When UGK made their 1992 debut with Too Hard to Swallow, few hip-hop fans and critics would have guessed that the two-fisted Port Arthur, Texas duo of Bun B and Pimp C would go on to become one of the South’s most influential players. Nearly two decades later, the well-respected Bernard Freeman continues to carry on the group’s legacy as bonafied icons in an era where longevity is fleeting. Bun B’s third solo album Trill O.G. (due out August 3) is smart, dignified street music for the masses; a grounded, mature work that features his late partner Pimp C as well as Young Jeezy, Drake, Raekwon and the larger-than-life rap martyr 2Pac. Here, the always-candid Bun speaks his mind on everything from his legacy as an MC and—more importantly—a man, to why hating Drake has become corny. —Keith Murphy
VIBE: You are now on your third solo album. Was it easier to work on Trill O.G. given that II Trill was recorded after your partner Pimp C’s 2007 untimely death?
Bun B: Yes it was. II Trill was a very taxing process emotionally and physically. I was in a very weird place. I was trying to use the music as a way to work through it, so it’s a lot easier now and a lot clearer. With this new album, we were able to have a bigger impact artistically. We were able to make sure to get the right music and make sure we were talking about the right things. I’m one of the cats that the youngsters in hip-hop are following and taking lead from. So I have to make sure I’m sending them in the right direction.
You are indeed one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen yet you are still able to connect artistically with some of the younger MC’s like Drake, Lupe Fiasco, and Kid Cudi. Why is that?
To be honest, I was Drake. I was the rest of those guys. I was in the same predicament in terms of being a new artist. I was involved in a bidding war when we first came out independently. Labels were calling us and inviting us to meetings. But we were able to work it out in terms of UGK’s legacy and longevity. And we have inspired a lot of cats. I definitely get calls from up-and-coming artists about how to stick around for a while. I feel like some of these cats could use a little direction.
I had this same conversation with The Roots' Questlove. What do you say to the critics of Drake who claim that he’s not making real hip-hop because he sings?
I don’t know what they are talking about personally because if you are saying that then that means you are trying to say that people like T.J. Swan, Slick Rick and Biz Markie are not hip-hop. Come on… all of those guys sung on their songs. Singing in hip-hop is nothing new. We’ve always had people that incorporated singing in their raps. And believe me, if MC’s could sing, they wouldn’t get singers to sing on their albums.
I think that’s a no-brainer…
I’m telling you real shit. The thing about what we do is you have to be built for the criticism because regardless of how good a person you are or how positive your movement is or how great your music is, there are still people who are going to hate because they don’t want to like what everyone else likes. We should all want to be different. But you shouldn’t just hate on something just because it’s popular. There’s nothing real about that. Everybody wants to be liked for something. I don’t know anyone who sits around and doesn’t want anyone to like them. What kind of life is that to live?
A lot of fans were surprised to see you have a song with 2Pac on Trill O.G. (“Right Now”). Did you get the chance to meet him before his death?