Before #Free “insert rapper” here became the norm, “Free Pimp C” was a grassroots movement that set the standard for others to follow. Then again, that was right before social media inflated or deflated what exactly constituted a movement in itself. This is one of many ideas explored in Julia Beverly’s breathtakingly thorough look into the life of Chad Lamont Butler, Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story. Besides featuring four years worth of interviews with hundreds of Hip Hop’s greatest emcees and intensive research, everything in the biography was navigated by Pimp C’s late mother and manager Weslyn “Mama Wes” Monroe.
Despite controversy relating to the authorization of the published text as Pimp C’s widow Chinara Butler has openly opposed the book, Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story is the definitive story of Southern Hip Hop’s most esteemed legend through and through. Beverly’s makes total sense. Through her work with underappreciated publication Ozone Magazine, she helped usher in a new era for Southern Hip Hop. Speaking with DX, Beverly explains the painstaking process of creating Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story and interacting with the UGK member.
Julia Beverly Explains How “Pimp C’s Trill Life Story” Made Her A Better Writer
DX: Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story is finally finished and ready for release. How does it feel to be done?
Julia Beverly: It feels great to be truthful with it. The creation was a pretty intense process. One thing I learned about me is that I can’t be put on a project and do it half-way or the easy way. I wanted to be as in-depth as possible. It feels great to complete a project like that.
DX: The book features tons of interviews, documents and stories around Pimp C. What was the most difficult process during creation considering how long it took?
Julia Beverly: I enjoy writing but for me, it’s kind-of a struggle. For some, it comes easily but for me, I’m a decent writer. But, I feel that working on the project made me a better writer just by doing it every day. It’s kind of exhausting. I don’t want to say emotionally but it’s a mentally draining process to actually write and create something like any form of art. It takes a lot out of you to create art sometimes. In theory you might go through five thousand words a day for the next two weeks but in reality, you might not have that in you. You might go a little slower than you think it’s going to go. Just the overall writing process was a challenge for me and that’s why I took on the project because I’m really more of a photographer. That’s more of my passion and it’s something that I’ve mastered or comes easily to me. So, I wanted to do something that challenged me. The overall writing process was difficult, just wasn’t one moment in particular.
DX: Even the amount of research seems pretty extensive. Any problems getting that all together?
Julia Beverly: Yeah it was a ton of stuff. Just transcribing interviews. I mean I tried to have people transcribe but they couldn’t understand. You’re talking about artists with heavy accents and they’re talking about rap stuff. It’s very difficult to find someone who can do it accurately. So, I ended up doing most of it myself. For example: You may find yourself transcribing an hour long interview for two or three hours and you end up pulling three or four quotes out of it. I feel like I do things the long way. That way, you don’t miss anything like those little details that are useful.
DX: I’ve skimmed through the book and off the bat, the first chapter focuses primarily on how Pimp C’s mother Weslyn Monroe and father Charleston Butler actually met. Where did the idea to use that as a starting point come from?
Julia Beverly: In the process of writing the book, I don’t think it would have been possible without his mom. His mom was the narrator of the project. When I met her, I had met her in passing but I didn’t really know that she was his manager, talked to him every single day and was extremely involved in his whole career. I kind of felt like she was a large reason for his success. Obviously, he got some of his most memorable quotes and stuff from his mom. She’s the bookend of the book because it starts and ends with her. I don’t think he would have had the success he’d had without her. She played a big part of it. That’s what I chose to focus on. The book really isn’t about rap or Hip Hop music. It’s really about family, him and his mom. It’s about the relationship they had. It’s kind of the most crucial look into who he was outside of his rap persona which was a small part of who he was. The books that I read that sort-of influenced me was Conspiracy of Fools which was about the Enron collapse. The reason why that inspired me was because initially when I picked it up, I didn’t know anything about Enron or accounting scams. I didn’t think it would be something that interested me but, the way the wrote it was like a drama that told a story. I really got into the characters and stories. I wanted it to be something that would not only appeal to UGK fans but something for those who enjoy stories about family and things that anyone could relate to even if they’re not a fan of the music. That’s why I chose to take that angle.
Julia Beverly Talks Controversy With Chinara Butler
DX: There’s been some controversies regarding his wife Chinara Butler who didn’t approve of the book…
Julia Beverly: I have no idea what her issue are. You’d have to ask her. The only time I asked her about the book, she said she was on board to do it and she agreed with the terms. And, that was basically the last time I talked to her.
Julia Beverly: Whatever her issues are, I don’t know. The issue is between her and his mom. It really has nothing to do with me. Initially, everyone was on board and I feel confident to say that his mom was the best person to work with on this book. If that meant losing other people, I’m fine with that.
DX: Cool. That’s enough of that subject. One of the things I’ve noticed about Pimp C’s fandom was how a lot of fans look to him as the Southern equivalent to Tupac. Where do those comparisons come from considering how much you’ve studied him over the years?
Julia Beverly: I don’t want anyone to get confused by the comparison because he was a different kind of artist from Tupac and Biggie but in the way he was influential. How an aspiring East Coast rapper would look at Biggie or how an aspiring West Coast rapper would look at Tupac, Pimp C was that for aspiring rappers out of the south. I think what I got from all the people that I interviewed whether it was Slim Thug or Paul Wall from Texas or people all around the south like T.I. or Rick Ross; before these guys were even thinking about rap when they were eleven or twelve years old, Pimp C was someone who made them even think about trying to rap. That’s number one and he was one of the first people to do it Actually, Lil Wayne said that in the interview. He said that Pimp C made him want to rap. If you look at that entire era of Southern rap, like 2000 to 2010, all those rappers who topped the charts in that time period there isn’t anyone who wasn’t influenced by Pimp C. I didn’t realize how much of an influence he had until I sat down and talked to all these people. Everyone is mentioned in that book whether you’re talking about No-Limit, Cash Money or even Lil Boosie. They all had direct or indirect ties to Pimp C. I think beyond that, from my personal experience with Pimp C, he always made you feel like you were a part of something. He wanted you to put forth your best effort and be the best at what you did. That’s how I felt as a journalist, photographer, media person or whatever you want to call me. He made me want to be apart of the southern rap movement. That’s the common theme. Talking to a lot of people, he made others feel the same way. He inspired people to be the best at what they were doing. He was so passionate about what he did.
Julia Beverly Discusses Her First Interaction With Pimp C
DX: There’s a point in the book where Bun B describes Pimp C as someone who could be three different things to three different people. What was your initial interaction with Pimp C? Did that moment ever linger throughout your process of creating the project?
Julia Beverly: For me, I met him when he was in prison. I didn’t get into the rap game until like 2002 or 2003 so at that point, he’s already in prison. My only real knowledge of him was when everyone was shouting out “Free Pimp C” and I didn’t have a clear understanding of why he was so loved or why anyone wanted him freed. It was a learning experience for me. My initial reaction to him was that he was so mellow and calm; just really introverted. Typically, when you meet a rapper….When you interview someone from prison, it’s very intimate. It’s not like you’re doing a press day for a rapper where there’s sunglasses and jewelry or presenting themselves as this rap character. In jail, there’s nothing between you and that person. That’s who they are. They have nothing to hide behind. Everyone kind-of presents a facade of themselves in how they want to the world to see them. In that particular situation, I met him as a man; as a person. I was anticipating this wild, obscene rapper. I met a guy who was a quiet, introspective person who had a lot on his mind and was very intelligent. It was interesting to me to meet him in that setting. I felt like we were on the same team. We were trying to obtain the same thing in the Southern rap movement. He kind-of felt like I was an ally with that. We clicked afterward and kept in touch.
DX: There’s a moment in the book where the dynamic between Pimp C and Bun B is really explored in great detail. Pimp seemed to be the straight talker while Bun was more political. Is that a safe assumption?
Julia Beverly: They definitely were like extreme opposites. That’s really the reason why they worked because they both had a role to play. Bun is political and not really take a stance on anything. He’s going to try to be on good terms with everybody, wants to work with everybody and be cool with everybody. Pimp C was a very principled guy and once he made his mind up, it was that. If he didn’t like someone, he wasn’t going to work with that person if Bun was friends with him or not. They had two different ways of looking at things which caused friction in their relationship. The perception people had that they were BFFs together all the time wasn’t how their relationship worked because they were very opposite people. They had a brotherly type of relationship where you might not always get along with your brother or family member but at the end of the day, they stand side-by-side to defend one another. That’s the relationship that they had. They may have had some internal conflicts but, at the same time they both wouldn’t say anything about it publically.
DX: Now that people have seen the book, what’s next for you?
Julia Beverly: Technically, it’s not out. We had a short run of preorders for die-hard fans that preordered the book. Those went out already but the actual release date is going to be July 28th. We’re doing a number of book signings and parties depending on what city you’re in. We’ll be doing that soon. That’ll be myself and Pimp C’s son Cory who raps as well. He goes by Underground Kids. As far as me, I’m actually booking Lil Wayne’s mixtape tour dates through my booking agency. Between that and my book, I’ve been extremely busy.