Bun B Interview
|Next Project:||II Trill|
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Years of research has been done on the connection between the sensations of pleasure and pain. For rapper Bun B of the legendary Houston rap duo UGK, the contrasting feelings of sheer joy and absolute sorrow met one another on December 6th of last year.
Just two days after the tragically unexpected passing of Bun’s rhyme partner, Chad “Pimp C” Butler, the Grammy nominations for this year’s 50th annual show were announced. For the first time in their 16 year recording career, UGK was nominated for an award.
This spring Bun will release his second solo project, “II Trill,” which will include a dedication track to his fallen brethren and a plethora of songs which focus on the social ills that are currently plaguing our society.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Bun B steps into the booth to talk about contemplating retirement, his decision to continue recording in honor of the late Pimp C, and why the concept of ‘gangsta’ is not defined by an image.
Listen to the Interview
Bun B Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one half of the Hip Hop Hall of Fame-worthy duo, UGK. Please welcome the trillest man I know, Bun B.
Bun B: Hey, hey, what’s goin’ on, Z.
DJ Booth: I’m tryin’ to brave the cold and the mountains of snow in Chicago. I take it you don’t have the same problem in Texas?
Bun B: Oh, no, no, no, no… First of all, before we get started, I definitely want to say R.I.P. Pimp C, UGK for life, so the haters don’t get it twisted. In Houston it’s a beautiful day. It’s sunny right now, its seventy-three degrees.
DJ Booth: That is certainly nice. Don’t talk about it any more – I’m gonna get jealous here. Less than three months ago, of course, R.I.P., Pimp C passed away. While beginning the grieving process, Bun, did you contemplate retiring from rap and walking away from the music scene?
Bun B: Somewhat, yeah. I wasn’t sure exactly if this was something I wanted to do. It didn’t take long for me to realize that not only was it something that I wanted; it’s something I need to do. This has always been the best outlet to let the people know exactly what goin’ on what the movement is. It’s the same way we kept awareness up with the Free Pimp C movement, we’ll definitely do the same thing, definitely gonna let people know what he meant to us and what it was he did and what he stood for. And, just continue to hold our homie in high regard.
DJ Booth: Pimp’s passing came two days before it was announced that UGK had received a Grammy nomination, which, by the way, congratulations. After being informed of the tremendous accolade, walk me through your immediate thoughts of the timing…
Bun B: I got the call from Jeff Sledge, who is vice president over at Jive Records, and he was kinda like the same way I was. It was bittersweet for him, it was something that he knew, like I, that Chad had always said would happened, which made it even more bittersweet. Not just the fact that we got nominated, but this was something that back in ‘92, when we first signed to this label, when we first started talkin’ about putting an album out across the country, he was always adamant that we would bring home a Grammy at some point. I don’t think any of us took it that seriously; as a company they didn’t understand the group or the music. And even myself as an artist, I knew that we would have some people support it or like it, but, you know, Grammys – that’s a whole ‘nother level. It’s really not people we deal with like that. But, sure enough, sure enough…
DJ Booth: It happened.
Bun B: Absolutely.
DJ Booth: Obviously a nomination is wonderful, but if UGK is victorious in the category of best rap performance by a duo or group, for what I consider now a classic hit, “International Player’s Anthem,” what will that mean in terms of career achievement, not only for you but for UGK?
Bun B: We’ve always defined ourselves based on our relationship with the streets, never by following the status quo, or media, or the powers that be. At the same time, you definitely want people at some point or another to at least like it, or if they don’t wanna like it, they had to respect it, you know? To me, that’s what this Grammy nomination says, is that, “Hey, we may not be crazy about you guys, what you talk about, of how you do it, but we do recognize that you guys are making an impact somewhere based on what you’re doin’ and how you’re doin’ it.”
DJ Booth: No better sign of respect than to get a nomination for a category as illustrious as Best Performance. Artists typically thank everyone under the sun when they come to the stage to accept an award, but if you could thank Chad for one thing that he did to help turn you into the man that you are today, what would that be?
Bun B: Probably confidence. A person being confident in himself can sometimes be mistaken as arrogance, especially if people can’t see that far ahead as the artist can see. That was something that I got to learn from Chad, that if we’re not confident about what we’re doing, and if we don’t already take the lead that we the sh*t, it’s just that they gotta catch up – if you don’t think you’re the sh*t, nobody else will, Z, you know?
DJ Booth: Definitely.
Bun B: It’s definitely something that you hear all the time, but UGK, we actually lived that confidence. There were a lot of times when I just didn’t think it would happen, based on what had happened before us, and Pimp’s whole thing was like, “Man, we gotta believe.” Somebody gotta kick these doors down eventually and it just so happened that we were able to do that.
DJ Booth: Exactly. I know that Chad never had a problem feeling confident no matter what he was saying or what he was wearing. In his honor, do you plan to switch up your clothing style, maybe wear a large chinchilla coat and a few pinkie rings to the awards ceremony on Sunday?
Bun B: Uhhh naw, I’m probably not gonna take it that far. I don’t have to dress like Chad for people to know I’m standin’ up for him. But, every now and then, you may feel a little Chad come out of me, but I probably won’t take it that far. You will see me pullin’ out the Dickies a lot more. That definitely will personify UGK.
DJ Booth: UGK has always been a trend-setting group, so nothing should change now. Your upcoming album, “II Trill,” is said to touch on a number of political and social issues, and, as we both know, our government has a different agenda than that of the people, so what are two or three of the most important issues, that need the attention of whoever our next chosen leader is?
Bun B: Well, I think the first problem that we have right now is lack of education. We aren’t paying our teachers enough. We aren’t funding the schools that need the right funding. The money’s going to all the wrong places. And there’s no after-school programs to make kids wanna go to school; there’s nothing to drive kids to school. So I think the government is definitely lacking on that. If they don’t have answers, they’re not askin’ anybody for any help on it, so it’s like the community is taking it upon itself to help educate itself. Secondly, the HIV and AIDS epidemic in America, especially in the African-American community. It’s just ridiculous – it’s getting out of hand. And they’ve done some things, we’re definitely very happy about what they’ve done, but they definitely could be doin’ more. Then, three, these war issues – what’s the underlying factor to why these people are so adamant about stayin’ in this war? And no only that, but possibly gettin’ into another issue, some other conflict. We got stateside sh*t that needs to be addressed: gentrification of entire communities, and a whole generation that needs to be spoken to, and needs to be heard, and needs to be helped!
DJ Booth: Let’s go back to the first point you made that you’d like to see changed, and that’s the incentives that need to be made so that children stay in school. Think back to when you were growing up and you were being educated – what would’ve changed the way that you perceived the education system? What would’ve helped you continue your education?
Bun B: We had teachers that cared. A lot of the people that are teachin’ – with no respect to our teachers in America, because they’re doin’ a job that doesn’t pay a lot of money at all, and they don’t get any respect or any love for it – but at the same time, a lot of the teachers that we have that are in the workforce right now, are merely teaching to pay off student loans and debt. That, to me, in itself is a problem. We need teachers in schools that want to teach. And, two, make things available. The concepts which we hit these kids with at school carry into the home, so we’ve definitely got to help with community outreach, which goes into it, and after school programs. In different communities in the cities, we’ve got more alternative schools than we’ve got just normal public schools. And the alternative schools, man, are just like a blueprint for prison. ‘Cause you go in there, they got dogs in that motherf*cker, they got a big-ass gate with barbed wire on top of it, metal detectors, police, you know what I’m sayin’? No kind of activities, none of that sh*t, so what are they gonna do?
DJ Booth: Bun, do you think that when artists take on political and social issues, that are sometimes taboo in the way that they’re perceived through the public eye, that it will seem as though you’re getting preachy?
Bun B: No. Here’s the thing, man: anybody that thinks I’m bein’ preachy about sh*t is an ignorant motherf*cker, so I’m not tryin’ to talk to them anyway. It don’t matter if you’re twenty-five or twenty-six, you’re in the hood and you already made the decision that you’re gonna educate yourself or you wanna be ignorant. Let’s say that you did wanna get the education, but it wasn’t available, and you didn’t have the support, and the opportunity, you feel like it’s passed you by, what about your children, man? At the end of the day, we all need corners or whatever, and that’s gonna be what it is, but we can’t have the world so that all our children end up on the corner. We’re supposed to be hustlin’ to make this world better, if we are gonna hustle.
DJ Booth: I agree. Let’s focus on the material here on the new album. Obviously the bulk of it was recorded prior to Chad’s death, so how much of the final cut will be cataloged material, and how much will be newly recorded?
Bun B: Really, the only song that’s gonna be newly recorded, of course, is a dedication track for Pimp, and then a song for the ladies, ‘cause that was a song that Pimp was gonna help me do—he’s never had trouble making songs and music for the ladies. Thankfully, the message that I was trying to get across prior to Pimp’s passing is actually even more important. There’s no need for me to go in and re-do songs, and scrap songs. We probably scrapped maybe one song. UGK has always told the truth about everything, especially as far as what was goin’ on in the hood. We’re gonna talk about these politicians, these fake preachers, these fake-ass policemen, we gonna talk about the government, in certain instances we’re gonna talk about ourselves, and how we’re trippin’, and sh*t that we need to do right. Definitely one problem I see in the hood right now is that nobody’s checkin the n*ggas they need to be checkin’. Let me say this now, while my voice is being heard: when I say snitches, I’m talkin’ about criminals snitchin’ on criminals. I’m not talkin’ about common folks. There are rules to the street that don’t apply to the common man. I’m talkin’ about criminals doin’ crimes, gettin’ caught doin’ their crime, scared to go to jail for doin’ their crime, so they tell on anybody and everybody they can so they don’t have to do their time. Then the other people are, for whatever reason, gettin’ away with whatever they’re gettin’ away with. Now, if you wanna tell on somebody, tell on one of your serial killers, tell on one of your child-touchers, or some sh*t like that, if you feel you’ve got to tell on some-goddamn-body. Otherwise, take your goddamn time and go about your business. That’s what happens: it’s a lot of n*ggas that’s hustlin’ that ain’t supposed to be hustlin’ in the first place, so when they get caught, they ain’t ready for the ramifications of the sh*t, and they tell on people. We should’ve weeded these motherf*ckers out of the system years ago!
DJ Booth: Let’s go back to the message that you’re tryin’ to make. It’s clear that it’s gonna be done through an avenue which will target a larger audience than it was reaching before, and that’s what’s most important. Lead single on the album is, “That’s Gangsta,” featuring Sean Kingston, produced by Jonathan J.R. Rotem. Depending on where someone’s from, Bun, the definition of the word “gangsta” changes slightly, so how do you define the word “gangsta” and the image that is portrayed through the concept?
Bun B: The key to the song is the fact that we’re tryin’ to explain, not so much what “gangsta” is, but what “gangsta” ain’t. People think “gangsta” is defined by certain things, like a chain, watch, ring or an outfit, or shoes, or a rag or whatever – just givin’ you one of these items doesn’t make you a gangsta. If you think it is, then you have no idea what “gangsta” is. Being gangsta is goin’ against what’s popular in order to do what you gotta do, and bein’ gangsta is not always something that’s in a negative connotation. If your mama had five children, and four of ‘em went to prison, but you decided you wasn’t goin’ to prison, you was goin’ to college and gettin’ a good job – gangsta.
DJ Booth: A positive spin on a word that, for almost two decades now, had had a very negative connotation…
Bun B: I’m not gonna say that all connotations are peachy-keen, but, just being real about it, there’s a lot of people that wanna be gangstas, but if they really knew what it was to be gangsta, they would realize they weren’t, and they would realize that what they thought was gangsta wasn’t.
DJ Booth: Let’s go back for a second; I’m gonna take you way back. Before your ‘92 release, “Hard to Swallow,” UGK dropped an independent project that was released during the “cassette era.” When you think back to that period in music, what is one thing you wish still existed today, that was prevalent then?
Bun B: Probably just the hunt. If you were really into music, you had to prove it, back in the day, if you was about your music. You had to get out there, you had to call people, you had to have some cousin record some stuff and send it to you. If you lived on the South Side, you might have to go to the North Side, or Southwest or whatever. It used to be a hunt to get your hands on that good music. Now it’s just a lot of Googling and Limewire-ing, and sh*t like that. At one point, it does help, but at the same time, the respect for the hunt, and the respect for, I think to a certain extent, music, is bein’ lost. Hell, I’m a recording artist, I would love for people to buy my music, you know what I’m saying? But if I sat here and acted like I didn’t download somebody’s song from zSHARE at one point or another, I’d be a lying motherf*cker. And I think a lot of artists would be. We’re all checking for new music; that’s kind of why we all do this sh*t. Most of us started as fans. I don’t know one rapper that went from not even f*cking with rap to writing rhymes.
DJ Booth: Bun, give everybody a website or a Myspace page so they can find out more about this upcoming release, “II Trill.”
DJ Booth: Nothing but the best of luck with your upcoming album and all of your endeavors in 2008, and I thank you for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, Bun.
Bun B: No, I wanna tank you, man. I really appreciate the love that you’ve shown me today, not to mention your support, and all the people out there that are listening right now that supported Bun B, Pimp C, and UGK over years, and we hope that you continue to support this movement. We’re definitely gonna continue to keep Pimp C’s name alive, continue to honor the legacy of Pimp C as well as UGK, and continue to keep this Trill movement out there, and keep puttin’ it in your face. Thank you for having me in the booth, Z.