

“He had prescription medication in him when he passed away, and the levels were elevated but not real high, so it wasn’t an overdose from [the codeine], but we think it was a result of taking the cough medication with his sleeping problems,” Winter told MTV News.

Winter explained that a disorder such as sleep apnea causes blockages of the airways during sleep. Meanwhile, the effects of cough syrup also suppress respiratory breathing. The combination proved to be too much for Butler’s body to overcome, Winter added.

As a popular figure in hip-hop, known just as much for his charisma inside the recording booth as he was outside, word of Pimp C’s death sent shock waves through the hip-hop community.

The rapper had been in Los Angeles working on new material for a solo album, his label head James Prince explained at the time. And the Port Arthur, Texas, icon was as feisty as ever in recent interviews prior to his death. So when Pimp C’s body was initially discovered in a room at the Mondrian hotel, the news was met with disbelief by many.

“I’m just sitting here seeing this happen and wishing Pimp would just wake up,” rapper Slim Slug told MTV News in December.

Outkast’s Big Boi was shaken when he spoke with MTV News in December and described the ease with which Pimp C carried himself. “Once we got in the game, we recorded a couple of tracks with each other,” Big said. “We kicked it. Pimp C was living in Atlanta. … He came to the house when we had our little parties. He’s just my dog. Real honorable, real cool, really respected.”

Just a short time after Pimp C’s passing, it was announced that UGK were nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Collaboration for their track “Int’l Players Anthem,” featuring Outkast.

Bun B spoke to MTV News two days after Pimp C’s death and expressed both regret and a tinge of happiness over the Grammy nod, and what it would ultimately mean to his good friend.

“I just got a call about a few hours ago that we got a Grammy nomination,” he said. “Me and my VP from Jive [Records] were talking about this, because we been on this label for 15 years. We’ve known these people longer than we’ve known a lot of people in our lives. And he can always remember Pimp telling him, ‘We going to the Grammys,’ and them looking at this little kid from Port Arthur like he’s crazy: ‘He may make some good music and sell a few records, but … that kind of stuff doesn’t go to the Grammys.’ And 15 years later, a song I told him we shouldn’t do and he was adamant about it — and he got his Grammy nomination just, like he always wanted.”

For more on Pimp C’s passing, read:

“UGK’s Pimp C: An Underground Legend Who Defied The Mainstream”
“UGK’s Pimp C, Remembered By Sway Calloway”
“Pimp C Is Given Uplifting, Heartfelt Farewell At Funeral”