Out of the myriad of would-be stars that have come into hip hop with Harold Minor-like expectations of greatness and longevity, few make it past the first album cycle and even fewer elevate their status in the game higher each time around. But Bun B is not your typical MC and never has been.
As one of Houston, Texas's elder statesmen, Bun (along with his late partner in rhyme Pimp C) helped bring the Lone Star State to the forefront of rap. But unlike many veterans who slowly decline as their 30s progress, Bun’s relevance is at an all-time high, and with his critically acclaimed solo work (2010’s Trill O.G. was the first album to receive five mics in The Source in five years) to his role as a guest lecturer at Rice University, the 41-year-old rhymer does not look to be slowing down anytime soon.
BET.com caught up with the H-Town veteran after his high energy set on the Murs 316 Stage at the Sunset Strip Music Festival where he shared his thoughts on Texas's “Neon Icon” Riff Raff, the relationship between hip hop’s rookies and veterans and the best decision UGK ever made.
BET.com: Fellow Texan Riff Raff performed right before you. What was your initial impression of him and what do you think of him now?
Bun B: I wasn’t really sure at first but I try not to judge people. I figure give it a little time and see what the people think, because it ain’t about what I think, it’s about what the people think, and the people respond to it, they love it. If they love it, I love it.
Before mixtapes were a big part of hip hop, UGK’s Trill Azz Mixes was one of the first ones that really was considered album quality. Do you think that had an influence on how a lot of mixtapes are done today?
Well, I mean it was one of the, probably, the first big southern blend mixtapes. New York was the main place that blend tapes were big. Down South that wasn’t really a thing but Trill Azz Mixes was something really different and I think a lot of people responded to it. I think people gravitated towards the fact that we weren’t scared to put ourselves with other people’s music. We had love for a lot of people so that was always just showing love. So we got with DJ Wiz from Nashville, who had been doing a lot of great mixtapes, and we went to him like, “Yo, we wanna do something that’s different from what most people from where we’re at are doing,” and Trill Azz Mixes was the result.
People often talk about regrets, but going the opposite way, what do you hold as the best move you made in your career?
Probably the “Big Pimpin’” collaboration with Jay Z because he wasn’t a person that we knew personally. He was somebody that just kinda reached out to us. The first time he reached out —actually a lot of people don’t know this — he reached out to Pimp C to be on [“A Week Ago”] but that didn’t happen. So we were very surprised when the call came back around for another song, you know what I’m saying? It was probably the biggest chance that we took in our career but it ended up being the biggest payoff as well.
You got a lot of young talent coming out of your home city. How do you feel about the current state of H-Town?
I feel pretty good about the future of Houston. We’re getting back to lyricism, which is really the earliest foundation of hip hop in Houston. A lot of people who aren’t from Houston would probably connect us more so with the [DJ] Screw sound than anything else, but before the Screw sound was even set up, the early stage of hip hop in Houston — the Rap-a-Lot Record days — were built on lyricism. We don’t wanna be leaning on people’s legacy. We got a lot of love for DJ Screw but we don’t need to be leaning on his legacy. People need to start building their own legacies and standing on their own two feet. So hopefully the next generation will keep up the same work ethic that they had 'cause they’re working hard paying respect to the OGs and legends but also trying to build a new and improved sound in H-Town.
Speaking of paying respect to the OGs, do you feel this younger generation of MCs does a good enough job of giving props to their predecessors?
Look, young people have to respect older people, but at the same time older people have to respect themselves. We can’t keep turning our back and s--tting on the next generation just because they don’t do what we do and they don’t sound like we sound. We gotta show them love and support them and make sure that they get through this game with some knowledge and somebody can come through and be a mentor to them because people looked out for us. My sound wasn’t a popular sound when I came out, but I had people like Too Short, I had people like E-40, I had people like James Prince that came out and supported me. So we need to support the next generation. We need to stand behind them and at least give them some kind of tutelage and business knowledge about the game and not just let them sit out there like sheep waiting for the wolves to attack.
You’ve worked with a lot of younger artists. Is there anything you’ve learned from them?
Absolutely. The younger generation have shown us how to take advantage of social media. They’ve been great at capitalizing off of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, all these different entities that exist out there. These kids are really showing us how to maximize those things 'cause we come from a different generation and a different way of promoting ourselves. It’s always good to be able to step back and learn from someone. You can’t think that just 'cause you been there for so long that you know everything, 'cause the game is constantly evolving and the young people understand that a lot better than us.
Lastly, of all the wild nights you’ve had and people you’ve hung out with, who parties the hardest?
Nobody parties harder than Pimp C. We’ll save all stories for the book.
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(Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)