Friday, August 17, 2007

Most of Underground Kingz, though, is anything but upbeat. It's the first UGK album where Pimp doesn't handle the lion's share of the production, though most of the album's producers make sure to make their tracks fit the slow, woozy aesthetic that the duo established long ago. On "Cocaine", the Blackout Movement curl blues-guitar around minimal drum-thumps while Pimp moans the title over and over on the chorus and Bun gives a quick lesson in the drug's history: "It's been around for hundreds of years, exploited by the rich/ They even used to put it in Coca-Cola; ain't that a bitch?" On "Two Types of Bitches", Momo's nasty blues-guitar and blurting organs lazily circle each other while guest Dizzee Rascal turns up to spit some paranoid misogyny. Elsewhere, the duo absorbs the newer trends in Southern rap, showing the kids how to attack them: Lil Jon's jacked-up bass on "Like That", the Runners' epic synth-churn on "Take tha Hood Back".
The album really hits its stride, though, when Pimp takes over the controls and brings back the sad, heavy country-rap that he does better than anyone else. "The Game Belongs to Me" is an irrefutable declaration of supremacy, so warm and effortless that Bun and Pimp's voices sound like they're bubbling up from the track. "How Long Can It Last" winds seven minutes of emotional self-torture around screaming blues-guitars and gut-rumbling bass. Even a song as formulaic as "Chrome Plated Woman", which works the ancient car-as-girl concept, is executed with masterly panache.The two discs of Underground Kingz run well over two hours, and plenty of fat could easily have been trimmed. Nobody needs another two tinny synth-beats from Jazze Pha, to say nothing of the man's abysmal verse on "Stop-N-Go". The warm sentiment of "Real Women" is much-appreciated after the bile of "Two Types of Bitches," the lite-jazz Fender Rhodes less so. As great as "Int'l Players Anthem" is, the album would be fine without its two remixes; the ugly screwed-and-chopped version practically kills the album's momentum right at the end. Still, these aren't complaints; they're quibbles. Underground Kingz is the first UGK album in six years, and it's just an enormous relief to hear that these two can still weave a cohesive long-form tapestry of an album better than almost anyone else in rap.
-Tom Breihan, August 17, 2007

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