Kanye West released the song “Runaway ” as a means of toasting the douchebags, scumbags, and assholes that he not only relates to, but made a career out of being. What that really means is Kanye feels justified in his social irreverence, complete with lyrics of jumpoff sex and ménage á trois. What Hip Hop sometimes forgets is that others before ‘Ye perfected this art long before it was done in designer suits and earned the title “douchebag.” Pimp C’s The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones reminds us of that.
When UGK legend Pimp C a/k/a Chad Butler left the planet on December 4, 2007 his final work was in its infantile stages. Pimp C was a recording machine, dropping verses on a dime and practically living in the studio. The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones, believed to be a follow-up to 2005’s Sweet James Jones Stories, probably sounds little like what Pimp would have crafted himself. However, the naked soul of Sweet James Jones is still very much present, which makes Pimp’s final offering a built-in classic in its own right.
On the opener of the album, “Down 4 Mine,” it’s already dripping in pimp juice as UGK’s beatsmith Cory Mo’s production (and Scarface’s concept) have Pimp singing following a very telling monologue. Whether it’s poor placement or speaking from the heart, but Pimp’s entry into this song begins with him referring to The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones as his only real solo LP. Pimp explains that his other releases were during his time in jail and basically pieced together. Ironically, so is this album.
What follows is a roller coaster ride into the mind of Pimp C, complete with tales of misogyny, drugs, and everything in between. While most lump this all into the category of “pimp shit” a la Too $hort and all of his successors, Pimp C manages to do this with grace. He’s somehow not offensive, which is a gift in and of itself.
There is, however, one major glitch in the Sweet Jones matrix…
Like many posthumous releases (i.e. 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.) there is an opportunity for newer acts to jump on board and claim a friendship that was never really forged. Perhaps Drake did have a friendship with Pimp C, but the brassy “What Up?” still sounds pretty contrived. Drake traipses around the track in that sing-songy thing he does and refers to himself as an “honorary resident of UGK town.” Young Jeezy commits a similar crime in the clap-filled “Dickies” where Jeezy states “two underground kings, one underground legend.” Really? Oddly enough the other half of UGK, Bun B, is present on both of these tracks. This claiming affiliate status is no fault of Pimp C’s, or Bun B’s either really. Bun even had ample opportunity to jump on every track, but respectfully remained on only three (the last one being the incredibly hard “Go 2 War” with J-Dawg).
The remaining collabs are pieced into a solid fit, like the Rick Ross and Slim Thug-assisted “Midnight” , where David Banner sits in a different seat as producer and successfully succeeds. Others include “Love 2 Ball” , where Chamillionaire’s cameo is pretty potent and the Bay blasted “Since the 90s” with E-40 and The Gator Man. Pimp’s lyrics are as solid as ever on every track. Of course, no Pimp C offering would be complete without its graphic lines like “Hoes eat my dick like it’s corn on the cob” on the jumpy “Hit the Parking Lot” with Lil Boosie and Webbie, and the dirty mantra “that’s what your pussy’s made for” on the ’70s porno-esque “Made 4” with Too Short.
Despite the fact that The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones was manufactured after Pimp C passed, his contribution to the work makes it a stellar one. While cameos from newer artists in the hopes of upgrading its relevance helped a bit, the real focal point is the opportunity to feel Pimp C’s unyielding, socially irreverent spirit one last time. Mission accomplished.