Bun B Interview
|Next Project:||UGK 4 Life (3/31)|
|Twitter:||Bun B on Twitter|
|Website:||Bun B's Website|
It’s been a little over a year and three months since December 4, 2007, the day when hip-hop lovers worldwide (including the DJBooth.net community) were shocked by the untimely death of Pimp C, the emcee/producer who formed one-half of legendary Southern rap duo UGK. Shortly after, surviving member Bun B announced his intention to cap off the UGK legacy with one last release under that moniker. With this final studio album, dedicated to the memory of his late partner-in-rhyme, Bun will prove once and for all what fans worldwide already know: though the Underground Kingz’ reign came to a tragic end, it is and always will be UGK 4 Life.
Assembled from material that was in the works at the time of Pimp C’s passing and featuring collaborations with a star-studded cast of regional greats, as well as quite a few nationally-renowned big names, UGK 4 Life is set to drop March 31st off Jive Records. If Booth-acclaimed lead single “Da Game Been Good to Me,” is any indication, the forthcoming LP is sure to be both a crowd-pleasing collection of Southern hip-hop hits and a fittingly bittersweet culmination of the twosome’s musical legacy.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Bun B steps into the Booth to discuss his feelings on being labeled a hip-hop legend, which up-and-comers have what it takes to become Southern hip-hop’s next generation of torchbearers, and his unique personal and working relationship with Pimp C.
Listen to the Interview
Bun B Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a renowned Houston emcee, who, on March 31st, will remind the world one more time, it’s always UGK 4 Life. Please welcome, for the second time in as many years, my man Bun B.
Bun B: Z, what’s good, baby?
DJ Booth: Thank you for joining me, my friend—how are you?
Bun B: I’m wonderful, man. Thanks for having me. UGK for life!
DJ booth: Last year when we spoke, we mourned the passing of Pimp C and we celebrated your Grammy nomination. It was certainly a whirlwind of a emotions in what was a very short period of time. So, approaching this release, the final UGK album ever, what is going through your mind?
Bun B: It’s just about making sure that I do justice to the legacy. Up until this point, it was always primarily Pimp C’s concern to maintain the integrity of the group—that’s the position that he chose—and now that it falls on me, I want to make sure that I do right by it the same way that he did right by it.
DJ Booth: Bun, some might say that Pimp’s passing actually elevated the UGK name to a popularity level it hadn’t seen while he was alive. What are your feelings on the swelling of support following his passing?
Bun B: Hopefully it all comes from a very genuine and real place. I myself, take no pleasure in trying to take advantage of this situation, and I will not let anyone else take any advantage of this situation. I appreciate the support, as long as it’s from a real place, but at the same time I have to be very careful, because during times like these people usually try to take advantage.
DJ Booth: Last month, Jive, your record label, held a listening session for the new album, and one of our reporters, Erica, was in attendance. In her coverage, she quoted you as saying, “This is it. It may sound very cliché, but this is still very real to me, and it may be to some of you—this is it.” So, Bun, how do you think UGK will be remembered in the game long-term?
Bun B: I think primarily UGK will be remembered as creating its own individual sound based on the production genius of Pimp C. I think lyrically, UGK will be credited with touching on a lot of the conflicts that come with living in an urban setting and dealing with a conflicting lifestyle—say, being a Christian and being a criminal, for example. There are a lot of different conflicts of morality that young people are coming up with today, and we tried to [make] sure we spoke to them, to their specific situations, and I hope that we accomplished that, and I hope we were able to give people some light at the end of the tunnel.
DJ Booth: Bun, the lead single off the album is “The Game Been Good to Me;” through all the trials and tribulations that both you and Pimp endured both separately and together, what would you say is the overpowering force that leads you back to the positive sentiment that you outlined in that record?
Bun B: God and home. If it wasn’t for our faith in God, we wouldn’t have made it this far, and if it wasn’t for the people we represent and where we represent constantly reminding us who we are and where we’re from and what we’re supposed to be doing—not checking us but keeping us in check, so to speak—it definitely had a lot to do with UGK sticking to its core base. Everyone around us, involved in the UGK situation and the UGK family, are for the most part lifelong friends. You know, I’m not the kind of person you can’t come and tell I’m wrong; I’d appreciate it if you told me I was wrong. If you’re my friend, you’re not going to see me out lookin’ like a dummy, you’re not going to let me catch a bad one that I don’t have to.
DJ Booth: Since their passing, we’ve heard respective catalogs from both 2Pac and Biggie completely emptied out. Bun, how much unheard Pimp material was not used on this album, and is still left in the can?
Bun B: I can’t tell you, ‘cause I’m not the holder of the can—the estate holds all the music. Pimp C was a very [prolific] recorder; that being said, I wasn’t around every time he recorded, so I honestly have no idea how music the estate still has.
DJ Booth: Everything on this album, though, is this stuff that you guys did together in the studio, or is it a cut-and-paste job from all his stuff across the board?
Bun B: Three of the songs were actually fully completed prior to his passing. A couple of the other ones were songs where he’d laid a verse, I’d laid a verse, and we just never went back to finish it. Every time Pimp did a beat, he wanted to lay something to it. He’d lay a beat, and then he’d have some kind of idea or theme with it. Even if he just sang a hook or laid eight bars, just so he could remember the direction he wanted the song to go in, he would do that, or we would do that. So, every song had some sort of basic structure put to it. We weren’t taking verses off one song and putting them on another song, unless we completely restructured the song, which really happened only one time.
DJ Booth: I think it’s easy for fans who follow your career to know when material was recorded with the two of you working hand in hand, and when it wasn’t. Do you feel anything off this album, to longtime UGK fans, will feel foreign because of the way it was produced, following his passing?
Bun B: No, not at all. None of the songs on this album started from a Bun B structure; everything started with at least a track and a Pimp C thought process, and it all comes from that. Keep in mind that Pimp C and I, we never really recorded everything at the same time. We weren’t the kind of people who wrote a verse, and would be like, “Yo, check out my verse,” so that I would know what to write. We didn’t do that. We knew that we had two totally different outlooks on life, but that they were pretty good complements to each other. We were talkin’ about women, for example. Pimp C and I are not attracted to the same kind of women, and we handle our situations with women differently—he’s a pimp, I’m a player; they’re two different situations. So, if we make a song about women, I know that I’m not going to say anything that he’s gonna say and vice versa, so we don’t have to check with each other for context or words or lyrics. We already know what we’re gonna talk about. He’s gonna have his viewpoint, and I’m gonna have my viewpoint. Everything’s black and white, so that’s how we tried to approach it: one of us is gonna talk from the black side, one us us will talk from the white side, and hopefully there’s no gray area.
DJ Booth: What would you attribute that wonderful chemistry to?
Bun B: Just really knowin’ each other as people, being very honest and being very real with each other, trying to lay as much on the table as humanly possible. Pimp and I were very different personalities, so there’s only so much time that we can really spend in each other’s company before we started rubbing each other the wrong way—not that we didn’t like each other; we loved each other. As men, we were very strong friends, but at the same time, personalities clash, and there’s nothing anybody can do about that. But we knew each other—we knew there were times when we should be around each other, there were times when we shouldn’t be, and we knew exactly how to balance our relationship to make sure that we remain close friends and productive musicians.
DJ Booth: You mentioned “laying it on the table;” was there anything you always wanted to get off your chest and let him know about, that you never got the opportunity to before he passed?
Bun B: No, not at all. Pimp knew everything that I didn’t like, he knew everything that I liked. There were maybe one or two things that I had to tell him. We had a long heart-to-heart a couple of days before he passed away, and got a lot of things off our respective chests—things that we already knew, but we’d never really said out loud to each other, issues that he had with me and issues that I had with him. They weren’t life-threatening, they weren’t dealbreakers, they were just some sh*t that needed to be said. Sometimes things just have to be f*ckin’ said and gotten out there. “I know it’s a spade, you know it’s a spade—we’re gonna call a spade a spade and leave it at that.”
DJ Booth: Last week, I spoke with fellow Houstonian Slim Thug, who said that there’s no denying that Houston’s rap scene isn’t as popular as it was two to three years ago, and he cited a strong release scheduled headlined by this brand new UGK album as the building back toward a return to prosperity. What is your outlook, for 2009 and beyond, for Houston rap?
Bun B: Well, I just hope that everybody collectively learns from their individual mistakes and learns that there’s more strength in numbers than with any of our individual success, and that we come back as the collective that the world assumed we were.
DJ Booth: We’re gonna take some reader questions now. The first one comes from JK Realize of Boston, Massachusetts, and he wants to know, “Bun, do you consider yourself and UGK legends?”
Bun B: JK, I’ve learned to come to terms with it. It’s not a label that I would put on myself, it’s not a label I would want to put on myself, and I hope that no one else would want to put it on themself. But, that being said, to a certain collective of people, they believe it to be a reality, and they believe in me, and it all comes from a very genuine place of love, honor, and respect, so, rather than question it and try to make a big deal out of it, I just take a slice of humble pie and swallow it.
DJ Booth: Next question comes from Janet of Hollywood, California, and she said, “Was there ever any consideration given to finding a replacement for Pimp C and continuing to record under the UGK moniker?”
Bun B: Well, obviously, Janet, you haven’t been around that long—I don’t think Janet could possibly have been a lifelong UGK fan—but just so she knows, there’s actually a clause in the UGK recording contract for jail and for death, a stipulation that, if one of the members dies, that I have an option to either add another member, or to record solo, and the same thing goes if one of us is imprisoned. I chose not to accept [either option].
DJ Booth: So, this album completes the outstanding requirements of the contract?
Bun B: Absolutely.
DJ Booth: Next question comes from iTunes Era of Seattle Washington, and he writes, “What artists do you feel are primed to carry on the musical legacy that UGK will have left on the city of Houston?”
Bun B: From a Southern aspect, the best candidates right now would be Boosie and Webbie of Baton Rouge, a Killer Mike from Atlanta, as far as the Bun B aspect, and I think a Slim Thug from Houston as far as the Pimp C aspect, with the exception that Slim Thug’s not a producer. Production-wise, I look at young people like Cory Mo, Steve Below, and Gavin Luckett, who’s Latoya Luckett’s little brother—he produced a lot of the music for the Boss Hogg Outlawz album, as well as stuff on Slim’s solo album, and he’s an incredible talent right now.
DJ Booth: So, needless to say, there’s plenty of talent going around in that neck of the woods.
Bun B: Yeah. It’s just a matter of people makin a conscious effort to accept the responsibility that comes with maintaining the integrity of Southern hip-hop—it’s not an easy job. For one, a lot of people would assume it doesn’t exist in the first place.
DJ Booth: Well, I think everybody proved that wrong a few years ago; it just needs to consistently be done from here on out. Last question from one of our readers comes from DJ HeveHitta of Le Grange, New York, and he said, “Before UGK, you were a part of the group Four Black Menacestirs. So, if you could reform a group today, who would you have join your clergy?”
Bun B: Keepin’ this purely theoretical in the sense that, of course there’s no replacement for Pimp C, ‘cause he was an original member. With the subtext that comes with that, ‘cause, keep in mind, “Ministers” was spelled “Menacestirs,” in the sense of “stirring menace,” so to speak, it would be, probably a person like Z-Ro, probably Big Tuck from Dallas, and Killer Mike.
DJ Booth: That’s a nice fearsome foursome. Bun, give everybody a website, a MySpace page, something so they can find out more about, of course, the new album UGK 4 Life, something that everybody needs to pick up.
Bun B: They need to go right now to the MySpace page for UGK; it’s myspace.com/ugk. You can also go to myspace.com/bunbofugk and myspace.com/pimpcofugk. There’s also the UGK website through jiverecords.com, the-ugks.com.
DJ Booth: Well, if they don’t get their fill all over the web, on all those websites, they can certainly check your music out on DJBooth.net. Bun, it’s always a pleasure to have you join me inside the DJ Booth for an interview, and I hope to have many, many more.
Bun B: Z, thank you for always bein’ the person that asks real questions that people want to hear, and who literally gives the people the opportunity to ask the questions they want to [ask]. It’s always a pleasure talkin’ to you, man. UGK for life, long live Pimp C, new album in stores March 31st. God bless you, good night.