The H-Town Countdown, No. 4: UGK's Too Hard to Swallow

Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. We're counting down the 25 best of all time every Thursday. Got a problem with the list? Shove it. Just kidding. Friendship. Email sheaserrano@gmail.com.

UGK

Too Hard to Swallow (Jive, 1992)

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How cocksure is Bun B?

The first time we spoke with him regarding the UGK albums that made The Countdown -yes, that's "albums," plural, meaning another UGK LP will pop up by the end of this list; aren't you clever for figuring that out? - he didn't ask to know what albums made it, let alone where they ranked. He even went so far as to explicitly ask to not be told what landed where so he could be surprised.

Devin the Dude also didn't ask where he settled in. When we let him know that Just Tryin' Ta Live fell in at the impressive 8th spot, he seemed genuinely and affectionately pleased, responding, "Ah, man, I sure do I appreciate that." He sounds the same way when he talks as he does when he sings, by the way. His words just buzz out in cadence. We kept expecting him to follow up his response with some rhyme about tits and weed. He didn't.

We didn't give Chamillionaire a chance to ask where Get Ya Mind Right landed, instead opening the conversation with how it finished in the Top 20. When we told him that it beat out his official solo albums - even the one that won him a Grammy - he seemed totally okay with that. He also seemed fine with our assertion that Mixtape Messiah was the best work he's ever done, confirming that he too feels he's at his best when he feels he has something to prove.

Ganksta NIP and KB Da Kidnappa of Street Military both asked what spot they earned. Admirably, NIP even lobbied for a higher spot, citing himself as the founder of a subgenre of rap and thus deserving of at least a Top 15 placement. We laughed because we were nervous, and then placed him at No. 21 because that's exactly where he belonged.

Keke brushed us off, even after we tried to play to his ego by repeating that he made the fifth best Houston rap album of all time over and over. This further justified his ranking, somehow.

As soon as we mentioned The Countdown to Trae, he boomed "What's your No. 1 pick?" He didn't even concern himself with whether or not any of his albums made it (which we should've anticipated). We had not planned on telling anyone who landed in the top spot, but sitting there on his couch, exactly two feet away from him - perfect punching range, in other words - we panicked and blurted it out.

He was not displeased. Then we listened to him argue that Jadakiss is a great rapper (his words) even though his albums almost always are terrible (our words).

Rappers are funny.

But the second time we spoke to Bun B about The Countdown, we asked him specifically about what Too Hard to Swallow, UGK's monumental debut* album, has come to represent.

Bun's response: "When I listen to it now, I hear how raw and unfiltered it was; everything we were and everything we wanted to become."

Two things here:

1) For certain, who do you know that talks like in everyday conversation? It seems like something Morgan Freeman would say in The Shawshank Redemption. Everyone should be allowed to talk to Bun for five minutes at least once in his or her life. This is how he discusses everything. It's really something.

2) This is just about the perfect synopsis of this album. Read on...

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