As part of rap outfit UGK—his partner was the late Pimp C—the Port Arthur rhyme veteran has earned many a peer admirer in the notoriously prideful hip-hop world. He is working on his second solo album, II Trill, and appears this month at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival.
Most of our readers probably have no idea what your music sounds like. How would you describe your sound to them?
My sound is not what people would classify as typical hip-hop or rap music. It’s Southern by the tone of voice of the people that are speaking. It’s Southern by the sound of the music, with the bass and the live guitar—definitely a lot of bluesy influence, a lot of jazzy influence. Both of us being Texas boys and Louisiana boys, you definitely hear the influence of both lifestyles. Basically, it’s the soundtrack to your present day barbecue.
UGK has always received universal love. Why do you think you’re so respected worldwide?
I think because we’ve always shown respect to everyone. And the fact that everything that UGK has achieved they’ve achieved by their own standards. We’ve never compromised ourselves just to gain a few more sales and make a little bit more money. We’ve always tried to maintain the integrity of not just the group but us as individuals and as artists. And the fans and our peers have always given us our due respect for that.
Two people who are fans of yours are M.I.A. and Diplo because they chose you for her “Paper Planes” remix. Can you talk about how that came about?
I met Diplo and M.I.A a few years ago when we all did a Halloween party for FADER magazine. It was like some real late night kind of crazy stuff. We all had a common love for music and performing and definitely entertaining the people. Diplo and I have stayed in contact. I see him in different places, either New York or L.A. or different festivals, even different countries. But we definitely stayed in contact. And when it came time to do “Paper Planes,” it was something he reached out and asked if I was interested in. I told him of course. I had always thought the beat was sick and just the whole theme of the song was something I wouldn’t mind being a part of. And then he told me Rich Boy, who’s another young talent that I have a lot of respect for, was going to be a part of it, and I just thought it was going to make a great combination. Diplo has a good ear for putting different people together, different sounds, and making it fit.
I read that you’re supposed to appear on his upcoming solo album.
Yeah, I’m still waiting on my track. He doesn’t want me to do just a basic rap song, he definitely wants to see what other genre of music my style and my flow would work with. I’m thinking he might come with grime, but ain’t no tellin’. He might try to put me on some favela funk shit.
South by Southwest is one of the biggest festivals in the world. What is it like to participate in something so large?
The first time I did SXSW it was more about me performing. But once I got there I started seeing the extent of all the different genres and sub-genres of music and all these different performers and entertainers that were performing and all coming together. Every year since that first year it’s been more about trying to take in different talent, to catch an opportunity of seeing different people explode, like Amy Winehouse last year or Bloc Party a couple of years ago. It gives you an opportunity to see groups that are probably after that point only going to be doing arena shows.
Do you have any people you’re excited about seeing this year?
I’m not sure. I really haven’t seen who all is playing, but I’m really hoping that Jack White is going to be somewhere in Austin. That would be good to see. I heard that the Verve were getting back together but I’m not sure they’re going to be playing there. I just heard the new Gnarls Barkley single. I’m trying to convince Cee-Lo to do a surprise gig, but I’m not sure if him and Danger Mouse are that ready yet. I like a lot of the guitarists, so I’m really hoping that Jack White is going to be playing.
How far along are you with your solo album?
We’re probably about 85 percent complete right now. Prior to Pimp’s passing we were about 75 percent complete. I have to make a dedication record for Pimp. So I gotta go in and record that. I hadn’t made anything for the ladies. That was something that Pimp was going to help me with. That was Pimp’s thing. Pimp had no trouble making music for the ladies. But, I’m reaching out to Boosie and Webbie and we gonna get down and do something real, real fly. This is going to be a big record. It’s gonna be kinda crazy.
Do you have any ideas for the Pimp C dedication song?
No, not really. I’ve had a couple different people send music, but I definitely know the theme and the way I want to go with it. I really want to make a big record, but at the end of the day, I don’t want some hook or some chorus to dictate what I need to say. I pretty much know what it is I’m going to do. I think I have the track now. I have two more people that called and asked if they could send me something over and because they have love for Pimp too, I don’t want to not give them that gesture, or not give them that chance. And you never know what may happen. A lot of times with this music stuff the best stuff happens at the last minute, spontaneously, no matter how hard you plan.
I know Pimp C’s passing doesn’t compare to him being in prison, but do you feel that him being away during that time helped make you stronger as far as going on with your career without him?
Well, of course. Mourning and grieving is something that pretty much everyone has to deal with in life. But it’s really not the time or the place to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I could be like ‘oh, man, what am I going to do now, Pimp’s not here,’ but as far as I know, I’m physically capable of doing music and keeping things going without him. We kind of proved that, like you said, during his jail time. It’s just a different feeling, a different level of motivation that goes into it now. He’s definitely going to be missed on the other side of the stage.
You mentioned Boosie and Webbie. Who are some other people you’re planning on working with on this album?
I just got word back from [Eight]ball and [MJ]G that they’re going to contribute to this album. David Banner is on this album. Jazze Pha is producing. A young cat, an artist and producer out of Houston, really talented, named Corey Mo produced some music. Slim Thug is on the album. Mike Jones is on the album. Getting ready to go get some music done with Travis Barker who produced on my last album. He’s doing another track for me on this one, so I’m probably going to knock that out during the weekend. I can’t really think of everybody else on there . . . And Lupe [Fiasco]. I’m sending a track out to him today that I think is gonna be really great.
I talked to Chamillionaire about the future of music and how everybody’s trying to figure out different ways to make money with album sales being down. How do you see yourself surviving in the changing music industry?
Well I mean, you know, at the end of the day, I’ve never had a career that relied on record sales to sustain me. We’ve always only sold a consistent amount of records, between 400,000 and 700,000 copies, and it’s never really gone too much further than that. We’ve always made that connection with our fans. We do a lot of touring. Where most artists should be looking to generate money from is actually getting on the road and touring. I have no problem with the digital age because I didn’t have to make my fans in the digital age. I’ve got fans that have been riding with us for a long time and that are, as far as the music industry is concerned, they’re like the perfect consumers. A lot of our fans are car people so they need that physical CD and that artwork and that CD cover and case. They tend to have that good copy to ride around and bang in the car.
Looking back on over twenty years of being an artist, what are you most proud of?
Probably the fact that my partner in all of it was Pimp C. Nobody else can say that.