INTERVIEW: Bun B discusses his legacy, UGK, DJ Screw and keeping things trill
by Marcus K. Dowling
“People always say that Southern people are slow, inarticulate and unintelligent. I know that’s not the case.”
– Bun B
“The one stereotype I always wanted to combat was dealing with lyricism. People always say that Southern people are slow, inarticulate and unintelligent. I know that’s not the case, so I wanted to show that the stereotype was untrue.” With nearly 25 years in the game, hip hop stalwart and Port Arthur, Texas native Bun B has impressed a sizable footprint on hip hop history. Known initially for his work with the deceased Pimp C in legendary Texas duo U GK, as a solo artist he has added to his legacy by having 2010 album Trill OG receive Source Magazine’s vaunted and perfect “five mics” rating, as well as being a frequent guest professor for Rice University. Clearly a busy man, he was at suburban DC concert locale Fillmore Silver Spring for the Nation’s Capital’s edition of the eight-city Red Bull sponsored “EmSee” competition on Monday evening.
“I suppose that my longevity has everything to do with the fact that my style of rapping has always remained relevant,” says the “Trill OG.” “Throughout the history of rap, there have been many emcees who reach a point where the fans don’t want to hear their message, and they become irrelevant. Whether it was with Pimp C, working with Jay Z, or anything I’ve done, I’ve always been blessed with someone, somewhere finding my message important.” Regarding relevancy, the Southern pioneer continues, “my son is a rapper now, and I have East and West Coast divisions of my business brand, so the message will continue for generations to come.”
Reflecting on his past, especially time spent with dynamic and iconic producer DJ Screw provided a deeper glimpse into the passionate drive of Southern rap from a heavily localized to now internationally powerful concept. “It was always screw music at DJ Screw’s crib. He was always busy, always working on productions and on the mixtapes. You’d come over, and he might pull you aside and say, ‘wait until I mix this one down and master it, it’s for you!’ Literally, it was like he’d finish one mixtape, then send it to the garage to be duplicated, packaged and shipped out. You’d have a people ordering two and three copies of the same mixtape because they were the ‘screw tape dude’ in their neighborhood, and distribution would be huge.” Bun B fondly continues, “Screw was into a lot of the West Coast underground as well, mainly (Ice Cube associate) K-Gee and Above the Law, those groups were major to him.”
With nearly a quarter-century in the game, Bun B’s most important contribution to hip-hop culture is the introduction and verbal proliferation of the word “trill.” When asked to reflect on the meaning of the word then and now, it was a telling moment. “Trill has always been about keeping things real. If I can’t still keep it 100 with the people that I was raised with, then I’m doing something wrong. Back in the day, it was our way of letting people know that something we were doing was dope. I think it still definitely has the same definition now. I was trill back then, and I’ll always be trill. I don’t think I know how to be any other way.”