The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Twenty years have passed since the hip-hop/rap duo Underground Kingz, or UGK, released their first major label album.
On Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m., Port Arthur natives Bernard “Bun B” Freeman and the family of Chad “Pimp C” Butler will be honored with a new permanent exhibit in the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Special guests will include ugk (underground kidz) featuring Butler’s son aka Lil’ C and his partner Ice 7000.
Butler passed away in December 2007 at the age of 33. His death was ruled an accident, caused by sleep apnea aggravated by the use of prescription cough medication. Upwards of 2,000 people attended his funeral held at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center.
Weslyn “Mama Wes” Butler, the artists’ mother and manager, is incredibly excited about the upcoming event.
“This is something “C” really dreamed about for years and for me it’s a bittersweet thing because he’s not here to see it, yet I know he’s smiling down,” Butler said. “And for Bun, I’m excited for him too. He deserves to have this honor.”
Butler paused as she spoke about her son and his lifelong friend then gave a chuckle, adding that very seldom is she at loss for words.
A retired school teacher, Butler stepped into the spotlight as a temporary road manager as UGK began their rise to stardom. She has fond memories of the first time she saw UGK perform before a large crowd. The event took place a year after the 1992 release of “Too Hard to Swallow.”
“When the music started “Bun” looked at me and said ‘I gotta go Mama’ then he ran onto the stage. I didn’t know he could move that fast. And there was “C” standing there with the microphone,” she said. “He ran out there and I went to my little place on stage and stood there. I saw the audience responding, I saw them working the stage and at that moment I thought to myself, those kids have something and will go somewhere. At that point I knew they were going to make it.”
The early days were rough, she admits, but she enjoyed them thoroughly and loves to go back to those old memories.
“But after seeing them that first time, it was special,” she said. “That’s the magic of UGK. They were just terrific. “Bun,” as a surviving member, he deserves to embrace this. It’s his home and home is the hardest place to make a hit in.”
UGK, considered by many to be pioneers of southern rap and hip hop, were formed in 1987.
Their 1992 album was followed by several other albums charting on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, including the self-titled Underground Kingz album which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in August 2007. The group has also been featured on hit singles by other artists, such as “Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z and “Sippin' on Some Syrup” by Three 6 Mafia. During this time, Butler also founded UGK Records in late 2005.
The group made high profile appearances on collaborations with other artisits resulting in a 2001 Grammy nomination for best rap performance by a duo or group and also released solo efforts that hit the Billboard Hot 200 chart.
In 2007 the group released their fifth studio album, the self-titled ‘Underground Kingz.’ It was a double album, containing 26 tracks and spanning two discs. The album received a 4-star rating from Allmusic, and reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 200 album charts and the R&B chart. “International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)” became the group's only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts, where it peaked at No. 70.
Not long after Butler’s death, UGK was nominated again for a 2008 Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group for “Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You).” In 2008, UGK won two awards during the BET annual awards ceremony.
Admission to the event at the Museum of the Gulf Caost in December is free.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast located at 700 Procter St. in downtown Port Arthur. It is owned and operated by the Port Arthur Historical Society in partnership with Lamar State College - Port Arthur and the City of Port Arthur and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information call 982-7000 or visit www.museumofthegulfcoast.org