In Death, We Are All the Same

We smirked a little when we saw that the Times had juxtaposed the obituaries of renowned author and critic Elizabeth Hardwick and Pimp C, the seminal hip-hop artist. Could two people be more different?, we thought. But when we looked a little closer at the defining facts of their lives, we realized that actually, Pimp C and Elizabeth Hardwick are kind of the same! Well, they’re not unalike. For instance:

They Had Straightforward Styles That Helped Them Define Their Genres
• Hardwick was “credited with expanding the possibilities of the literary essay, through her intimate tone and forceful logic.”
• Pimp C “helped define Southern hip-hop, with his thoughtful but unapologetic rhymes about Southern street life.”

They Represented an Era
• Hardwick and her husband, Robert Lowell, were, along with some other authors, “among the last of an era of rambunctious intellectuals.”
• Pimp C, along with his UGK bandmate, became “godfathers of the Houston hip-hop scene.”

They Rubbed Shoulders With Legends
• On her “nightly searches for good jazz in the clubs on West 52nd Street,” Hardwick “got to know, among others, Billie Holiday.”
• Pimp C and UGK’s “biggest moment came in 2000, when Jay-Z invited both rappers to contribute rhymes to ‘Big Pimpin,’ one of his biggest hits.”

They Were Tough Yet Sensitive
• Hardwick is described by the Times as “a Blanche Dubois with a steely will.”
• Pimp C’s “matched vivid lyrics about the crack-cocaine trade with a leisurely but tough-sounding beat.”

Their Passion Sometimes Made Them Difficult
• Hardwick and her husband had a “publicly turbulent marriage.”
• Pimp C’s “entanglements with the law sometimes stymied UGK’s career. In 2002 he was sentenced for a probation violation stemming from an assault charge.”

Their Freewheeling Lives Informed Their Prose
• In her semi-autobiographical novel, Sleepless Nights, Hardwick wrote that her “bohemian life” was signified by “love and alcohol and the clothes on the floor.”
• On UGK’s Underground Kingz Pimp C wrote about his “hard-knock life.” “Dear Lord,” he said, “I know you don’t condone the things I be doing out here in these streets. I hope that, I pray that you can overlook the wrong that I done in my life.”

They Loved Their Work
• “Ms. Hardwick worked productively until late in life.”
• “Pimp C’s rhymes remained meticulous to the end.”

Elizabeth Hardwick, 91 [NYT]
Pimp C, 33 [NYT]

In Death, We Are All the Same