When Chad Butler (a.k.a. Pimp C), one half of the duo UGK, passed away in a Hollywood hotel room two and a half years ago from a combination of sleep apnea and codeine overdose (sizzurp!), hip hop as a genre lost a legend. A lyrical genius that had, in classic industry form, began as a drug-slanging street king in the gang-ridden wards of Houston before discovering hip hop in the late ’80s, causing a change-of-horse mid-race, to begin work on a career in rap. We lost a legend, but the other half of the duo, Bernard “Bun B” Freeman, lost his best friend, his homie, and his #1 cuddie. It was a sad, horrid, albeit not totally surprising end to a life that, to this day, aches as if we lost a brother more than a rap artist.
However, life goes on. For Bun B, there was no other choice. Bun began his solo career with Trill in late 2005, purportedly in response to Pimp C’s incarceration. After Pimp’s death in late 2007, Bun B again returned to the studio, and responded in spring of 2008 with the grief-ridden, somber but serious II Trill. Now, third quarter 2010, Bun returns with the third musketeer in his trilogy (pun…intended?), Trill OG.
We see the same things in Trill OG that we saw in the two previous efforts: amazing beats that literally drip and drool in that Southern easy-going swag, with the masterful production that is a standard for anything “UGK4LIFE,” and finally, the intelligent, thought-provoking, tasty lyrical goodness that we have come to know so well from Bun and his compatriots.
All of those virtues, should, in theory, make a valid competitor for a hip hop record of the year, and to be honest, I really believe this will top many “Best Of” lists in that vein. Maybe even my own. However, there is something to be said about the nature of hip hop today (see: Jackie Chain), and even more so with formal albums. The proverbial “game” has changed a lot, and what I have always loved about Bun B (and formerly, Pimp C) is that they stay true to what they believe in. When other artists follow the herd, eyes set on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they have stayed true to their roots, preaching appreciation for all who helped them get to where they are.
We find some truly great things happening in Trill OG, like the DJ Premier produced, “Let ‘Em Know.” With Premier on the wheels in the chorus, and Bun laying down booming, stand-off raps such as “When I get to (Gladiatin’) on haters like Leonidas/Niggaz gonna have to admit that he the tightest/You talk a big game mayne, but mine’s bigger bro/Aiyyo Premier, let a motherfuckin nigga know!” we discover that this is not a standard gangsta pride show. It truly contains tracks that tell a story. In “All A Dream”, Bun tells a nostalgic tale of his dream-come-true life: “It was all a dream/thinkin’ bout the fortune and fame/hopin’ one day I could get in the game/wishin’ for the money and cars/and to live the lifestyle of stars.”
The negative material that befall this album, I believe, are most likely label-induced. In the unfortunate arena of making music in hopes of turning a profit, especially with the way hip hop exists today, one is likely to make more money on an LP if one snags artists like T-Pain and Drake on the album. Whoever thought T-Pain and Bun B would mesh together well (see track two, “Trillionaire”) probably hit the blunt one too many times…but that’s the beauty of Bun B. He can take someone that I (or we) don’t generally enjoy, or even dislike, and spin it in such a way that the track is still enjoyable to listen to.
Lots of questions come to mind when one pictures Bun B in the studio creating a track like “Sext Me”, carrying a chorus that flows, “I’m lookin’ sexy, I’m feelin’ sexy, you wanna sext me?/then take a picture baby, text me! / you wanna freak me? Baby all you gotta do is tweet me.” It’s terrifically easy to see why this album is so good– it is Bun B, after all– but its pitfalls are also readily apparent. Again, this album will surely make more than one genre-specific “Top 5” list, and The Source even gave it the coveted “5 Mics” award. But this album doesn’t come close to topping anything UGK ever did, and while it may not be the worst in the trilogy, I cannot, in good taste, say that it is the best.