Bun B Biography
Until recently, there were only a few MC’s from Texas who would get any sort of shine outside the borders of their nation-sized republic. Few meaning three. One of course would be Scarface, who with his group the Geto Boys laid the initial foundation for the phenomenon that is southern rap. Two would have to be Devin the Dude, a laid back artist who crossed over to the edge of the mainstream with his work with Dr. Dre, De La Soul and The Roots. And three would have to be UGK, the group that inspired an entire region to take the rap game seriously.
Before UGK hit the scene in the early 90’s, the pickins were slim for folks looking for authentic hip-hop in the south. The southeast was overtaken with party rockin’ booty music, Texas was known for the Geto Boys almost exclusively and the bounce scene in Louisiana hadn’t yet been noticed nationally.
Hailing from Port Arthur, Texas, the Underground Kings, UGK for short, brought the major labels to the state back in the summer of 1991. Rappers Bun B and Pimp C – who also handled the production for the duo and set all new standards for beatmaking in the south – had been dabbling in the rap game in other groups throughout the 80’s. However when they clicked up, they created a sound so powerful that the entire music industry had to listen.
“We had labels that like, aren’t even around anymore,” Bun B explains from his new home on the south side of Houston, “like Select Records, Priority Records, we had all the labels calling for us at that time. Our first tape sold 40-50,000 copies independently, and there wasn’t even a movement for that type of shit. We were selling gangsta music independently. So the labels had their little bidding war going on, and we played hardball with all of them until Jive came with what seemed like the best deal.”
Their first tape, The Southern Way contained the monster hit, “Tell Me Something Good,” that borrowed heavily from the Rufus and Chaka Khan hit of the same name. That single, released by Russell Washington’s Big Tyme Records – a label and also a record shop in Houston’s King’s Flea Market – was first heard on a Houston radio contest called Houston Home Jams. Over the course of two weeks, the song dominated the contest, but UGK was disqualified when their label began pressing up the single and selling it.
“But people kept calling the station to hear the song again,” Bun continues, “and 97.9 the Box added it. The rest is history.”
Upon signing to Jive it looked as though UGK were about to run the rap game. But at the time, as much as the major labels wanted to cash in on the potential of rap music coming from the south, they really didn’t respect anything that wasn’t from New York or Los Angeles.
“I think they thought we were good doing what we were,” Bun remembers, “but it was best to not spend a lot of money on it because it probably wasn’t gonna break. That whole thing was based upon assumptions and the fact that we were asking, ‘Why don’t we do promo in New York? Why don’t we do promo in LA?’ They’d say ‘New York is not gonna buy your stuff anyway and in LA they don’t like guys like that and blah blah blah.’”
Oh how times have changed. While UGK may have never gotten the respect in the music industry that they deserved, the duo was undisputedly known throughout the south as one of the realest rap groups ever, with Bun being regarded as one of the top lyricists ever to touch the game.
Fast forward to the year 2000. After three releases on Jive, Too Hard to Swallow, Super Tight and Ridin’ Dirty, UGK’s name was growing everyday. But it wasn’t until Jay-Z called, to get the duo on his #1 hit “Big Pimpin’” that they really began to soar. “We had more eyes looking at us and what were about to do than we ever had before in our career.” Bun says, “We had a Grammy nomination behind us, #1 on TRL, #1 on BET, all these different things, there was a million and one good looks in our corner. And it was just a matter of putting out good music behind it and we put the good music together and then just ended up getting sidetracked.”
The good music he’s talking about became the album Dirty Money, their last effort as a group. The sidetracking he’s talking about it the fact that his partner of over 10 years was soon after locked up, for potentially eight years. In the time since Pimp’s incarceration, Bun has stayed busy as one of the most in demand feature artists in hip-hop. Working everyday to keep his group and his partner’s name alive, Bun has recorded with such hip-hop luminaries as Lil Jon, Beanie Siegel, Scarface, TI, Pitbull, Nas, Jadakiss, Mannie Fresh, Three Six Mafia, and the list goes on and on.
“I’ve worked three years myself to keep the team alive.” Bun reflects, “You have to realize, Pimp is doing his share. He’s doing his time good, he’s not getting into shit, he’s doing his time like a man’s supposed to do his time. He’s been doing his time 100 inside so I gotta do everything 100 outside. And when Pimp comes home, I feel like it’s as good a look if not a better look than “Big Pimpin’.”
But until then, Bun is staying busy with his side group MDDL FNGZ, who are currently working on their third release, and his highly anticipated solo debut, Trill, to be released on Rap-A-Lot Records in October 2005.
Trill hits from start to finish like a street sweeper on blast. The hardest record to come out of hip-hops hottest region this year features cuts like the first single “Draped Up,” produced by Salih Williams (the man behind “Still Tippin’,” “Back Then,” and “Sittin’ Sideways”) and the anthemic KLC produced track “Bun.” If you didn’t know him before, you will now.
And the feature king has called in a few of his favorite partners to lace his record as well. The hard hitting “I’m A G” features, TI and the upbeat Maximillion track “How I Get Down,” features Petey Pablo. Pimp C pops up alongside Z-ro on the Mr. Lee produced “Get Thowed,” and the Jazze Pha produced “Diamonds on My Chest” is a sure shot hit.
Bun’s got a few more surprises in the bag that he can’t let out just yet, just know that Rap-A-Lot is set to release another classic from yet another of the top MC’s in the game.
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