As one of the pioneers of Houston’s burgeoning rap scene, Bun B feels a responsibility to unite all the city’s often beefing players.
So it was no surprise that he invited all the city’s heavy-hitters to appear on a remix of “Draped Up,” the first single off his solo debut, “Trill,” which comes out Tuesday.
What is surprising is to hear feuding rappers like Slim Thug and Lil’ Flip, or Chamillionaire and Paul Wall, come together on the same track to support one of the South’s most influential MCs.
“Whatever problems people had they didn’t bring it to my song,” said Bun B, one half of the rap group Underground Kingz. “They was just like, ‘We know what you trying to do and it’s going to make us all look good.’ It’s not about me. It’s about Houston and keeping Houston on the map.”
The song takes a cue from the hit single “Still Tippin”’ also featuring a screwed hook, this one by underground star Lil’ Keke. The remix includes Z-Ro, recent Roc-A-Fella signee Aztek Escobar and the platinum-selling Mike Jones.
‘A legend in the game’Slim Thug said he got on the song despite beefs with Flip and Z-Ro because of Bun B’s constant support: “He been a legend in the game. He’s somebody everybody respect. Nobody ain’t going to tell Bun B no because he showed so much love to us young dudes.”
Expectations for the album are high after the Port Arthur native, who now calls Houston home, has guest starred on about a half dozen top-selling albums while awaiting the expected December prison release of his UGK partner Pimp C.
Long revered for his witty, complex lyrics and bellowing baritone, Bun B, born Bernard Freeman, has increased his profile for the past three years despite his bandmate’s incarceration, recently appearing on albums from everyone by Beanie Siegel to the Ying Yang Twins.
“People say out of sight out of mind, and I didn’t want people to forget about Pimp C and I definitely didn’t want people to forget about UGK,” he said. “It was all just really to let them know that we’re still here and I’m still reppin’ for him.”
Aside from the Houston cameos, the 17-track album features a coterie of Southern stars such as Ludacris, T.I., Young Jeezy, Juvenile and the Ying Yang Twins, plus a taste of the other two coasts from Jay Z and Too $hort.
Overwhelmed by the praiseUGK has sold more than 1 million records since 1992. Celebrated regionally but largely unheard of elsewhere, they made their first national splash on Jay Z’s 1999 hit “Big Pimpin.”’
The 32-year-old Bun B, who has been rapping since most of the new crop of Houston lyricists were in junior high, is enjoying a renaissance of sorts as Houston continues to gain notoriety as the new capital of Southern rap.
He will be the face of a throwback Reebok shoe that will be unveiled in Houston during the 2006 NBA All-Star game, and is working with Damon Dash on a Pro-Keds shoe line. Heady stuff for a man who has spent most of his career doing small club shows and commanding little radio play.
Modest and unassuming, Bun B, seems overwhelmed at the credit he’s received as an influence to some of today’s top-selling artists.
“I feel lucky every day when I wake up and people still like the music,” he said. “People that have taken our music to heart like that and to build off of it and prosper and make a career out of what I’ve done really is an honor.”
He said the project was challenging because Pimp C had almost single-handedly produced all the UGK records. Bun B produced much of “Trill,” with help from musicians including Mannie Fresh and Jazze Pha.
Bun B said being away from Pimp C for the almost three years he’s been in prison on an aggravated assault charge has been difficult. He is rarely seen without a “Free Pimp C” T-shirt or baseball cap and every other scene of the “Draped Up” video shows groups of people in similar shirts.
“We will definitely do more music,” he said. “I expect it to be bigger and better than ever before.”