Unity in the name of Hip-Hop was the overarching theme of the Verzuz battle between legendary rap duos UGK and 8Ball & MJG on Thursday evening (May 26), with each side embracing the other in an unabashed show of southern pride. Taking place in Atlanta—neutral ground considering UGK hails from Port Arthur, Texas and 8Ball & MJG proudly rep Memphis, Tennessee—the festivities were hosted by southern luminary and veteran DJ and radio personality Greg Street. The event drew a raucous crowd of diehard fans who were ready and willing to rap along with each lyric spat.
Following a coin toss, which UGK won after Bun B chose “heads” in honor of late partner-in-rhyme Pimp C, Bun insisted that 8Ball & MJG go first, but not without both groups exchanging gifts in a display of mutual respect and to commemorate the occasion. Wasting no time to oblige Bun’s gesture, 8Ball & MJG launched into the fan-favorite “9 Little Milimeta Boys,” which garnered a favorable response from the audience. Not one to be outdone, Bun B delved deep into the UGK discography, dusting off the unground king’s classic cut “Tell Me Something Good,” an indicator that this particular Verzuz would be friendly, yet competitive.
Thought to be the underdogs in this matchup by a segment of fans, 8Ball & MJG quickly dispelled any notions of a rout taking place, as the Orange Mound-bred duo pulled out all of the stops, bringing out guests Young Dro for “Tell The DJ Bring It Back” and Tela and Jazze Pha on “Sho Nuff.” One particular surprise performer that even impressed Bun B was Chitown’s fast talker, Twista. Bun gave flowers to and acknowledged the rap legend’s delivery of his verse on MJG’s “Middle of the Night (Remix),” which the UGK member revealed he remembers witnessing Twista lay down in the studio way back when.
Despite flying solo for the majority of the night, Bun B proved to be a one-man army, commanding the crowd with a mix of solo cuts and he and Pimp C’s greatest hits. Running through his 2005 single “Draped Up,” “Take it Off” from UGK’s Dirty Money album, and the Underground Kingz cut “The Game Belongs To Me,” Bun B flaunted the stage presence and showmanship that’s kept him in demand as a live performer for more than three decades of his career.
By the latter half of the matchup and after raising the audience to a crescendo with “Murder” from Ridin’ Dirty, the Texan is hit on all cylinders, but brought things to a calm with a performance of “One Day,” which he dedicated to Pimp C, “the trillest ni**a ever born.” Bun also took a moment to send his condolences to the victims of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. He called out elected officials for their failure to curb the rising gun violence in America while urging everyone in attendance and watching at home to vote.
Aside from 8Ball calling out the rapper and Million Dollaz Worth Of Game co-host Gillie Da King for his recollection of a story where the rapper was chased away by Rap-A-Lot Records founder J. Prince, there was nothing but love in the air throughout the night. One unexpected moment occurred when what initially appeared to be a stage-crasher, turned out to be Pimp C’s daughter Christian. She took the mic and said a few words, showing her appreciation to the public for helping keep her father’s legacy alive. “I just wanna thank everybody for coming out, keeping his legacy alive,” she said. “It wouldn’t be nothing without y’all and I know it wouldn’t be nothing without him. I appreciate y’all so much. Long live ‘The Pimp.'”
Before bringing down the house with an epic performance of “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”—which included a cameo from his lone guest of the night, Big Boi—Bun B summed up the vibes of the night as succinctly as anyone could. “We are the South. We are united,” Bun told the crowd and those watching remotely. “You cannot f**k with us, but you can f**k with us. I came to rep this sh*t like my brother would. F**k what them other ni**as talking bout, get some South in your mouth.”