The truest trill O.G. Bun B reflects with VIBE on the ups and downs of his storied career. —Clover Hope
VIBE: You’ve said that you’re still pretty green as a solo artist. What have you learned being a solo artist versus recording with Pimp C?
Bun B: A lot of days I’m writing. When you’re a solo artist the responsibility of every song falls on your back and UGK we used to be able to split the difference so to speak. I have to make sure that every idea on the album is something that I personally believe in. It’s not just doing shit just to be doing shit… not just putting people on the album just to put them on the album. Shit gotta make sense. And just really carrying the whole thing on your shoulders. It takes a little bit more confidence.
What solo artists have you learned from the most?
Definitely people like LL Cool J. He had a long career, been able to adjust with the times. People like, of course, Jay-Z. Jay created a movement that’s real to him and still makes sense to the masses. Definitely Scarface. These guys knew how to tell stories and draw people into a world, create a world and draw people into it. And probably Nas just trying to break through over the years. He’s maintained lyrical dexterity.
How do you approach your own lyricism? You mentioned drawing people into a world. Is that how you envision it?
My thing is a little bit more reality based. The first thing I do is put people in a very comfortable place because people not gon' talk to you if they all uptight and edgy. They not gon' really sit back and listen to what you trying to say, and you want the album to really be able to reflect certain parts of their day and certain parts of their life. Your album can’t just make sense if they’re riding around in an expensive car. Your album can’t just make sense if they’re in the club. It’s gotta make sense at the crib. It’s gotta make sense when you listen to it by yourself as opposed to with a bunch of people. It’s gotta make sense to you just as much high as it does when you’re sober.
What’s your most personal rhyme or song?
Probably “The Story,” which is basically telling the story of UGK until Pimp C’s release from prison. I pretty much told everything the way I thought, the way I remembered.
UGK has always been low key veterans where you have people’s respect but the average rap fan might not be familiar. Does that make you feel a certain way?
Nah, I make my music for the people that know about us and the people that even if you don’t know about us you hear it. I did a song with Drake and it’s not like, “Okay we need to do a song with Drake. We need to make a big push.” We try to make music that makes sense. That’s the best thing you can do. You don’t want people sitting around all day trying to figure out what the hell you’re talking about.
You’ve endorsed Drake in a major way and he’s maybe put some young people on to your music. What do you see in him that makes you want to support him?
The hunger and the passion for what he’s doing. It’s still all very new to him so he’s really trying to embrace as much of it as he can without taking on too much too early. There’s just so many great opportunities available for him. He’s really just trying to make as much good music as he can. I just try to make sure that he doesn’t overwhelm himself. But when I see him, it reminds me of when I was coming in the game and how hungry I was and how ready I was to just attack and be heard and be seen and be known and let people realize my movement and that it’s not superficial. It’s something real. So I understand that kind of intensity. I see it in his eyes and I remember that look when I used to see the look in my eyes when I looked in the mirror in the morning. I still have that kind of hunger and passion. I think that’s why we make the kind of records we make, too.
Some older artists or people with a lot of experience lose that hunger. So how do you keep it?