Review Summary: UGK's final opus.
UGK should be remembered for how legitimate they were able to remain during their fifteen year history. From "Too Hard to Swallow" to "Underground Kingz," the Houston, Texas, duo has managed to exist through a variety of rap trends all while sounding as if they belonged in each. "UGK 4 Life," the group's final record, finds living member Bun B sifting through previous UGK sounds to make one lasting impression about what the group represents. While most posthumous rap records seem pieced together from remaining sessions (see Big L's "The Big Picture" for an example), "UGK 4 Life" succeeds in having a solid sound throughout. Bun B is clearly not trying to profit off of his friend's legacy. Instead, the record succeeds with a continuation of the production found on "Underground Kingz" and a more diverse rap style from both Bun and Pimp. Additionally, excess tracks such as freestyles or remixes have been omitted. Pimp C, who was formally the group's main producer, had a talent for finding and creating beats that sounded organic. "Ridin' Dirty", arguably the group's best was marked by its closer which was seemingly a jam session with Pimp C musing over it. The layered approach to production taken on "Ridin' Dirty" is fully explored throughout "UGK 4 Life." The instrumental prowess on the record also streamlines itself in the artists themselves with Pimp and Bun spitting some of their most imaginative as well as basic rhymes of their careers. 'Purse Come First' features one of Bun B's strongest verses as he speaks on political situations with his trademark swagger. On the flip side Pimp C is declaring his distaste for unshaved women on tracks like ‘She Luv It’ and ‘Harry Asshole.'
A clear theme on "UGK 4 Life" is one of celebration. Openers ‘Still on the Grind’ and ‘Everybody Wanna Ball’ show UGK loving their recent popularity and are as great as any other UGK classic. 'Steal Your Mind,' featuring Snoop Dogg and Too Short, exists past being simply a collaboration track. Pimp C’s love of programmed drums carries this track, its production sounding rhythmically similar to those of El-P and Def Jux. Smoother tracks like 'The Pimp and the Bun' and 'Swishas and Erb' escape R&B clichés and feature extremely aggressive verses from both Bun B and Pimp C. 'Hard as Hell' is the obvious low mark. Akon's contribution feels strange and while it works, it just comes off as stale and overdone. 'Used to Be' acts as the posse cut on "4 Life" and the list of artists from B-Real to E-40 bring great performances over what is probably the album's best beat. Closer 'Da Game Been Good To Me' ends with Pimp C and Bun B discussing fellow rappers and how they alone as UGK have achieved such a reign of dominance. It is an emotional track, being that it is probably the last closer of UGK’s history. The listener is left with the feeling that perhaps Pimp C finally achieved peace, which is also this album’s main strength - how it captures Pimp C not as a fallen rapper, but as his personality should be remembered. 'Outro' speaks on the idea perfectly and although Bun B may now be alone, his work with Pimp C will always remain as that which thoroughly defined southern rap. Excessive, sexual, and catchy, UGK has crafted the most definitive template for the southern rap record. Sadly, it'll be their last.