Julia Beverly is your favorite rapper’s favorite hustler. Her Agency Twelve books MCs, R&B stars and reality TV provocateurs all around the world, including a current 40-date mixtape tour for Lil Wayne. A thriving business, Agency Twelve grew out of an unexpected extension of casually making connections between artists and promoters during the years she ran her own Southern rap publication, Ozone Magazine.
Now she has completed an awe-inspiring longform project. Her new self-published book Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story clocks in at over 700 pages, down from 1200 in its early drafts — a length that would have put it on par with the King James Bible. It’s a biography of Chad Butler who was, with Bun B, half of the legendary Southern rap group UGK, innovators of Houston hip-hop who were best known for appearing with Jay Z on “Big Pimpin,” but whose 15-year catalog still looms large over rap no matter what region it resides.
During the five-year period that Beverly worked on this book, she discovered that Pimp C, who she had interviewed many times in and out of prison (he served time from 2002-’05 for aggravated assault) and had grown close to when he was alive, was vastly more influential than even she knew. From record empires like Cash Money and No Limit to stars such as Boosie and T.I., Pimp C was connected to so many hip-hop impresarios she likens him to a certain Footloose star.
The end result, Beverly realized, is a book that’s really a detailed historical account of a time period in all of Southern rap culture. Pimp, who died unexpectedly in 2007 due to a combination of cough medication and sleep apnea, was revered as a Southern rap icon for being hard and uncompromisingly honest. Even still, he was truly a mama’s boy. Known as “Mama Wes,” she even managed UGK and was called the group’s “backbone” by Bun B after her passing in 2013, and her crystal-clear recollections also form the backbone of Beverly’s epic book.
With more than 250 people interviewed, Beverly’s approach often paints a more vivid picture than other historical biographies by offering multiple angles and takes on the same event, such as the reactions to his death. Her multifaceted and provocative portrait of a man who was often portrayed as combative with hip-hop media and people in general is eye-opening, taking readers beyond typical flat rap star imagery and deep into the heart of what’s really an endearing story about family.
JEZEBEL: Can you believe you wrote a book that fucking big?
Julia Beverly: I really can! I mean, just the fact that it’s done is like amazing to me because I felt like I would never finish. I actually got it down to 740 pages; the rough draft was, like 1200 and my friends said, “You know, nobody is going to actually read this.” Although some people told me they would read a 1200 page book on Pimp C. I didn’t have a specific page count [in mind]; I just wanted to tell the story and however long it took was how long the book was going to be.
He had a long life! He unfortunately died young, but he had a long life. He had a lot going on and his story branched out into a lot of side stories that I thought would be of interest to readers. Even just researching for the book gave me a new understanding. I knew he was influential and all that before I started writing but I didn’t realize how really connected he was to everybody.
Basically everyone in Southern rap makes a little cameo appearance in the book one way or another. A lot of people were not just influenced by him but their careers were directly related to something he did. I was going to call it The Six Degrees of Pimp C because everybody is really connected to him, like the Kevin Bacon of Southern rap.
When did you know you wanted to write it?
After sitting down with his mom [who passed away in 2013]. I had always wanted to write a book. I don’t want to be a full-time author—I’ve just got a lot of other things going on—but I always liked to read and I felt like it would be cool to write a book. I felt that if the right topic came along that it would be something that I would be interested in doing.
I had been brainstorming about him a lot because I felt like he didn’t get the recognition that he deserved. Southern artists viewed him on a level like a Biggie or a Tupac but they had big documentaries and movies on their lives and people kind of know their stories. Whereas Pimp, people only know little bits and pieces and I felt like it wasn’t something that had been documented very well because there were a lot of things I didn’t really know, like why did he go to jail? People don’t really know that story so I thought it might be something interesting to research. When I initially had the idea, I asked Bun [B] his opinion and initially his wife was on board [Pimp C’s widow has since spoken out against the book].
I never really knew that his mom was his manager and I didn’t know how involved she was and when I went and sat down with her she was just like immediately, “Let’s do it!” She was a librarian by trade originally so she obviously had a great understanding of what it would take to write a book. Not only that, she remembered everything! When you interview people, some turn out to be more helpful than others [laughs]. Some people just see life differently, like some people will remember every detail of what he said, what he was wearing, what the expression was on your face. So when you’re writing a book about something that happened 15, 20 years ago and you have someone who was literally the backbone of the whole operation and she remembers everything, that’s like gold when you’re trying to write a book! Just talking to her and the way she remembered so clearly things involving him, she was really the reason for a lot of their success, I feel like. Sitting down with her, it was a no-brainer after that.
Do you think at that point it became your responsibility in a way?
I don’t know how to explain it but when you’re doing the right thing, when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s just going to kind of come to you and fall in place. At least for me, that’s how my career has always been. People always ask, “What’s your five year plan?” And I’ve never had one. I never intended to start a magazine, it was never a thought in my mind to become a booking agent, things just fall into place. When you follow where the universe is leading you, things are just going to work out.
Image via Ozone Magazine.