Jay-Z’s Big Hit That He Hated

Jay-Z’s 1999 hit “Big Pimpin,” which served as the third promotional single for his fourth studio album Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, has lived on for over two decades as one of the Brooklyn icon’s most beloved radio bops. Featuring fiery Southern rap duo UGK, the track served up raunchy flair and undeniable catchiness. However, at different points in time, each of the three rappers involved did not enjoy the song very much at all.

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Produced by Timbaland, and sampling the 1957 Egyptian song “Khosara – خسارة,” “Big Pimpin” was first disliked by UGK’s now-deceased Pimp C. “Kyambo ‘Hip-Hop’ Joshua was with me in the studio with Timbaland; he knew I was a UGK fan and he suggested we put them on the record,” Jay-Z said in the album booklet for Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. “We called Bun and then Pimp C was like, ‘The horns, them shits are too fruity.’ He was concerned with alienating his audience. When Pimp first sent his verse, I didn’t get it—but then the genius of his cadence hit me.”

Then, even after Pimp C was convinced to do the song, UGK’s aforementioned other half Bun B disapproved of “Big Pimpin.” Hoping to stay away from the pesky, quicksand-ish nature of mainstream appeal, Bun told MTV in a 2005 interview that it took a pep talk from Jay-Z to get him on board.

“It sounded like a pop record to me,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it. It scared me because I didn’t know how people was going to take us going in that direction. But I remember Jay telling me, ‘Look, family: It’s going to be the biggest record of your career. If you don’t do it for yourself, just do it for me.’ That was good enough for me, so I jumped on it.”

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The commercial performance of “Big Pimpin” helped Jay-Z keep his word to Bun, as the song peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100, UGK’s highest-charting song ever. For each of their verses, the trio crafted braggadocio and promiscuous raps, mostly pertaining to their dismissive attitudes towards women. In the case of Jay-Z, he made sure to be particularly vulgar, stating his desire to stay single and unattached.

Thug ’em, fuck ’em, love ’em, leave ’em
‘Cause I don’t fuckin’ need ’em
Take ’em out the hood, keep ’em lookin’ good
But I don’t fuckin’ feed ’em
First time they fuss, I’m breezin’
Talkin’ ’bout, “What’s the reasons?”
I’m a pimp in every sense of the word, bitch

When ultimately reflecting on the song, Jay-Z shared disgust regarding motifs such as these portrayed in “Big Pimpin.” In an excerpt from his 2010 memoir Decoded, he wrote that he was disappointed in himself for rapping such obscene lyrics.

“Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing,” he said. “Not ‘Big Pimpin.’ It was like, ‘I can’t believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing?’”

Still, though, “Big Pimpin” managed to achieve platinum status from RIAA three years after Decoded was published, which proved that fans still revisited this song a decade after it was originally released.

Photo by Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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