As part of the criminally slept-on Southern duo UGK, Pimp C has gained a large following among Southern rap enthusiasts. His high-pitched and in-your-face flow has always been the perfect contrast to Bun-B's equally menacing, but more laid back Southern growl. In the movie "Goodfellas" one would think Pimp C could play hot-headed Tommy DeVito and Bun-B would assume the role of Jimmy Conway, you wouldn't want to mess with either but you'd figure Jimmy would at least think before he finished you off. Pimp C's attitude on the mic has also been displayed in real life as he is currently locked up for assault with a deadly weapon. It is under these condition's that his solo debut is released, the album packaging even has the words "Free Pimp C" written on it. It's sad to say that Pimp C could actually benefit from being locked up, Biggie said "You're nobody ‘til somebody kills you" and Jadakiss said "dead rappers get better promotion," the same could be said about rappers who get locked up. It seems the minute the hip-hop community finds out one of their own has been locked up fans come out of the woodwork and supporters suddenly start pledging their faithfulness. X-Raided has built an entire career on being locked up, C-Murder is gaining similar cult status, Tony Yayo had a legion of fans wearing his shirts, and Shyne seemed to get more press behind bars than he ever did free. With "Sweet James Jones Stories" Pimp C takes advantage of this hype, delivering an album that will surely please long-time fans and show the newcomers that Pimp C is just not another rapper behind bars.
The lead single "Hogg in the Game" invokes the spirit of UGK's earlier work with pounding synths reminiscent of tracks like "Break ‘Em Off" and "Playaz From the South." Pimp C's "Fuck You" attitude shines on the opening verse:
"I'm a pig in the streets, I'm a slug in the game
Putting D on the corner, heavy as fuck was my name
They call me Sweet James, keep cocaine
Doing 90 in the benz, switching lane to lane
I'm a candy man, hot like flame
Your jewelry look funny that ain't no Byzantine chain
Take that monkey watch off you a bitch to me
You can use my style but you goin to pay me a fee
Cuz ain't shit for free, I'm on a poppin spree
Rap-A-Lot mafia life ain't no stopping me
Call me Tony Montana cuz I'm letting em hang
When you see me recognize I'm a hogg in the game"
On paper it doesn't look like much, but it's Pimp C's style that puts him a step ahead in the game. "Swang Down/ 10 A Key" is a combo song as the smooth singing in "Swang Down" is replaced by the pounding Texas funk of "10 A Key" halfway through the four minute track. Rather than an attempt at something new, this odd combination may well be a result of Rap-A-Lot having to work with limited material for the album. "Comin' Up" is a dope track as it features Houston natives Lil' Flip and Z-Ro contributing verses over a bass-heavy track, both come through and shine. Twista shows up with Bun-B for what might be the most laid back track on the album, "I'sa Playa." The deep bass on this track is contrasted by soft flutes and an almost indistinguishable vocal sample in the background. It's an interesting combination that works well. All emcees are at the top of the game, though Pimp C sounds more like the Pimp C of 10 years ago because of his vocal tone. It very well could be that the track features re-hashed vocals, but the vocals used are just as good as any other Pimp C verse.
"I Know You Strapped" is another synth-heavy track that features a Project Pat sample for the hook. The driving beat is perfect for Pimp C to spit his gangsta rhymes. Pimp C flips things a bit on "I Gotta Thang" where he addresses addictions of all kinds, from sex to over the counter drugs. "Slow Down" has one of the album's best beats, the simple piano track is complemented by a well placed and well used vocal sample. Lyrically, Pimp C spits knowledge on the rap game and life in general giving the younger generation some good advice. "Get My Money" is a good track but it could be much better if not for the fact that it clocks in at only two minutes forty-seven seconds and about a minute of that time is taken by someone babbling incoherent "pimp" talk. The blaring horns on "Young Prostitute" make you forget the minor mishap on "Get My Money," and though the track sounds like it could have a social message, Pimp C is at his pimping best on this track. "Everytime" follows the pimping trend with a smooth beat and Pimp C almost whispering over the track. Devin The Dude's hook only adds to the smoothness of this track. The album ends on a strong note with "Angel" and "Young Ghetto Stars." "Angel" finds Pimp C taking a break from his usual content and showing genuine love to the ladies in his life. "Young Ghetto Stars" reunites Z-Ro and Pimp C on a thumping track where the two describe the lavish lifestyle they lead.
"Sweet James Jones Stories" delivers exactly what it promises, nothing less, nothing more. If you're not familiar with Pimp C or UGK, his name alone should give you an idea of what you're in for; stories about pimping, drug-dealing, and the lifestyle of a rap star. The content is gangsta in every degree and Pimp C takes his pimping persona very seriously. Though his subject matter is nothing new, Pimp C delivers his rhyme in such a way that begs to be listened. The music on his CD is equally pleasing as the pounding bass and smooth funk reflect what Texas and Pimp C are all about. There isn't one bad song on the 14 track effort as all are signature UGK tracks in every way. Pimp C comes through on his solo debut and shows fans that whether as a group or as solo artists, UGK is still one of the illest groups out of Texas.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 8, 2005