Some albums make waves with huge singles and eye-popping sales figures, while others secure staying power by delivering undeniable content that will continue to resonate for years.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of UGK’s career-defining Ridin’ Dirty album today, understand one of the most influential southern rap albums of all time hasn’t even cracked 900,000 copies sold. Yet, every track on the highly-regarded project has provided game to millions of fans worldwide.
Whether we could relate or not, Pimp C and Bun B educated us on the highs and lows of being a beloved street figure amidst constant resentment, reeling us in with stewing southern twang and some of the most vivid storytelling of their era. Keep in mind that this was during a peak time for the genre in the eyes of many Hip-Hop heads and when southern rap wasn’t taken seriously by critics or getting national exposure.
To reflect on how much Pimp and Bun were ahead of their time and remind everyone how these two Hip-Hop legends set the precedent for much of the rap scene we know today, we’ve dissected all 13 tracks from Ridin’ Dirty and ranked them from top to bottom.
RIP Pimp C. UGK 4 Life.
Among an album full of southern fried standouts, the lowest hanging fruit is clearly the album’s intro. The clip doesn’t have any music, so that’s only fair. Instead, “Intro” is a live update from the Mississippi state penitentiary via UGK affiliate Smoke D, who snuck in a tape recorder during his stint and would send Pimp C his updates from the inside. The tapes would become the “Live From The Pen” skits that sporadically line the rest of this project.
After some final updates from the pen via Smoke D, Ridin Dirty’ concludes with Pimp C spitting game and giving shoutouts to everyone from Spice 1 and Master P to Baby and Boosie, all over an eight minute reprise of the “Diamonds And Wood” beat. This “Outro” might not be an actual song, but there’s definitely replay value.
There are a lot of life lessons woven throughout Ridin’ Dirty, but “Touched” contains the blueprint to survival for Pimp and Bun. Through vivid seared soul storytelling from Bun and Pimp, listeners get a first hand account of how the two Port Arthur, TX riders earned their mental forcefield. The key? Never fear another soul and constantly stay on guard.
10. “That’s Why I Carry”
Backed by a murderous instrumental from Ridin’ Dirty’s main producer N.O. Joe, “That’s Why I Carry” offers one of the album’s most striking moments and one that’s still relevant today. Featuring a third verse that starts with Bun “Coming from the small town of madness,” this audible horror movie finds the Texas duo detailing various reasons they remain strapped at all times, offering chilling details that could leave listeners running to get their CCL by song’s end.
9. “3 In The Mornin”
There’s an old saying that says ‘nothing good happens after 2AM.’ If you would’ve asked UGK if that were true around the time this late-nite riding track dropped in 1996, they probably would’ve given you a different answer, depending on the day.
This bottom-heavy, southern sonic hodgepodge finds the two brothers from another and their homie Big Smokin’ Mitch detailing all the eye-popping activities they found themselves in on the daily, whether they involved squeezing on nipples or squeezing on triggers. Considering Bun is talking about being hunted by Colombian assassins, we’re assuming he’s moved on from that stage of his life by now.
8. “F**k My Car”
Some girls are slick with their ulterior motives, while others make their prerogative known from jump street. On “F**K My Car,” the Texas duo delivered an entire song about ladies who want nothing more than to sit shotty in an expensive ride. Over waves of bass, slapping drums and striking keys, both Pimp and Bun let gawking gals know the only way they get to ride is if they’re down for get down. No exceptions. The saying is readily used to this day.
7. “Ridin’ Dirty”
Those who have never called a Cadillac their own or moved weight without hitting the gym might not appreciate the title track to UGK’s 1996 classic. Yet, that’s part of the allure with this slow-burning southern sizzler. By providing their cool, calm and collected approach to getting money in such a sonically intoxicating fashion, they put listeners directly in the driver’s seat of a leaned back, out of body experience that’s way more relaxed from a second hand POV.
6. “Pinky Ring”
One of the main characteristics of UGK’s mystified aura is their mack-hand, mainly spurring from Pimp C’s straightforward all-around game. Those player ways are in full effect on “Pinky Ring,” an appropriately-named gem that finds Pimp and Bun letting oncomers know that pimping requires routine work and a firm grip, no matter the context. Definitely one of the album’s funkiest moments.
5. “Hi Life”
Sure, a lot of Ridin’ Dirty talks about the finer things in life, but the whole project teeters between comfortable and on the edge. For every ode to getting tail off material objects, there’s a song about dodging death on a whim. For every shout out to current crew members, there’s a bottle pouring out for someone they’ll never see again.
“Hi-Life” embodies that unsettled mindset maybe more than any other song on the album. By telling stories that would make a prostitute blush, Pimp and Bun explain why people shouldn’t get too full of themselves atop mellow and reflective production, because the highs in life are always balanced out by plenty of lows.
4. “Good Stuff”
Thanks to a bassline swipe from Fatback Band’s “Backstrokin,” this hoe-stroll-smashing jam was bound to be a dime before the lyrics were even written. Once producer Sergio added switch-hitting drums and the rest of the club-ready track’s foggy details, UGK proceeded to drop unforgettable lyrics that slapped listeners in the face with authority.
3. “Diamonds And Wood”
Between the flossy title and DJ Screw-repping hook, outsiders might assume “Diamonds And Wood” would be all gravy. Yet, the view from behind UGK’s wood grain wheel was never all good and this bubbling funk groove is a microcosm of Ridin Dirty’s juxtaposition of high and lows, providing a strong balance of boss etiquette with lyrical struggle. Plus, “Some of my Sweets be tight and some of my Sweets be f***ed up/ but all my Sweets gon’ blow, so killa’ smoke get sucked up” is one of the realest rap lines ever spit.
What is there to say about “Murder” that can’t be derived from the title alone? A lot actually. Off rip, the scathing production from N.O. Joe will still give your system a run for the money to this day. The energy that instrumental produced allowed Bun and Pimp to lyrically blackout, offering no-nonsense lyrics that packed more punch than Goro and some of the illest flows delivered by southern rappers up until that point in rap.
1. “One Day”
To set the mood for their game-changing third album, UGK used a dreary concept to give listeners a glimpse into the realities they were up against on the regular, letting everyone know all it takes is “One Day” for someone’s whole life to go spiraling out of control. By providing heart-wrenching details about friends losing loved ones in house fires to seeing family members going up state for good, this Isley Brothers-inspired single with their man 3-2 wound up being a staple of the duo’s catalog and one of the most revered rap songs ever recorded.