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Bun B: Still Trill

The past 12 months have brought a full range of emotions for Bun B. After laying the foundation for Southern rap for the past 15 years, Bun and his longtime partner-in-rhyme Pimp C were finally getting their just props: Their group UGK’s critically lauded double-disc Underground Kingz debuted at #1 in August, while their OutKast collaboration, “International Players Anthem,” bumped worldwide. But on December 4, 2007–just two days before the Port Arthur, TX duo was nominated for a Grammy–Pimp C was found dead in Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel.

The coroner’s office ruled that Pimp, who was just 33, died from a combination of the prescription-strength cough syrup in his system and sleep apnea.

The two had obvious differences: Pimp C was loud and flamboyant in his delivery and personal habits; like Kool G. Rap’s calmer Southern cousin, Bun B is measured in demeanor and conservative in dress, and known for calculated, machine-gun-like rhymes. Nonetheless, it was easy to imagine these two rapping together forever. When Pimp was incarcerated on assault charges from 2002 to 2005, Bun used his platform as one of rap’s most in-demand guest MCs to insert the mantra “Free Pimp C” into every last appearance.

Fortunately, after Pimp C passed, the still-grieving Bun B already had the answer to “What’s next?” in his back pocket. Recorded primarily last fall (while UGK was also sketching an Underground Kingz follow-up, which Bun says is still on its way), II Trill is the album where Bernard “Bun B” Freeman fully embraces his role as the Ice Cube of the South, or perhaps Nas’ country cousin. Though he has always spiked UGK’s Southern-fried G Funk with wisdom (see the life-affirming “One Day”) and a seething anger (take 1994’s police-brutality treatise “Protect & Serve”), Bun’s 2006 solo debut, Trill, didn’t build on these inclinations the way his highly informed interviews might have led one to hope. On II Trill’s “Get Yo Issue,” however, “Big Dick Cheney” sets his sights on crooked officers, hypocritical politicians, and perverted preachers. “If It Was Up to Me,” with its Junior Reid hook, tackles the environment and gentrification. Lest anyone think that he’s gone soft, “City of Syrup” is a classic Houston anthem, while single “Real Gangster” clocks studio thugs.

“I wanted to bring that old Rap-A-Lot sound back, and recreate the type of records that people like John Bido used to make,” Bun says, referring to the unsung producer behind the Geto Boys’ early classics. Along with Houston beatmakers like Cory Mo and Bigg Tyme, II Trill also features a collaboration with Expensive Taste, the super-group made up of Paul Wall, Skinhead Rob, and Travis Barker (“Travis and I [both] ride Cadillacs so that shit gotta bang in the trunk,” Bun says).

This interview–conducted as Bun returned home to Houston following the Grammys (where “International Player’s Anthem” was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group)–came amidst an eventful week which also included the arrival of the coroner’s report on Pimp’s death and Bun’s first live appearance (at Houston’s Warehouse Live) since his partner’s passing.

XLR8R: Did the coroner’s report on Pimp C’s death answer all of your questions?

Bun B: For me, it wasn’t about asking questions. When someone passes away you have to think about what you learned from them, and what should be taken away from it. You look at things like prescription cough syrup being one of the causes, not an overdose but obviously a contributing factor… You have to look at yourself and anything unhealthy you might be doing. When you look at Pimp and a young, talented person like Heath Ledger and take these things into perspective, maybe you just have to be a little more cautious.

When we first tried to do this interview last year, you decided to attend the Jena 6 rally in Louisiana instead of coming to New York. And you’re carving a more topical path on II Trill. Has anything specific spurred you to become more politically minded?

I’m always standing up for my community. The reality is UGK has never had any real light or attention paid to them, so it would seem a lot of what you see us do is new. Prior to [Underground Kingz] I didn’t really have a publicist. There was nobody calling anybody, saying, “Bun’s down here helping these people.” I don’t really do things for [recognition]. It’s not about that. As a human, you’ve gotta keep it one hunnid [percent] and stand up for motherfuckers that can’t stand up for themselves. People stood up for me at various times in my life. If you don’t want to do it when you’re an artist, then don’t. You ain’t always gonna be an artist but you’re always gonna be a human, and there’s always gonna be some fucked-up shit going on to your people. You’re gonna have to take a stand at some point.

What did you want to do with this album?

For lack of a better description, I wanted to get my Cube on.

What about Ice Cube do you respect?

I finally got to meet Cube [when] we did a remix [of Beyonce’s] “Soldier” together, and he was just who I thought he was. That’s something I haven’t really been able to say about a lot of people. I was able to say that about Kool G. Rap, DJ Premier, Lord Jamar. I’ve been fucking with Premier a long time. We never recorded any music together but we’re very good friends. We build on totally different issues. If the only way you build with other artists is as an artist, you ain’t learning shit.

On “Get Yo Issue,” you really go in on cops, politicians, and preachers…

I’m speaking towards the fake preachers, the fake policemen, the fake politicians. Are all of them bad? Of course not. We’d be ignorant to think that just because somebody do a certain thing for a living, they wasn’t no good. Just because he’s a cop don’t make him a bad person. Just because he’s a drug dealer don’t make him a bad person.

What inspired you to write that song?

It was when your man got caught in the bathroom in Minnesota. Senator Larry Craig. That did it. I said, “These motherfuckers are going too far with this.” It’s not just national politicians. We got people representing districts in these cities and they’re not beholden to their constituents. Because people have let this shit go on for so long, these issues are getting out of hand. I’m not trying to stand on no pulpit, by no means… but it’s easy to throw rocks when that sin isn’t associated with you. If everybody held everybody according to the worst shit they’ve ever done, we’d all be hit with rocks.

Has Barack Obama’s success given you more faith in the system?

I don’t want the assumption to be made that I support Obama. I love what Obama represents, and I love also what Hillary represents. The fact that they’re able to realistically run for office is something we should definitely be praising. I want to make sure when I put my support behind someone it is very clear, because I know a lot of people that don’t know too much about this political system are looking for me to help put them in the right direction. In the next four years there has to be improvements made in the inner cities–no ifs, ands, or buts. I’m not gonna stand behind any candidate that isn’t prepared to help us address the shit that directly affects us.

People ask you for advice on things like voting?

In the hood, it’s a reverse-psychology thing. You almost have to trick people into doing shit sometimes. I try to tell people, “That’s why shit’s fucked up here, that’s why you can’t get a job. That’s why the paint’s peeling in [your kids’] classroom. Because you ain’t used the power you got to try and change this shit.” It’s that simple. I haven’t always voted, man. I’m not gonna sit here and act holier than thou. I’ve been disillusioned like other people so I can understand their frustration. All I’ve ever done is give people the game I got. I didn’t [always] have that game.

Why is it that UGK didn’t really tour that much?

UGK used to do probably 120 shows a year, two a night sometimes. It was just in small towns that don’t get any media coverage, like Hazlehurst, Mississippi. There was an infamous club in Lafayette, Louisiana called Strawberry’s that held 2,500 people, ’til five or six in the morning. We were there every other week. People used to come from other states. I’d drive from Port Arthur to see people perform at that club. It was that insane. The whole reason UGK has the following we have in the South is we were the people that went to your town, when nobody else came. Because we were from Port Arthur, Texas–50,000 people. No one ever came to our town, feel me? We felt it was our duty to go to these [places].

You’re going to be touring behind this album, though?

Southern artists don’t tour in the formal sense. We go out and do dates. This is gonna be the first time I’ve ever [done] a genuine tour. UGK was always an organic thing. A lot of that was due to Pimp–if it wasn’t right, it wasn’t happening. Because we represented for people that don’t get second chances, you gotta be real smart and thorough about every decision. Every little decision not only affects our lives but it affects the people that we employ, the people we love, and the people we stand up for. We always tried to be real with people [and they] respected us for being human with them. We did a lot of balling but we made records like “Hi Life,” talking about the conflict of being a street cat and still having faith in God, and wondering how God’s looking upon you based on your actions. That was a reoccurring theme in our songs because that was a reoccurring theme in our life.

You’ve always called UGK country rap, but blues is probably more of an accurate description.

It’s because of our parents. It’s really that simple. We make music with the sensibility of the music we heard growing up.

What was it like to step back on the stage without Pimp?

It was probably the first time I cried on stage. It was just real. But there wasn’t many dry eyes in the room. I’m not the only person that loves Pimp C, and I know it. The crowd goes through it, too, [so] I gotta help them get through this the right way. “One Day” and “Hi Life” are powerful testimonies. I never really understood, until the last couple years, how much those records meant to people. It’s a very, very real thing.

6 comments Bun B: Still Trill

FaiZaN YoUnG PaK" RaJpUtE (not verified) Wrote

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 10:48

i LoVe Ugk,I mIss PiMp C. I nEvEr MeT yAll PeRsOn tO pErSon, BuT yOur MusIc Not oNLy hAs hAd aN iNflUncE oN mY lIfeStyLe bBiT aLso HaS maDe AlOt oF uS wHo wE ArE TrIll TaLk yA dIG

TXmami (not verified) Wrote

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 11:15

We often overlook Bun's true intellect and what he is actually capable of. My husband has been a fan of UGK for yearsand introduce to me to their music. I was immediately hooked. We have tremendous talent in Texas and Bub B is definitely a spokesperson of what the Lone Star State has to offer. He is a major influence in the rap community and I hope he continues to highlight the injustice, corruption, and give thanks to who made it possible- God. Stay up Bun. I can't wait to see you perform!

Michael Harris Jr-Bey aka BigFoo (not verified) Wrote

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 11:42

Yo Bun, i didnt get a chance to actually speake to you when you were here in dc, but my PARTNER AND ARTIST Lbo the host of Giant Steps interviewed you about 2 weeks b4 the pimp as freed. I just want to say bra that i have some trill information on some of the foul things that the Goverment has been diong to us for so long. I actually am holding on to some paperwork from the Department of Defence here in Dc down town that exsplains the whole situation on this aids epidemic and brothers like yourself and j prince who could really open up the whole African Communities eyes really needs to see this bra. I made numeruos attempts to get this information to you by waty of Bones. I even contacted him a couple of times and went up to one of the local radio stastions here 93.9 and linked him up with one of the djs so that he could get some of the new zero music in rotation. Hate to say it bun but bones be bullshittin, he sent me your rider and i went to about 4 difrent high profile clubs here in dc tryin to get you and the pimp some paper. Since we interviewed you on Giant Steps i was like man since i missed the interview personally i was gonna try to meet you by way of getting one these club owners to pay for your exspences and get you in one of these clubs. I sent a package with my music and the brother who interviewed you directly to Bones at the Rap-Alot Office and bones was to review the material and pass it on to you for me i sent packages 2 times and to no avail the brother strait faked on me. I was looking to sign with you on trill Records me and my two artist wich are like brothers to me LBOSOUTH & Blackwoodson. Check us out Bun we can make you millions bra and thats on everything i love. WWW.MYSPACE/LBOSOUTH, MYSPACE/CRADLEOFWISDOMRECORDSAMPENT THIS IS MY SIGHT. AND WWW.myspace/Blackwoodson. We bouta set Dc on fire. Back to the paper work you must see this Bra, cause with this we can honestly change this world for the better for all of our people no doubt. I will send Bones an email to his Blackberry contact him for me and let him know that i am trying to get this paperwork to you bra its from the Cooper Foundation the people who created this disease and it was administered to the African Continent Via by way of the Small Pox Vaccine in 1970. The United States population (us) was infected by way of the Hepaititus-B vaccine in 1972 and through the World Health Orginization as well as the New York Blood Bank. Its all in Black and White champ. 1-202-689-0817 MY CELL. GOD bless,and HOLLA BACK. BigFOO hOLLA BONES HE KNOWS ME IN Dc.

Michael Harris Jr-Bey aka BigFoo (not verified) Wrote

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 11:42

Yo Bun, i didnt get a chance to actually speake to you when you were here in dc, but my PARTNER AND ARTIST Lbo the host of Giant Steps interviewed you about 2 weeks b4 the pimp as freed. I just want to say bra that i have some trill information on some of the foul things that the Goverment has been diong to us for so long. I actually am holding on to some paperwork from the Department of Defence here in Dc down town that exsplains the whole situation on this aids epidemic and brothers like yourself and j prince who could really open up the whole African Communities eyes really needs to see this bra. I made numeruos attempts to get this information to you by waty of Bones. I even contacted him a couple of times and went up to one of the local radio stastions here 93.9 and linked him up with one of the djs so that he could get some of the new zero music in rotation. Hate to say it bun but bones be bullshittin, he sent me your rider and i went to about 4 difrent high profile clubs here in dc tryin to get you and the pimp some paper. Since we interviewed you on Giant Steps i was like man since i missed the interview personally i was gonna try to meet you by way of getting one these club owners to pay for your exspences and get you in one of these clubs. I sent a package with my music and the brother who interviewed you directly to Bones at the Rap-Alot Office and bones was to review the material and pass it on to you for me i sent packages 2 times and to no avail the brother strait faked on me. I was looking to sign with you on trill Records me and my two artist wich are like brothers to me LBOSOUTH & Blackwoodson. Check us out Bun we can make you millions bra and thats on everything i love. WWW.MYSPACE/LBOSOUTH, MYSPACE/CRADLEOFWISDOMRECORDSAMPENT THIS IS MY SIGHT. AND WWW.myspace/Blackwoodson. We bouta set Dc on fire. Back to the paper work you must see this Bra, cause with this we can honestly change this world for the better for all of our people no doubt. I will send Bones an email to his Blackberry contact him for me and let him know that i am trying to get this paperwork to you bra its from the Cooper Foundation the people who created this disease and it was administered to the African Continent Via by way of the Small Pox Vaccine in 1970. The United States population (us) was infected by way of the Hepaititus-B vaccine in 1972 and through the World Health Orginization as well as the New York Blood Bank. Its all in Black and White champ. 1-202-689-0817 MY CELL. GOD bless,and HOLLA BACK. BigFOO hOLLA BONES HE KNOWS ME IN Dc.

Michael Harris Jr-Bey aka BigFoo (not verified) Wrote

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 11:43

Yo Bun, i didnt get a chance to actually speake to you when you were here in dc, but my PARTNER AND ARTIST Lbo the host of Giant Steps interviewed you about 2 weeks b4 the pimp as freed. I just want to say bra that i have some trill information on some of the foul things that the Goverment has been diong to us for so long. I actually am holding on to some paperwork from the Department of Defence here in Dc down town that exsplains the whole situation on this aids epidemic and brothers like yourself and j prince who could really open up the whole African Communities eyes really needs to see this bra. I made numeruos attempts to get this information to you by waty of Bones. I even contacted him a couple of times and went up to one of the local radio stastions here 93.9 and linked him up with one of the djs so that he could get some of the new zero music in rotation. Hate to say it bun but bones be bullshittin, he sent me your rider and i went to about 4 difrent high profile clubs here in dc tryin to get you and the pimp some paper. Since we interviewed you on Giant Steps i was like man since i missed the interview personally i was gonna try to meet you by way of getting one these club owners to pay for your exspences and get you in one of these clubs. I sent a package with my music and the brother who interviewed you directly to Bones at the Rap-Alot Office and bones was to review the material and pass it on to you for me i sent packages 2 times and to no avail the brother strait faked on me. I was looking to sign with you on trill Records me and my two artist wich are like brothers to me LBOSOUTH & Blackwoodson. Check us out Bun we can make you millions bra and thats on everything i love. WWW.MYSPACE/LBOSOUTH, MYSPACE/CRADLEOFWISDOMRECORDSAMPENT THIS IS MY SIGHT. AND WWW.myspace/Blackwoodson. We bouta set Dc on fire. Back to the paper work you must see this Bra, cause with this we can honestly change this world for the better for all of our people no doubt. I will send Bones an email to his Blackberry contact him for me and let him know that i am trying to get this paperwork to you bra its from the Cooper Foundation the people who created this disease and it was administered to the African Continent Via by way of the Small Pox Vaccine in 1970. The United States population (us) was infected by way of the Hepaititus-B vaccine in 1972 and through the World Health Orginization as well as the New York Blood Bank. Its all in Black and White champ. 1-202-689-0817 MY CELL. GOD bless,and HOLLA BACK. BigFOO hOLLA BONES HE KNOWS ME IN Dc.

DJ BIGG Hank Daddy (not verified) Wrote

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 12:31

I just wanna say R.I.P. Pimp C, Much Luv to Bun B, UGK 4 Life. And I have always had tha upmost respect for Pimp & Bun almost like they were my kin because no matter what ya'll always kept it trill and represented for us in the ghettos and slums all across the world and even with Pimps passing i see you in interviews and on TV and you continue to keep it real and i will always have nothing but love and respect for ya mann. UGK 4 Life.

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