Review Summary: A fantastic start to the career of one of the best hip hop acts ever.
Too Hard to Swallow, one of the more overlooked hip hop albums of the 90s, kickstarted the career of one of the best hip hop duos of all time. UGK (short for Underground Kingz), made up of Pimp C and Bun B, were clearly an extremely talented group, that had the capability of putting the south on the map. UGK were by far one of the best southern hip hop acts at the time, and could even hold their own against a lot of east coast artists. Although for some UGK's southern style may be an acquired taste, once you fully appreciate the level of talent you're dealing with, you can understand why they get as much acclaim as they do, and why to an extent they're underrated.
Although Pimp C and Bun B's lyricism and deliveries still had some work to do (slight work at that), their lyrics and cadences were still phenomenal. The fact that UGK weren't even at their peak on Too Hard to Swallow proves how talented they are. From Bun B's clear voice, to Pimp C's loud, energetic voice, the duo sounded comfortable over the beats (handled by Pimp C). The production was somewhat minimalistic on the album, but nonetheless all of these beats just sound fantastic. One of the best songs on the album, "Cramping My Style", utilizes a sample of the famous Isley Brothers "Between the Sheets", before The Notorious B.I.G. would later re-popularize it. The sample helps make for a groovy track, and a classic song overall. Another standout track is "Something Good", which has another one of the best samples on the album from "Tell Me Something Good" by Rufus. Another rhythmic track, where the sample definitely improves the production quality, but nonetheless it's a fantastic beat, and a classic track overall as well.
For the lyrical content, while it may come off to the average listener as the same generic subject matter as many other rappers, that's far from the case (I also don't care that much about subject matter as long as you make it interesting to listen to). While UGK rap about money, women, drugs, etc., they make it interesting to listen to, and tell stories with it. Like "Short Texas", where the duo explains that Texas is not as nice as one may think, and how they're the kingpins of their town. The duo explains how they don't let other drug dealers that they don't know prosper in Port Arthur, being that they make most of the drug money there. "Pocket Full of Stones" tells a similar story, but instead talks about how they're coming up in their town by drug dealing. "Feel Like I'm the One Who's Using Dope" is UGK's take on Geto Boys's "Mind Playing Tricks On Me", as they talk about going insane, and feeling like they're on drugs.
Too Hard to Swallow is definitely a classic album, as it has fantastic production and lyrics, as well as superb storytelling. The fact that this is only their 4th best album goes to show how talented UGK is, and why they're undeniably one of the best hip hop duos of all time. If you want to hear some of the best hip hop the southern part of the country has to offer, definitely listen to this, you won't be disappointed.
1. Something Good: 5/5
2. Use Me Up: 5/5
3. Pocket Full of Stones: 5/5
4. Short Texas: 5/5
5. Cocaine in the Back of the Ride: 5/5
6. It's Too Hard to Swallow: 4.5/5
7. Cramping My Style (feat. Infinity): 5/5
8. Feel Like I'm the One Who's Doing Dope: 4.5/5
9. I'm So Bad: 4/5
10. Trill Ass Nigga: 4.5/5
11. 976-Bun-B: 5/5
12. Something Good-Pimp C's Remix: 5/5
Skippable songs: 0
Pocket Full of Stones
Cramping My Style
Use Me Up
Weakest song: I'm so Bad
Overall rating: 96/100