JAY-Z‘s lyrics on “Big Pimpin’” almost became yet another reason for Pimp C to turn down appearing on the song, famed Roc-A-Fella A&R Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua has revealed.
During an appearance on the R.O.A.D. Podcast, Joshua was asked about his process and experiences as the label’s Head of A&R, a position which he held for eight years starting when Hov, Dame Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke launched the imprint in 1994.
As the conversation turned to specific songs, Hip-Hop listed “Big Pimpin’” as one of the tracks for which he had to write a hook before presenting the beat to JAY-Z — which led to the latest anecdote about Pimp C’s well-documented initial disdain for the single.
Like Bun B has previously said, Hip-Hop shared that Pimp C’s love and respect for 2Pac — whose death was still recent when talk of recording the JAY-Z single first came up — was the first obstacle that had to be overcome to get the late UGK legend on the track.
“But once he got past that, he thought Jay was saying that he was playing with his dick in the truck,” Joshua recounted. “So he’s like, ‘Man, I’m not getting on no song with another man talkin’ bout playing with hisself in the truck! Young Hop, you my boy, but what you tryna have me doin’, man?’ He said, ‘That’s like career suicide!’”
Hip-Hop clarified that the line in question, which hears JAY-Z rap: “Let ’em play with the dick in the truck,” actually referred to would-be female passengers. “He said, ‘I could see that. That makes sense now.’ Then he kinda got closer to doing it,” Hop added.
Getting the song done required a little more negotiation, but while outside forces were trying to figure out how to get Pimp C on board, he was struggling with how to approach the song artistically. Eventually, he turned to the member of another legendary Southern Hip Hop group, Goodie Mob, for assistance.
“He literally told me, ‘Man, I had to figure it out. I had to call up Big Gipp and ask him could I borrow his flow. Because shit, I couldn’t just come on it like how I be doin it. I had to be more choppier,’” Hip-Hop remembered.
Hop went on to praise Pimp C’s technical approach to his own flow, saying: “He really was well aware of what he was doing. He really broke down his whole flow and his whole thing. Like, ‘I rap with the vocal tone of Run, with the choppiness of Scarface, and the Southern drawl of Willie D.’ And he did it for me, like in my face.”
“Big Pimpin’” would go on to becoming a huge success, peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart and topping the Rhythmic Top 40 chart, thus helping propel JAY-Z’s fourth studio album Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter to triple platinum status.
And despite all of Pimp C’s trepidations, “Big Pimpin’” remains UGK’s best performing single — both as lead and featured artists — and the only song of theirs to crack the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.