Underground Kingz

by: UGK

When UGK member Pimp C was released from prison in late 2005, his anxiousness to get the group back in the game after three years off was obvious. Combine this with his partner Bun B's loyalty to UGK -- he begrudgingly released a great solo album in September of 2005, just to keep the brand going -- and it sure seemed like the late-2006 street date announced for their comeback effort was more likely to be pushed up than pushed back. Then Pimp C released a solo album and the group's promised double CD with too many guest stars to mention was pushed back for the first of many times, which often means "unruly mess." Underground Kingz, the album, is a glorious triumph over all these challenges that earns its two-disc sprawl, and while it can't turn back time, the missed street dates were a small price to pay for something so solid. The guest list is a case of "real recognize real" and UGK themselves have lost none of their skills, with Bun B being the stone cold soldier he always was while the Pimp stirs it up verbally and doubles as the main, hook-loving producer of the album. He shares duties with the legendary Scarface (three tracks including the highlight "Candy"), Jazze Pha (the surprising, minimal success "Stop-n-Go"), plus Juicy J and DJ Paul, who craft a soulful backing track that's as big and grand as the UGK/OutKast collabo it supports. Almost stealing the show is Averexx, who gives "The Game Belongs to Me" a proper slide, although it's hard to go wrong with a chorus as good as "I got Bobby by the pound/Whitney by the key/DJ Screw by the gallon/B*tch the game belongs to me." Now Pimp C used a Bobby and Whitney metaphor on his solo album and a couple remixes of "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" could be considered borderline filler, but the double-disc ride doesn't feel redundant till the songs read "bonus track." Strategically dropping the hard street tracks among the club numbers helps, as do a couple steps outside the duo's comfort zone, the most notable being "Two Type of B******," featuring U.K. garage rapper Dizzee Rascal. At the center of this is all is the undeniable chemistry between Pimp C and Bun B. Both strong on their own, there's that certain something when they get together, a something complementary and extraordinary. Time to stop worrying if the reunited UGK will be nearly as good as they were -- save 1996's Ridin' Dirty, they're better -- and time to start wondering how they'll top this one. ~ David Jeffries

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