Today marks the 15th anniversary of the release of Jay-Z’s single Big Pimpin’. Produced by Timbaland and featuring famed Southern group UGK, the single is one of Hov’s most successful ever. With verses from Bun B and Pimp C the song is notable as one of the first songs where Southern rap truly broke into the mainstream lens. The song was nominated for ‘Best Rap Performance by a Duo or a Group’ at the 2001 Grammy Awards.
Pimp C was meant to appear on the Vol. 2 track ‘A Week Ago’, but they couldn’t decide where to record the song due to East and South rap beef. Neither artist wanted to leave their home studio to visit unfamiliar territory, so the collaboration was canned. A year later Hov rang Bun B to invite the group to collaborate on the Abdel Halim Hafez-sampled track - but Bun thought it was a prank call and hung up on him. Hov rang back and they agreed to the collaboration, with Hov convincing them would be a certified hit.
The single’s video was filmed by Hype Williams in March 2000. The majority of the scenes were filmed during the exuberant Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, then the crew headed to Miami to film the mansion scenes. Hov was notoriously tight with video budgets, but he put up a million dollars for Big Pimpin’ in an effort to get the Roc crew on MTV’s Making the Video (the first rap video to do so) and make the final single from Vol. 3 a success.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in 2010, Jay explained how the process of writing Decoded enlightened him in the crassness of many of his past lyrics: “Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing. Not ‘Big Pimpin,’ that’s the exception. It was like, ‘I can’t believe I said that!’. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh.”