Chad "Pimp C" Butler with his mother, Wes "Mama" Monroe in Port Arthur, Texas, 2006
News reports trickling out of Los Angeles are revealing more about the unexpected death of 33-year-old rapper Pimp C.
Some of the details are conflicting, which is to be expected in the immediate hours following a high-profile death, but it appears that Pimp C, born Chad Butler, may have died from natural causes yesterday. According to this well-packaged story by Joey Guerra and Peggy O'Hare at the Houston Chronicle, however, his death is being investigated as a homicide.
My thoughts on that go both ways. At 33, it's easy to assume he didn't die of natural causes, but without any evidence of foul play, I'd hate to think homicide is on this case solely because he was a rapper.
But then again, he was a rapper, and most rappers who die, aren't lucky enough to drift on in their sleep. Either way, that's a law enforcement call, but it does raise questions about the way young black deaths are investigated.
According to TMZ, Ed Winter of the L.A. County Coroner's office says: We're told no drug paraphernalia or other drugs were found in the room. The rapper, we've learned, was found fully clothed on top of the bed. He did not seem to have fallen or injured himself and he was positioned on his side. Winter said it did not appear that there was anyone else in the room at the time of his death. An autopsy will be performed and toxicology test results will be available in six to eight weeks.
A press release from his own Trill Promotions via his manager, Chris Martin states: This morning saw the loss of a man that was not only a client, but a very dear friend at a time when he had the most to live for. He was my best friend and I will always love him. Chad’s tragic passing leaves behind mourners the world over, including his mother, wife and children whom Chad loved more than anything.
So for anyone still holding out hope, the rumors are true.
Pimp C, first broke out into the national spotlight on Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin" track in 1999, but was a hip-hop legend in Texas long before that. The Port Arthur native and his partner, Bernard "Bun B" Freeman, started working together as a duo back in high school. Despite having marginally successful solo careers, they were best known, and arguably most creative as UGK, (Underground Kingz) a group which captured the hearts and minds of rap fans throughout Texas and the Gulf Coast long before they broke out nationally. Their 1992 release, Too Hard to Swallow, was their first major label release on Jive Records, though the group had successfully sold cassettes and been featured on mixtapes prior throughout Texas.
The album's single, "Pocket Full of Stones" was their first song to get national recognition and was featured on the Menace to Society soundtrack.
By the time 1994's Super Tight and 1996's Riding Dirty (considered back-to-back classics by fans of Southern hip-hop) hit the streets, Pimp C and Bun B, had easily passed the Houston-based Geto Boyz as the most prominently revered hip-hop group out of Texas.
Pimp C did have some legal issues, and a temper. He was sent away to prison in 2002 for a charge of aggravated assault, and served just under four years in a Texas Correctional Facility until late December of 2005. He'd been out of prison less than two years at the time of his death.
I can remember watching Pimp C perform. It was at this year's South By Southwest (SXSW) and since UGK's first few shows after Chad's release were shutdown by the police due to their inability to control the crowd (that's not a negative, folks were just that excited to see Pimp C again) their gig in Austin this past March was one of the first times a lot of their fans had seen them reunited. Many of their younger fans had never seen the group at all.
It was a historic performance. Chad was bouncing around the stage, grinning like an artist that genuinely appreciated his audience for appreciating him even more. Their hour long set was more like a movie with half of Rap-a-Lot, Asylum and Swisha House artists, plus a slew of other national hip-hop heavyweights scattered, either on stage or throughout the crowd.
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Not knocking any of the other rappers on the bill, but that night was all about UGK, and Pimp C looked like he left nearly everything he had inside of him on that stage. He was drenched in diamonds and sweat, and not much else, when he walked off, but it was the kind of performance that aged you from dancing so much, yet left you feeling younger because of it. I caught hip-hop savant, Saul Williams, aka Niggy Tardust, at the show bopping and leaning, which is rare for Saul, but everyone there was having a good time.
Despite having a blast on stage, the little bit of Pimp C that was still left intact, damn near killed a fan that tried to hug him right after the show. Consider it reflexes of being in prison, but he snapped on some teenage kid (yelling, "don't put yo hands on me!") and had the dude laid out by one of his minions with one swift sucker punch to the face. I walked out of that place pissed off yet felt lucky enough to catch both sides of Chad in such a brief moment. Didn't expect it would be the last time I'd ever see him alive, but that's life.
This song has unexpectedly been in my head for the past few days non-stop. Now I understand why. -- Jonathan Cunningham