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BUN B TRANSCRIPT
Bun B: I appreciate you, man. I think this is a very interesting take on conversations. It’s not the usual conversation that people have with artists and it makes it much more personable because it’s not about what these moments mean to you, it’s about what the moment means to the artist. That’s a totally different perspective. You’ve got something going here.
Bun B: Yo what’s up this is Bun B, the Trill OG, reppin’ UGK for Life, long live Pimp C, you are now tuned in to The Nostalgia Mixtape. Hmm. Interesting.
Sama’an Ashrawi: [laughs]
Sama’an: Welcome back to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape, I’m your host, Sama’an Ashrawi and I just want to say that this is one of the most special episodes we’ve ever recorded. If you know me, you know how important and impactful today’s guest has been to my life and my career. Today, we’re welcoming the greatest mentor in my life, sometimes my big brother, sometimes my uncle, a living legend, one half of the mighty rap group UGK, one whole of himself, none other than Mr. Bernard “Bun B” Freeman. When we first announced this podcast on Instagram, Bun texted me immediately and said he wanted to be part of it. We couldn’t get our schedules to sync up for season one, but we finally made it work for season two. We gotta shout out Kadoma from Sneaker Summit for letting us tape this episode in his office, literally in his office. If you hear a phone ringing in the background or something, just know, that’s because we were at the Sneaker Summit headquarters in Houston, Texas when we recorded this. Thank you, Kadoma.
But first, I need to be upfront with y’all, I need to tell you something. I don’t want you to feel bamboozled, I don’t want you to feel hoodwinked by what I’m about to say, but you need to know, we let Bun break the rules for this episode. By that, I mean: when we usually have a musician on as a guest, we tell them, “You cannot talk about your own songs.” That’s the rule. But, when Bun and I were brainstorming for this episode, he came up with five stories tied to five of his own songs. They’re all incredible, they’re all stories he’s never told before, so you’re only going to hear them here on The Nostalgia Mixtape. So, we’re so honored that Bun felt comfortable enough and trusted us enough to tell these stories. That’s a huge honor and a huge privilege, but look: since this is a special episode, I wanted to get someone special to christen it, and that special someone is Jon Caramanica, pop music critic at the New York Times.
Now, look, I could go on and on about all the amazing pieces that Jon has written over the years, or how I go back and read his interview with Bun for Believer Mag minimum once a year because it’s just that incredible; the imagery is just so vivid, I can’t believe it. But, that’s not really the reason why I asked him to do this.
No, the reason is because:
In early 2013, about a month after I graduated college, I was at House of Blues in Houston with Bun at some rap show, and I was feeling really unsure about my future. I had no job leads, I basically just had my raw passion and some interviews I had done during college, and I didn’t know where that was supposed to take me. I remember we were backstage at this rap show, dozens of people all around us, it’s very smokey and very loud. But the thing about Bun is that when he focuses his energy on you, it feels like there’s no one else in the room, and this was one of those moments. It was an otherwise very noisy, very rowdy environment, and I remember having this one-on-one talk with Bun in the midst of all this, and telling him that I wasn’t sure about the future, I didn’t know which way to go. Bun looked at me right in the eyes and said, in his very trademark gravelly, deep voice, “Do I need to call Caramanica?” I was just like, oh my gosh. Jon had done some of the best hip-hop writing of my teenage years, and I didn’t even know if I was ready for that kind of call, so I never ended up asking Bun to make it. But, the point is, Bun would have made that call. He would have done it. He would have at least asked Jon to give me advice or something, I don’t know. The older I get, the more I realize how rare of a quality that is in someone like Bun. Every now and again, I wonder how different my life would have been if he had made that call. But, it’s all fine because Jon and I ended up meeting a few years later at his birthday party in New York City. It was 2015 if I remember correctly, and I was at one of Shea Serrano’s book release events with a mentor of mine, Benjamin Meadows Ingram, the author. After the event, he asked what I was doing that night, and I said, “I don’t know,” and he said, “Well, you need to be at Jon Caramanica’s birthday party.” Benjamin’s advice, it’s never steered me wrong, so I was like, “Alright, let’s go.” So, when we showed up, it was like every single writer from New York who I followed online was there. It was amazing. And so, Benjamin introduced me to Jon, and I was like, “Wow, I can’t wait to tell Bun that I finally met Jon Caramanica.” It was a very sweet, full-circle moment. So, for that reason, I would love it, Jon, if you would do us the honor of setting up this incredible Bun B episode.
Trill Foreword by Jon Caramanica
Jon Caramanica: Sama’an, thank you for passing me the rock to talk about Bun B; a genius, an icon, a decent human being in a world where decency is in short supply sometimes. To talk about Bun, I have to go back to 2004, but really I have to go back to 1994. So you have to understand, I’m from Brooklyn, I grew up on New York rap. That is the foundation of my DNA. Then, I got to college and I worked at the college radio station, WHRB, and I was so overwhelmed by the music that was sent to the station. I was diligent and I was excited and I listened to so many records that I had never heard before by artists who I had never heard of. And in ‘94 and ‘95, I fell for a couple songs, “Front, Back & Side to Side” and “It’s Supposed to Bubble” by a group called UGK who I had not been familiar with previously.
And I would play them on my Saturday night radio show at like 3 in the morning, and it felt kind of like my secret. They were on Jive, I knew that important rappers were on Jive. Shoutout to whoever was doing college radio promo for Jive in 1994 and 1995, because you changed my life. I would play these records and they felt personal to me, and I kind of carried that feeling with me through the years. I always had UGK in the back of my mind, and I would always kind of keep an ear out for them, pay attention to what they were doing which wasn’t always easy being in New York and later in London. When I started writing really regularly for rap magazines, I was always thinking like, “Huh, I’ve never really read a good UGK story. I’ve never really read a good Pimp C story, Bun B story.” I’m sure there were a couple things floating around in the ‘90s, but I had not seen them and I became sort of perversely determined to do one. So, 2004 comes along, and I find out that Bun B is playing South By SouthWest, and this was the same South By SouthWest that Bun talks about later, it’s the same showcase where he plays with Dizzee Rascal. Pimp was in jail, Bun was playing with MDDL FNGZ, and I had not been to South By SouthWest previously. It’s primarily, at the time, an indie rock festival, not a genre I would have flown halfway across the country to immerse myself in. But, I got the email from Matt Sonzala, shouts to Matt, and I said, “You know what? I’m going to buy myself a plane ticket and go and meet Bun B.” And I did that. I bought the plane ticket, I went to Texas, I got to the show and I met Bun B. I think I had pretty long hair at this time, must have been quite a sight to see, and I remember saying something to the effect of, “I want to write the story about you guys. I feel like your story hasn’t been told.” And Bun, to his credit, was kind, I think he gave me his number or his email, and eventually, I think it was the next year, I finally did do the UGK story, when Pimp was in jail, for XXL. I did do the story when Pimp got out of jail for XXL. And then, I did a big Bun Q&A with the Believer, which was a publication that was not ordinarily interviewing artists like Bun, and it was such a huge thing to do that in that venue, and it really cracked a lot of people’s heads open. And in the mid-2000’s, being able to share my passion, my interests, my curiosity about Bun and about UGK became kind of central to my identity as a journalist and as a critic. And to this day, those are some of the most special pieces I’ve ever written, and I’m blessed to still be in touch with Bun and consider him a friend, and know that on a human level – forget work, forget professional things – that’s a person who is reliable on a human level. Work will get done, pieces will get written, that’s all fine, but as far as a baseline, kind, decent, thoughtful, caring human being who also happens to be one of the most viscous, cold rappers of all-time? It’s hard to beat that. Anyway, listen to Bun talk.
Sama’an: Now, that’s an introduction. Thank you, Jon. And now, I’m going to let our producer Jason bring up the intro music, and take us into The Bun B Episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. Let’s hop in the time machine, let’s go back, and let’s start in the mid-90’s. Here we go.
Chapter 1: Findin’ Love While Ridin’ Dirty
Bun B: So, Ridin’ Dirty was the first album recorded by UGK where we were allowed full creative control. So as far as Pimp and I are concerned, it’s the first real UGK album. Too Hard To Swallow had a lot of samples that didn’t clear and the record company actually went in and reproduced the records without us knowing, like went in the studio and let somebody else create other beats around some of the songs.
Bun B: Super Tight was actually a concept album which was supposed to be half-The Mack and half-Scarface, and again, they wouldn’t pay for the clearance of the movie excerpts.
Bun B: So we ended up scrapping that concept and then coming up with what eventually became Super Tight. So Ridin’ Dirty was the first time they were like … it was the first time we didn’t ask for money, right? We were like, “We don’t want an advance, we want equipment.”
Bun B: “Give us equipment.” Pimp was like, “Give me a 48-track board and give me a rack of eight DAT recorders,” so basically, it was our way of getting equipment so that we could basically record everything we wanted to record at the crib. And it would also help with feature work, which we were finding out was a big source of income for us: Pimp producing beats for other people and us doing verses for other people. So Ridin’ Dirty is, in our mind, the first actual complete thought of UGK as far as an album is concerned. It’s also, until somebody kind of can prove me wrong, the first full hip-hop album recorded in Pro Tools.
Sama’an: Ahh. Whoa.
Bun B: Yeah, so N.O. Joe brought us over to the studio in Houston, really in Katy. It was this guy named Skip, that’s why you hear me on “Murder” saying, “Ask that boy Skip / That nigga Bun rip” is because we were at Skip’s house. Skip’s primary job as an engineer was commercials – we were brought to Skip’s house primarily because he had the largest sound library. He was doing a lot of like, Autozone & Pennzoil commercials and stuff where, you know, a lot of the commercials is background effects and whatnot, but he was also recording it in Pro Tools and emailing stuff to people from there.
Sama’an: Very early days of email. Wow.
Bun B: The early days of email as well, right? We recorded all of Ridin’ Dirty which I have to say N.O. Joe was a big part of helping us craft that sound that we were able to create during Ridin’ Dirty. And so, I ended up getting the master cassette, because we were still dealing with the cassette age during Ridin’ Dirty, even though there were CDs and cassettes, the master version came on a cassette. So I had a good friend of mine named Eddie – Eddie’s no longer with us, Eddie passed away a couple of months ago, probably about 7 to 8 months ago – Eddie was who I would normally hang out with when I would come to Houston. And so, I called Eddie and I said, “I got the new album, you know what I’m saying, I’m going to come to Houston so y’all can hear it.” He was like, “Cool, I’ll have a get together, get some people to the house and we’ll all listen to the album.” So a good friend of mine – Dave Marcel, we call him De La – he was a good friend of Eddie’s as well and also this guy Tyrone, Tyrone’s from Houston. So we’re all good friends, and we decided to meet at Eddie’s condo off of 59, and so Eddie invites a couple of girls over to, you know, hear the album and hang out or whatever. And one of those women happened to be Queenie, who is now my wife.
Sama’an: That’s so cool, I didn’t know that was when y’all met.
Bun B: Yeah, so I go to the house and I’m playing the music and I’m not initially … I didn’t go to her and strike up a conversation. I was like, “This is a nice-looking girl.” But I initially didn’t start talking to her, somebody else in the room started talking to Queenie first.
Sama’an: Uh-oh. Uh-oh.
Bun B: But, I could tell by her reactions … my perceived notion from her reactions was, she wasn’t being receptive to it at all. Come to find out, when I decided to strike up a conversation with her, it didn’t seem like she was being receptive to me either!
Bun B: But, it turns out that just was her nature at the time, she was not the most sociable person in the world. She’s changed, she’s come a long way over the last 25 years or so, but she was receptive enough to exchange numbers with me.
Sama’an: Big, big.
Bun B: And so, she did not call until maybe two days later, and I invited her out to a UGK show that we were having in Lafayette. In Lafayette, they had a really hot club called Strawberries, at the time.
Sama’an: I was gonna ask if it was Strawberries.
Bun B: Yeah. So, I brought her out to the show. And, we’re on stage rapping – this is the funniest part about the whole thing is that–
Sama’an: Before you go any further, is this when in these shows, you didn’t get on the stage until like 3AM or something?
Bun B: Yes, absolutely. At Strawberries, nobody went on before 2AM because Strawberries was primarily an after hours club.
Sama’an: Gotcha, gotcha.
Bun B: So, it would open at about 10 or 11 o’clock at night, no one really went until all the other clubs in Lafayette closed and then everybody went out to Strawberries. So probably about 3:30 in the morning. And so we’re on stage and I finally see them there, and it’s Queenie and it’s also, if I’m not mistaken, ESG’s wife is there because ESG’s wife and Queenie were very good friends since childhood. And so I see them, and I tell them to come up on the stage. Again, Queenie was not the most sociable person in the world, so she didn’t go up when I invited all the girls on stage, and then, of course, the first thing Pimp says is, “Who is these hoes? Get these bitches off my stage.”
Bun B: Queenie is just standing on the side like, “See, that’s why I don’t fuck around like that.” And then I had to kind of, in between songs, tell him like, “Yo, they’re with me. It’s okay.” Then, they finally came up. So yeah, that was… the day I met my wife was the day I had the full mastered version of Ridin’ Dirty which is now, you know, regarded as UGK’s seminal album. Now, I don’t know what song it would have been playing when I actually approached her. It wouldn’t have been within the first three songs, that’s for sure. So probably somewhere within the middle of the album.
Sama’an: It was definitely while the album was playing…
Bun B: No, no, because that was the whole point. And we played it twice, we played the whole album twice – this is back when cassettes were auto-reversed as well so I didn’t have to flip the tape over.
Bun B: But, there is a skit on Ridin’ Dirty that tells you that if you’re listening to it on the tape, you need to flip that motherfucker over, and if you’re listening to the CD, you need to let that motherfucker roll.
“3 in the Mornin’” (outro) by UGK
Bun B: And so, I thought that was the coolest point of Ridin’ Dirty, and I just wanna say, for the record, that for many years people thought that I was the person doing the skits on Ridin’ Dirty, but that’s an actual person who’s actually in prison, that’s Smoke D.
Bun B: And Smoke D came home a few years ago, but you know Smoke D is feature on “Front, Back & Side To Side” and was literally our first artist, but ended up getting into a situation where someone was trying to kill him and he ended up having to kill them and he ended up going to prison for it. And so, what we did was, we sent him a mini-DAT recorder that at the time, most people listened to music on Walkmans, which was, I don’t know, maybe 2-and-a-half inch by four inch sized tape cassette player, and recorder in certain instances. So, the mini-DAT machine was roughly the same size as that, so people thought he was just walking around listening to music on a Walkman, when he was actually walking around with a mini-DAT recording himself in the penitentiary.
Sama’an: Oh, that’s so cool!
Bun B: So, when he says, “I see these motherfuckers kissing,” he’s literally watching somebody kiss and the …
Bun B: The guy that’s — there’s a Latino guy, I think he was Colombian, talking about, “These motherfucking snitches, man, I try to help Black people…”
“Ridin Dirty” intro
Bun B: So what happened was, apparently he was selling drugs to a young Black dude, the young Black dude got caught and snitched on him, and that’s how he ended up in prison, and I think he’s still in prison to this day.
Bun B: And I don’t know if the dudes kissing are still in prison, but that’s literally like an inside view of day-to-day life…
Sama’an: Actually in jail.
Bun B: In prison. And the whole
concept of Ridin’ Dirty itself as an album, is a day in the life of someone living on the southside of Houston, right? So that’s why if you look at the photoshoot, the photoshoot is us getting jacked. The album cover is us turning around to look back, looking back through the window, but what we’re seeing is somebody pointing guns at us.
Sama’an: Ahhh, wow, I didn’t know there was that whole narrative.
Bun B: And so, when you open up and look at the pictures inside, you’ll see dudes holding guns, like AKs at us, and it’s the Botany Boyz.
Sama’an: Oh wow, the Botany Boyz. And that’s outside of Screw’s house?
Bun B: That’s right in front of Screw’s house, we were all hanging out in front of Screw’s house that day while we were shooting pictures, and it’s C-Note’s suburban that we’re sitting in. Yeah, C-Note had a Suburban on blades, I’m not gonna say who’s AK it was because they probably still have that AK, but I wouldn’t try the Botany Boys. On any given Sunday, just to throw that out there.
Bun B: But that’s why it’s very hard to pick a moment from that album on any particular song because the album itself is a very big moment, professionally and also personally.
Sama’an: Wow, wow. That’s amazing. So, the next song I have on here is Scarface’s “They Down With Us” featuring UGK.
Chapter 2: It’s Dark and DMX Knows My Lyrics
Bun B: Right, so this is a remake of a Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One song, “I’m Still #1.” Myself and Pimp and Scarface were all big fans of KRS-One, for the most part. Pimp actually — this is a funny side note — the entire conversation of country rap tunes comes from KRS-One, KRS-One made a statement at one point saying that if you’re not from New York, and you’re an emcee or a DJ and you’re not from New York, specifically the five boroughs of New York, you’re not hip-hop, you’re just making rap music. So, Pimp was very upset about this, because we were big KRS-One fans. We actually met KRS-One the day we signed at Jive Records. Right after we signed our contract, when we walked out of the office to kind of celebrate, we see KRS-One coming down the hallway and we’re like, “Yo, KRS-One, we’re big fans, we’re here to sign with Jive Records.” He was taken aback, he was like, “Wait a minute, did you sign yet?” We were like, “Yeah, we just signed.” He was like, “Fuck!” We went from being the happiest we had ever been to jaws dropped, kind of like we had just threw away our whole lives.
Sama’an: He was gonna try to tell–
Bun B: He was going to try to tell me not to sign to Jive Records. The ink wasn’t even dry at that point.
Bun B: And so, Scarface calls us up to record and of course all the recording done at Rap-A-Lot at that time was done at Mike Dean’s house. So there wasn’t –
Sama’an: Which is out where I’m from right?
Bun B: Yes, out in Cypress. Now, there was a place that was closer to the Rap-A-Lot offices that was a recording studio, but all the mixing and mastering was done by Mike Dean and in Mike Dean’s house and if you were short on time or if something needed to be replaced or it was a last minute addition, it had to be at Mike Dean’s house. Which was always very interesting because Mike Dean was a lot different than he is now, he was much more of a wild character, his girlfriend at the time was probably clinically insane, and he had dogs. I was never really a big dog-person, but his dogs were wild. I don’t know if they had got ahold of some of the shit that was in the house, but the dogs eventually had scratched holes in the carpet and ate holes in the wall. But that’s neither here nor there. So, we go to the house, we record the song, and it comes out on the Scarface album. Maybe three months after it comes out, The Box has his annual birthday bash and one of the people who were performing at the birthday bash was DMX. I was a big DMX fan ever since “Get At Me Dog.” There goes the dog reference as well.
Bun B: Some people brought me in to introduce me to DMX. They were like, “Yo, DMX, this is Bun B from UGK.” “Oh okay that’s what’s up, nice to meet you.” And they were like, “Oh, you don’t know who UGK is?” He was like, “Nah, nah, I don’t, sorry.” “They got the record with Jay-Z, ‘Big Pimpin’” “Nah, nah, I don’t know what that is.”
Bun B: “They also got the record ‘Sippin on Syzzurp’ with Three Six Mafia.” “Nah, nah, I don’t know what that is.”
Then, he thought for a minute and he was like, “Bun B, you got the song with Scarface right?” I’m like, “Yeah, I do got a song with Scarface.” He’s like, “Rollin’ Brahmas on Broadway / Got your broad out on Broadway / in broad way on a broad day.” I was like, “Yeah! That’s where you know me from?” Everybody’s a Scarface fan, DMX was actually a good friend of Scarface’s but also a big fan of Scarface’s, and so for him to know me from that song, for me, I was actually more proud of that than “Big Pimpin’”or Three 6 Mafia’s record in that my verse on Scarface’s album — because this was actually the first time I was actually on a record with Scarface, I had to bring my strongest lyrical game on that record; so at that point to me, even though time will argue that “Murder” is my best verse — that to me was my best verse that I’d ever recorded at that time because I actually got to say exactly what I wanted to say how I wanted to say it. And so even though I wasn’t remembered for what I thought he would remember me from, the fact that that was the moment in time where DMX was actually aware of Bun B was absolutely fine by me. I’m good with that. I can sleep good at night knowing that DMX knew some of my lyrics by heart.
Sama’an: That’s so cool. When I hear that … what’s crazy is that I took notes before we met up and I wrote down your verse on that and your verse on “Murder” and I wrote them together, I paired them together in my notes. And, tell me if I’m wrong, but I feel like when I hear those verses, I know you have a very deep palette that you pull from when you write, but when I hear those verses, I hear a lot of Big Daddy Kane in the fact that it’s like you squeeze out every single possible rhyme that you could think of for a specific rhyme that you were going for.
Bun B: You’re very close on that. I’ve always felt like I was always in the vein of Kool G Rap, which is still that same Juice Crew. Even though Big Daddy Kane was incredibly syllabic, I always tried to pattern myself more aggressively. Big Daddy Kane could rap his ass off, but he was a player, so I feel like he was more akin to Chad, to Pimp’s style. But, you are drawing from the right set of references because a lot of my lyrical influences did come from the Juice Crew and Marley Marl. And if you look at the last UGK album …
Sama’an: Y’all had a song with them!
Bun B: We had a song produced by Marley Marl with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. The whole point of it was – not just that we’re fans of the Juice Crew and “The Symphony” which is arguably the best posse cut ever performed – the symphony video began, because it’s all based on a Cowboy Western, and so the beginning of it is Marley Marl at the piano. He’s a piano guy, and he’s playing a piano refrain at the beginning of it but it only existed on the video. It was never a fully produced song, but we were always big fans of interludes. All the DJ Quik grooves and different musical interludes and stuff like that, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Gang Starr, and so that’s why “Wood Wheel” is actually an interlude to the beginning of a Geto Boys record. So “Wood Wheel” is us rapping over an interlude that J. Prince — “Awww, yeah” — but nobody ever rapped to it. So when we did “Wood Wheel,” we actually asked Prince, “Could we rap to that?” So, we reached out to Marley Marl, and we were like, “Yo, what ever happened to that piano interlude in the beginning of ‘The Symphony’ video, nobody ever rapped to it?” He was like, “Nah, I never really even did a beat.” And we were like, “Yo, can you make us a beat and can we get some people from The Symphony on the record?” So he reproduced the beat, we got in touch with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, and that’s like our version of “The Symphony.”
[Editor’s Note: Making a beat out of that piano riff is a f*cking brilliant idea.]
Chapter 3: Tupac and UGK, The Collab That Almost Was
Sama’an: That’s so cool, that was always one of my favorite songs on that album. Was any of that done in person?
Bun B: No, this was definitely the age of email and whatnot.
Sama’an: But then another thing that you said came from Scarface speaking of “Down With Us,” is him giving some music to Tupac.
Bun B: Yeah, so I’m not sure exactly what the time was but it was realistically within the last week of Tupac’s life, Scarface recorded “Smile” which was Tupac’s last recording session. During that session, Face had just gotten a copy of Ridin’ Dirty. He was like, “You know these dudes? You ever heard of these dudes, UGK?” Pac was like, “Nah, I never heard of them.” He was like, “Take my album, you need to listen to these dudes. They’re tight.” So Pac took the album from him, listened to the album, and called The Outlawz and was like “Yo, I don’t know who these dudes are, I never met them before, but I just got the album and they’re talking about the same type of shit we’re talking about.” In his last days, Pac was getting away from Thug Life and was trying to bring a collective of MCs together. He was working with Buckshot from Bootcamp Click and they were joining forces with MCs together on one accord to promote the Black Agenda. So, his point of view was, “I don’t know who these dudes are, but we need them down with us for this new movement.” And he was dead within the next couple of days.
Sama’an: Damn. [Editor’s Note: Bun did end up getting a posthumous 2pac verse for his Trill O.G. album. Listen here.]
Bun B: It was crazy because I was in LA on promo when Tupac died. We were on promo and Richie Rich, from the Bay Area, who is Tupac’s cousin, had just signed to Def Jam and recorded an album, and was having his listening party in LA. So, Method Man was staying in our hotel. So we met Method Man in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in, and we all went out in our promo van to smoke weed. We were just listening to the radio and then Daz called in, and Daz was crying, and he announced that Tupac was dead.
Bun B: Meth had just recorded with him.
Sama’an: That “Got My Mind Made Up”?
Bun B: Absolutely, with Tupac, on the album.
Sama’an: Ah I love that song so much.
Bun B: It was a very very rough moment, it was grown men crying. It’s definitely one of those moments I hold very close to me, because I was actually in LA when Tupac died.
Sama’an: Is that where your verse on the PSK13, that song where you say “I never thought I’d see the day where a man would kill another man over a rhyme?”
Bun B: It might have been, I might have drawn some reference. I’m not exactly sure of the time frame when I recorded that but now that you say that, I can go back and look at the release date on PSK13’s album. I just saw it pop on iTunes as a suggestion for me, which is always weird…
Sama’an: [laughs] I was gonna say.
Bun B: When Apple suggests records that I’m on TO ME. But you know I think you might have made an amazing call right there, I would not be surprised if that’s where I drew that reference from.
[Editor’s Note: This song, “Like Yesterday,” was released in 1997, so it’s quite likely this was a response to the murders of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.]
Sama’an: Wow. I remember the first time I heard that, I didn’t look up the time frame but I was like it’s got to be… I feel like there were several songs that came out after that where, like… Blackstar coming out with “Definition” saying like “too many rappers dying.”
Bun B: Right. It was a very weird time to be a rapper, especially a rapper that dealt in what called “reality rap,” which the media called “gangster rap.” But anything that was street affiliated or street adjacent kind of music, you had no idea what was going on. A lot of people started traveling on the road and doing shows out of town a lot more seriously. I always took things serious because my thing was to make sure we had things taken care of at home. I still think about that to this day. Any time people leave with me to go out of town, I feel like it’s my duty to bring them home back safe and sound, because otherwise, I’m the one that has to call the parents or the wives and tell them that someone who left with me is not coming home whether it’s my fault or not.
Sama’an: And one of those calls is too many.
Bun B: Yeah.
Sama’an: On a lighter note, we’ve got two songs left on your list. First one, in chronological order, is Beyonce’s “Check on it.”
Chapter 4: Sometimes A Knowles Checks on You
Bun B: Okay so, “Check On It.” I had just gotten back in town and Matthew Knowles calls me, it was like a Sunday, I distinctly remember it was a Sunday. I had just gotten back in town and Matthew Knowles called me, and he was like, “Hey, man, we’re working on this song for Beyonce, and we want you on the record.” I was like, “Absolutely.” Why would I not want to be on a record with Beyonce? And this is like in the early stages of her as a solo artist. So he’s like, “If you want to, Slim Thug and them are doing a verse and they’re recording right now, maybe you could call them and link up with them.” So I called Slim and at the time Slim had a studio off of (Interstate) 45 on the north side. So I called Slim and he’s like, “Yeah we over here, G.” You know Slim, “We ova here, G!”
Bun B: “Come thru, G!” So we went through there, we recorded the song, and it ended up being “Check On It.” It was a Hype Williams video. We got the call that there was going to be a video for it. It was for the movie The Pink Panther, but The Pink Panther actually wasn’t going to have a soundtrack, it was only going to have this song to promote the movie. So they told us that Hype Williams was directing the video, so my first thought is, “I gotta be the one who blows the smoke.”
Bun B: Right? ‘Cause that was the thing! In a Hype Williams video, there’s someone always blowing smoke in super slow motion, so that’s all I care about at this point. I don’t care about anyone else in the video, I want to be the guy that blows the smoke. So as soon as I get on set, “Hype, wassup man? Ay, can I blow the smoke?”
Sama’an: [continues laughing]
Bun B: Yeah he was laughing like you. He was like, “Yeah, B, you can blow the smoke.” I’m like, “Aight, cool.” So this is also in the early stages of Jay-Z and Beyonce as a couple. So we’re on set, Slim is there, Boss Hogg Outlawz are in the building, so Slim is there with about four guys. I’m there, I’ve got my homies from Brooklyn, my boy Hood and my boy B.O. and then also my guy Keith who’s one of the founders of FUBU.
Sama’an: So this is in New York?
Bun B: This is in New York. So we’re on the set and we’re filming the video, and if you look at the video, there’s a lot of kind of skimpy outfits. Queenie is there also, so it’s not like I’m there salivating over another woman, but we’re like, “Woah, this is crazy. Beyonce’s dancing in this short skirt and she’s dancing in like a bikini,” type of thing you know.
Sama’an: And also you’ve known her since she was very young right?
Bun B: I’ve known her for many years but I wouldn’t say we’ve had like the closest relationship or anything. My relationship was more so with her father than her at the time. Which now I can actually say I have Beyonce’s number in my phone but it’s under a code so you wouldn’t know who it was. You wouldn’t be able to find Beyonce’s number in my phone. But anyways, we’re on the set of the video and obviously there’s a lot of single men in the room and they’re all just staring at Beyonce dancing, kind of in awe. Like none of us had ever been this close to her as the full fledged superstar that she is now, right? Which, I have another Beyonce story that I can tell after this. So, Keith, one of the owners of FUBU– this is when cameras were digital, this is when cameras were transitioning from film to digital– had a camera and was not only able to take pictures, but he was able to shoot video. While all of this was happening, I think this is the scene with the chair, so it’s like her and several other girls and they all have these short skirts on and they’re all dancing seductively on the chair. They’ve got a leg up on the chair so you can kind of see some thigh and maybe a little bit of butt if you’re staring hard enough, and Jay-Z calls and talks to one of her assistants. If I had to guess it would’ve been her cousin Angie that he would’ve talked to because Angie has always been a right hand to Beyonce. He’s like, “Yeah how’s the video going, what’s going good, are the guys there?” All the guys that are with us are the only men there. Well let me say this. There were other men there but they weren’t straight.
Bun B: So he’s like, “Wait a minute, how many dudes are there?” So she’s like “Well there’s about 9 or 10 guys that are there.” And he’s like, “Where are they now?” She says, “Well, they’re on the sound stage you know, they’re kind of watching everything going on.” “What is she wearing?” She describes the outfits and he’s like, “Yo, clear the room.”
Sama’an: Wowwwww wow.
Bun B: So they immediately come over to us and they kick all of us out to our dressing rooms and we’re told to stay there until we have to shoot. We’re not allowed to watch Beyonce dance anymore.
— M (@fentyxxshady) July 14, 2020
Sama’an: That was the end of that.
Bun B: So I guess Beyonce gets wind of the call, she comes up, and she apologizes. “I’m so sorry you guys had to leave the room but Jay’s not comfortable.” And we’re all like, “We understand fully that’s no problem, we’re happy to be here.” From my point of view I don’t give a shit about none of that.
I’m really in awe of watching Beyonce shoot a video. The main thing we’re in awe of is the work ethic.
Because this entire video is done in one day and these costume changes, the hairstyles, the make up. All of that stuff is being done real time and then she immediately goes up. In the dress skirt scene she’s got on like a smaller heel shoe. At one point is where they kind of combined, I want to say like a Bape shoe with a heel. Like her stylist is a guy named Ty and Ty is actually from Houston as well.
Sama’an: Oh wow.
Bun B: We know him very well, me and Queenie are very good friends with him. She’s doing these costume changes and all of these dances and choreography, and she’s not breaking a sweat. She’s really something to behold. I’ve been able to see this later performing with her at the rodeo. I watched her do like a full dress rehearsal. Like Beyonce doesn’t halfway do anything. Her key to success has been the ability to do fully choreographed dance routine while maintaining breath control enough to sing the songs that she needs to sing, and maintain the notes.
Sama’an: It’s unbelievable.
Bun B: And this is only because she doesn’t halfway do anything. They asked us to come to dress rehearsal for the rodeo, and she was literally doing the entire show.
Sama’an: Not just walking through it.
Bun B: Not just our song or certain songs, she’s doing the entire show in full costume or full uniform. But she was very gracious about everything. We totally understood why Jay-Z was like, “I don’t need these guys looking at my woman like this.” Again these are the very early stages of their relationship. So the video comes out and everything and of course I’m blowing the smoke and it’s baller, and I remember asking Hov about it and he was like, “Yeah, man, I’m not finna have y’all looking at my girl like that.”
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Bun B: “I called and I was like, ‘Who’s in there, what are they doing, what does she got on?’ Once I realized what she had on y’all had to go!” Again this is really a tribute to her work ethic, her talent, and also Jay’s forward thinking in that he’s got the hottest chick in the game wearing his chain. But a funny story about Beyonce when they were younger, we had a recording session, and this is actually the day that UGK and Fifth Ward Boyz recorded “Swang Wide.” So there’s a lot of our guys in there, there’s a shit ton of Rap-A-Lot guys in the building, and Destiny’s Child is recording in another room. So Pimp goes in and he’s like, “Oh I wanna meet them, they tight.” He introduces himself and I guess Beyonce was kind of taken back that she was meeting Pimp C. This is before Destiny’s Child was a worldwide phenomenon. He comes back in the studio and we’re recording and hanging out and Matthew Knowles comes in, and he asks Pimp, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” So they leave out for a couple of minutes and Pimp comes back in and he’s dying laughing and we’re like, “What’s wrong?!” He’s like, “Yo, Matthew Knowles just told me don’t fuck his daughter. ‘Please don’t fuck my daughter!’”
Bun B: She was only like 18 or 19 at the time so [Pimp was] like, “Man, I don’t want yo daughter, she’s young, man. I don’t want yo daughter!” Again I imagine that in the moment, in her younger age, getting to meet Pimp C, in the height of UGK, it was a big deal, she might’ve been taken aback a bit, and he felt concerned about losing his daughter to a rapper. And I guess that was a valid point because he eventually lost his daughter to a rapper.
Sama’an: [Laughs] That’s so amazing! You’ve never told me that story before. That’s incredible.
Bun B: Just one of those Beyonce stories… because I never have a context to tell that story. Since we’re overtly talking about Beyonce at the moment I’m like yeah I got another Yonce story. But the men in Beyonce’s life obviously feel the need to protect her from people like us.
Sama’an: And you know what? I totally get it.
Bun B: Hey man even though I was with my woman or whatever, I was the only guy there who was taken, and the rest of those dudes were wolves. They were definitely wolves in the moment. Funny the other side note, Slim Thug actually ended up dating Letoya Luckett, so he got close.
Sama’an: He got so close.
Bun B: Proximity is key.
Sama’an: So the last song you have on your list is one of my personal favorites, Dizzee Rascal’s “Where’s Da G’s”
Chapter 5: Losing My Shit
Wiv Da Mandem At Glastonbury
[Editor’s Note: The album version of this song features a great verse from Pimp C. RIP.]
Bun B: Okay so I met Dizzee Rascal at South By SouthWest, this was many years ago when rap was not actually a part of SXSW. It was primarily rock groups, punk rock groups, there wasn’t really a rap contingency. So Matt Sonzala who was heavily involved in SXSW booking and hip-hop booking worldwide in general because most of the people I know who ended up going overseas to perform — from the South anyway — got that opportunity via (Matt Sonzala). So Matt calls me and says, “Hey there’s this music festival in Austin, it’s called SXSW, and I want to book you guys for it, there’s not a lot of money involved but I think it’s a great opportunity. And I’m like, “Sure.” I trust Matt’s judgement, Matt is a very stand up individual, he’s very transparent.” It’s not like he’s saying there’s not a lot of money and he’s pocketing it, if he says there’s not a lot of money there’s not a lot of money. He’s a very straightforward guy. But when he says, “I think it’s a great opportunity,” I tend to listen to him and because of that I’ve been able to make a lot of good footing in this industry thanks to that. He’s a really good friend of mine, we still talk. So, he books me on this show, and it’s me as a solo artist because Pimp is locked up at this time, Paul Wall and Chamillionaire, who are still a group at this time, and Dizzee Rascal, who I’m not familiar with at this time. So he sends me this link to “Just A Rascal.” At this point in my life the only frame of reference I have of England and the entire UK at that matter is the Queen, Big Ben, Parliament, and tea n crumpets or whatever the fuck. That’s all I know about London. So when I hear this kid rapping I didn’t know- The only other rapper that I had ever heard from London, I can’t even remember his name now-
Sama’an: The Streets?
Bun B: Derrick G maybe?
Sama’an: Oh, no, I don’t know who that is.
Bun B: Yeah Derrick G, it’s something with a name and an initial. At the time it was only Dizzee Rascal and The Streets as far as rap was concerned, but I like this song, it’s pretty interesting. So when I get there I see him. The big fashion at the time was EVISU, right? And Evisu was not sold in Houston at the time. You had to go to New York or Chicago to actually get Evisu jeans. So Dizzee shows up –this was a big deal at the time for anyone that’s old enough to remember how big Evisu was — he was the first person that I saw that had the one with the logo all over the pants.
Sama’an: Oh wow.
Photos provided courtesy of Matt Sonzala.
Bun B: Which was a very big deal because up until that point Evisu jeans had only had logos on the pockets. My whole thing was like, “Yo, I need to figure out where the fuck he got these jeans from.” So I go up and introduce myself to the kid and he’s probably all of 18 years old at this time. He was like, “Yo, I bought them shopping in New York.” I’m like, “Fuck, I’ve got to go to New York and get these jeans.” I watch him get on stage and the energy of this kid is amazing. I’m like, “Yo, this kid’s all over the place, plus his breath control is stupid!” The way he’s able to spit these rhymes, not really in a Twista kind of way but obviously people that talk fast, they’re gonna rap fast. He was one of those kids. He was a fireball of fucking energy. I’m like, “I need to keep my eye on this kid.” So we exchanged numbers and we ended up becoming very good friends. Probably over the next two or three years, he goes from being this up and coming rapper in the UK to literally the biggest deal in the UK. At one point he has the biggest record in the UK. During this time I’m telling Pimp, “Yo, we need to get this kid on one of our records, we’ll be way ahead of the game cause nobody is really doing songs with British rappers and he’s the biggest one.” I’m like, “We need to get this kid on the album.” And Pimp and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. Like Pimp didn’t like Slim Village but he loved J Dilla.
Sama’an: Interesting. Okay.
Bun B: There were things that he could tolerate, like, “The beats are tight, but I don’t wanna hear what they talkin about.” So we put him on the album [Editor’s Note: People I went to high school with still remember me playing this song in the parking lot.] and he’s delighted by the gesture, you know, he’s a big fan of UGK. So he’s like, “Yo, I’m doing Glastonbury, do you want to come up to Glastonbury and do the song?” Because at the time I did a song with him called “Where’s Da G’s” and so he’s like, “Do you want to come up to Glastonbury?” I’m like, “Okay, yeah, sure.” I hang up the phone and I’m like, “Okay, what the fuck is Glastonbury?” So I start looking into Glastonbury and I realize it’s this huge music festival, literally one of the biggest music festivals that existed in the world at the time, and still is primarily. So we fly to London, we meet him in London, and he’s like, “Yo, it’s gonna take us about three hours to get up to Glastonbury, we’re gonna pass Stonehenge on the way.” I’m like, “We gotta fuckin’ stop at Stonehenge.” Never in my life did I think I would get close to where it is. He’s like, “Nah nah it’s on the road, it’s on the way.” I’m like, “Wow so it’s a museum?” He’s like, “Nah it’s just on the side of the road.”
Sama’an: You just walk up to it.
Bun B: I’m like, “Really?” He’s like, “Yeah, we’ll stop. You’ll see it on the road.” So we’re driving and we come around a curve going up and you see Stonehenge, just, I mean it’s not even a freeway. You’ve got two lanes going, two lanes coming back, there’s no barrier or anything you literally just pull over on the side of the road and walk up to fucking Stonehenge.
Sama’an: Buncha rocks just sittin’ there.
Bun B: Right? Just sittin’ there. So it’s very interesting we walk up and it’s very interesting when they tell you that these rocks are from nowhere near here, these rocks come from thousands of miles away, no one knows how they got here, whatever.
Bun B: I’m just kind of caught up in the fact that I’m literally standing in front of Stonehenge. I’m from Port Arthur, Texas, this is a very big deal to me. So we get back in the cars and we drive to Glastonbury, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had to get the police escort. So we get to a certain point and they come and get us and guide us in to the artist parking lot then we’re walking to the backstage area. It’s only then that I realize what Glastonbury is. I start seeing literally tens and tens of thousands of people just kind of out in the open. I’m like, “Yo, this is crazy.” We’re still on a peripheral, right? Because Dizzee Rascal at this point could not walk through the crowd, he’s a big fucking deal. So we’re kind of on a periphery of it. We get to the backstage area and as we’re going to this dressing room, first person I see is Michael McKean.
Sama’an: Who’s that?
Bun B: Michael McKean is a part of Spinal Tap. He does all of the improv movies.
Sama’an: Oh wowwww! I love Spinal Tap!
Bun B: Right, so this is the 25 year anniversary of Spinal Tap and it’s a reunion concert. So Spinal Tap goes on before Dizzee.
Sama’an: Spinal Tap is opening for Dizzee Rascal.
Bun B: Yes. This is a huge deal. So I go to catch a couple of songs and just watch it. They’re not in costume or anything, they’re literally just in regular clothes playing Spinal Tap songs. This is a huge moment for me, I’m a big movie buff. So I kind of grasp the situation of that. So, I go back to the dressing room and we’re sitting there hanging out. This is in the heyday of LRG clothing. I have some LRG on, Dizzee actually has a couple outfits, he’s like, “Fuck it, I’ve got LRG, too, I might wear that.” We’re just kind of hanging backstage waiting for his time to go on, so I’m like, “Yo, I need to piss, I need to find a bathroom.” So I leave Dizzee’s dressing room to go find a bathroom and I literally see coming towards me, Bruce Springsteen.
Sama’an: Oh man.
Bun B: No security, no assistants, no handlers, just Bruce Springsteen, the boss, by himself–
Sama’an: Da Boss.
Bun B: –backstage at Glastonbury. I walk up and I’m like, “You’re the boss, you’re fuckin’ Bruce Springsteen.” I was like, “I’m sorry, I’m from America, so I don’t know if they know…” which obviously Bruce Springsteen is a big deal around the world.
Sama’an: [laughs] He’s Bruce Springsteen. Yeah.
Bun B: But I’m just like, “I’m American, I know who the fuck you are.” The first thing I really noticed about Bruce Springsteen is how fucking short he is. He’s a very short man. But when you see him on stage, and you watch “Born in the USA,” and you watch all these videos, “Dancing in the Dark,” he’s pulling Courtney Cox out the audience, there’s just this aura about him that makes him feel six feet tall when he’s really a very small man. So I ask him if I can take a picture and he’s like, “Yeah, sure.” So to somebody working backstage, I’m like, “Yo, take this picture.” And it’s an older gentleman.
Sama’an: Oh no.
Bun B: So we take the picture and I’m like, “Did you get it?” and he’s like, “Yeah, I got it.” and he hands me the phone back and I realize there’s no picture. Bruce Springsteen leaves, I look at my phone, and there is no picture of me and Bruce Springsteen.
Sama’an: Oh mannn….
Bun B: So he’s literally stolen that moment from me and I’m just kind of down in the dumps and I go back in the dressing room and they could see it on my face, they’re like, “What’s wrong?” I’m like, “Yo, I just met Bruce Springsteen.” Dizzee’s like, “Well what did he fucking say?” I’m like, “Nah, I asked him to take a picture.” [Dizzee:] “Oh and he fucking wouldn’t take it.” I’m like, “Nah, he took it! The guy that took the picture fucked it up.” [Dizzee:] “Ahhh that’s fucked up!” I’m just kind of out of it and then they’re like, “Okay guys it’s time to go to the stage.” So I’m still kinda in the dumps because they fucked up my Bruce Springsteen picture. So, when he comes out, Dizzee has a suit on at first, so he’s coming out like the Prime Minister of Britain. It’s like a tear-away suit so he takes it off and you see his regular stage clothes on. We’re backstage and I can hear the people, the intro music is starting, I can hear the people screaming and then he kind of walks out. So I walk up to the stage and I just froze because there literally is no end of people. I’ve never been in that scenario before. I’ve done a lot of shows with a lot of big crowds, but, on the stage, I look to the left and I can’t see the end of people to the left, and I look to the right and there’s literally no end of people. It’s the first time I had ever been somewhere where there were two sound stacks. So you go to a festival or an outdoor concert or whatever and there’s a huge stack-
Sama’an: On the stage.
Bun B: No not on the stage, in the crowd. The sound man is in the crowd area so he can manage the sound because he can hear it. There’s two of them. There’s so many people that one guy is engineering for the first 60,000 people and the other guy is engineering for the other 50 or 60 thousand people. I learned that there’s 125,000 people there.
Sama’an: That’s so many people.
Bun B: Right? In one place. When he does “Bonkers” — which is at the time the number one record in the world, except in America; every other country in the world it’s the number one record, produced by Armand Van Helden — they all just start jumping up and down to this record when the break comes in. It’s like an ocean of people because you just see the ebbs and flows, because to be fair a lot of it was white people and they’re not all jumping on the same beat. So there’s ebbs and flows of it. It literally looks like an ocean of fucking people and my mind is blown. Queenie is there with me we’re looking and it’s like we’ve never seen anything like this.
Bun B: I’m still overwhelmed by the moment and he’s like, “Oh yeah and I got my friend Bun B over here. Bun B come on out.”
Sama’an: You’re like, “…Me?”
Bun B: “Who me?” Yeah. So I come out and it’s a faint amount of applause, which, for 125,000 people is maybe 15-20,000 people, which is the most people that had ever cheered me on for anything. The music comes on and at that moment I blanked, I couldn’t remember any of my lyrics or anything. I didn’t even remember the hook until he started singing it. And then when it was time for me to rap, I just started freestyling. So I don’t even know what it was that I said on the stage that day but it was not my verse, it wasn’t even the first couple of bars of my verse. It was just all total freestyle type shit. So my first rock festival music festival performance, composed of a freestyle where I forgot all of my words and froze up on the stage.
Sama’an: Wow. And did Dizzee say anything to you afterwards? Like, “What was that?”
Bun B: Nah nah nah. I’m not even sure if he made any mention of it. If he did I probably don’t remember because I was still very much in awe of the entire experience. The one thing that really blew my mind. Well one, Springsteen’s guitars were on stage. It was the first time I had ever been that close to a rock performance, or behind the scenes of a rock performance, and I didn’t know that guitarists have different guitars for different songs. So I’m watching them actually tune each one of his guitars on the side of the stage. The other thing is that he doesn’t go on for another two-and-a-half maybe three more hours, right? But there are people at the front of the crowd with Springsteen signs. The first thing I was thinking was like, how early did they get here to get to the front of this thing?
Sama’an: There’s 100,000 people there.
Bun B: Right? To sit through all of these opening acts when you’re really just here to see Springsteen. Like that takes initiative, for one. Second thing is, how do they pee?
Sama’an: [laughs] Because you gotta go!
Bun B: At some point you’ve got to pee, right?
Sama’an: Scientifically, you’ve gotta go.
Bun B: But you can’t move.
Sama’an: You can’t leave.
Bun B: You can’t leave that spot. First of all, if you realize in that moment that you have to piss, you’re not going to make it to a port-a-potty anyways, and you’ll never get back. So that just informed me that there’s a nice contingency of people that go to music festivals and either prepare to urinate in a diaper or something like that or are literally pissing themselves to be in position to see their favorite group. That, my friend, takes real initiative.
Sama’an: That’s a real fan right there.
Bun B: I’ve never been a fan of anyone, in that sense, ever in my life. If I gotta pee, just videotape it and text it to me. Let me know how it went.
Bun B: But that’s easily the most people I’ve ever been in front of. Second to that would be with Beyonce at the rodeo, 80,000 people. But I didn’t freeze up that night because the way the stage is centered in the middle of the arena, and the way the room is lit, the lights are on you not the crowd. So you can’t really even see the people.
Sama’an: You can kind of just focus on yourself.
Bun B: Yeah.
Sama’an: And that was the year after Dizzee at South By SouthWest, or before?
Bun B: Before Dizzee at SXSW? Nah that was after.
Sama’an: Because you said you had to leave-
Bun B: Yeah so that was also the night I performed with Beyonce. The night I performed with Beyonce at the rodeo was also one of the first UGK shows when Pimp was out of prison which was at SXSW, another throwback, that same night. So I literally had to go on stage with Beyonce, perform, leave, jump in a car, drive — Red Boy drove literally 90-100 mph the entire way — pulled up right to the stage, not backstage. We literally drove up to the door that you walk through to go on stage. Got out of the car, grabbed a mic, and went straight on another stage. That same night.
Sama’an: That’s so wild.
Bun B: UGK’s first SXSW show ever, probably only the third performance by UGK since Pimp had been released, and people went ape shit that night.
Sama’am: Wow. What a day for you. One thing that’s really sweet through all these stories is I’m pretty sure that Queenie was with you through most of these stories.
Bun B: Oh yeah. Queenie is there for the “Ridin’ Dirty,” Queenie was at the birthday bash, Queenie is at the video shoot for “Check On It,” she’s probably at the studio too but may have stayed in the car, because that’s her thing, and she was absolutely at Glastonbury.
Sama’an: That’s so beautiful man, so I just wanted to ask just to kind of tie things all together, how do you feel like either you personally, or you y’all together as a couple, have grown since that Ridin’ Dirty listening session?
Bun B: Well, for one, because of who I am and the world I move in, she’s had to learn how to become more sociable because in the beginning she was very standoffish and because of that people had the wrong idea or a misconception of who she was. Everywhere we would go people would say, “Well, we know you don’t take no shit, you don’t fuck around,” which is true. But Queenie is a very sweet person, she’s a very kind individual, very loving. Once she gets to know you, she will let you into her world. You know this personally. I think for me, without even really realizing it, I kind of helped initiate this shift of artists bringing their better half with them on the road. Up until then, I remember there was a time where Pimp was like, “Yo, Bun you can’t keep bringing yo girl on the road.” And I’m like, “Why?” [Pimp C:] “Because my girl be finding and she wonder why I don’t bring her.” But that’s one thing about my wife, I’ve always wanted to share everything about me with her.
Bun B: Mick Jagger made a song, it’s like from a solo album, and the song says, “God gave me everything I want and I give it all to you.” That’s how I feel about my relationship with Queenie. Any dreams that I’ve had have come true. I’ve pretty much met everybody I’ve wanted to meet, been around everybody I could ever want to be around, whether it’s music, movies, tv shows. Only person I haven’t met is Dr. Dre. That’s the only person I haven’t physically met. I have Ice Cube’s number in my phone, I have Ice T’s number in my phone; like these guys are… this is who I used to stand in the mirror and wanted to fucking be, and now these people are not just my friends, they’re my contemporaries now. This is a very strange thing as I look on my life and reflect on that kinda shit. And I know Queenie is a big fan of some of these things too, so I’ve always wanted to take her with me so she could see my world from the perspective that I have but then also– like, for example, I’m on a tour now, it’s called The Legends of Hip-Hop Tour, it’s me Scarface, 8ball & MJG, Juvenile, and DJ Quik, she’s fans of everybody. So I go on second in the tour, so I don’t leave until the end of the night because every night she wants to fucking dance to Juvenile, “Back That Ass Up,” which is generally the last song of the night. And she wants to hear “Mary Jane” by Scarface, so we have to stay now, the entirety of the tour. Like the entire night. At this point we’ve done this particular tour at least 40 times. Every fucking night-
Sama’an: It doesn’t get old for her.
Bun B: No. It does not get old for her. There’s a lot of the shows where we’ll go to the club and it’s just me, and, you know, if she’s seen one Bun B show, she’s seen them all. [laughs]
Bun B: So whenever I have these shows with other people it’s good for her, right? She’s like, “Oh, great, it’s not ‘Murder’ again.” even though I do “Murder,” it’s not that again. Even though “Murder” is the highlight for her of a Bun B show. It’s kinda like, yada yada yada, “Murder!” and then yada yada yada, let’s go home, we got the money. When I do these tours with other people it allows her to just not be Bun B’s wife, but to be just a genuine hip-hop fan. It’s moments like that, even though I’m ready to fucking go because I’ve already performed, I’ve got my money, let’s get the hell out of here. It’s good to watch my wife enjoy herself because there were so many years where she would not allow herself to let go and cut loose. So we’ve come a long way, and we’ve been able to take our kids to shows, now we take our grandkids to shows.
Bun B: It’s crazy to be able to grow with someone like that and to be able to share everything like that. Now, at this point, the cool thing is that even during the UGK years, I would take her to the business meetings and have her in the room, just to have a frame of reference for what’s going on, and even more so after Pimp passed away, so that she understands who it is she’ll be talking to, what the value of the music is, and what the estate would be worth, God forbid should something happen to me. So I don’t hide money from my wife, I don’t hide things from my wife, my life is an open book for her. But it’s important that she knows what to do, and who she should be doing it with, and what the value of the estate is, so that she doesn’t give away a million dollars worth of shit for 50 grand.
Bun B: She’s very smart too. She’s always picking up on things that I don’t pick up on especially with relation to fans. She’s like, “Say something to the dude in the green shirt, he’s been saying every word!” Stuff like that. She’s always finding these things out. She’s a great friend, she’s an amazing partner, she’s the best wife, mother, and grandmother I could’ve ever picked.
Bun B: Well she’s not my grandmother…
Bun B: …but to be grandparents with! she’s the best. Everybody loves Queenie, and Queenie loves you.
Sama’an: Aw. Thank you, Queenie.
Sama’an: Would you say that she has made you a more patient person? Because you were talking about, like, she wants to wait until the end of the show?
Bun B: No, no, no. She’s made me more aware of things. I can be very nonchalant about shit and just kind of be like, “Eh this isn’t a big deal.” and she’ll be like, “No, this is a big deal. You need to pay attention because of this, this, and this.” I’ll be like “For real?” and she’ll be like, “Yes, for real, every night this happens.” I’ll be like, “Really?” and she’ll be like, “Yes, you don’t pay attention because you’re looking at the crowd.” I’m very self-conscious when I perform. If I make a mistake or if Bone drops the music too soon or too late, I feel like I’ve made a mistake in front of everybody and everybody can see it. She’s like, “Look, nobody knows anything is going wrong until you act like something is going wrong. They all think all of this shit is just how the show goes. So if you don’t make a big deal out of it, they’re not going to make a big deal out of it. And you can just keep going.” Whenever something would happen wrong, like sound would mess up or something like that — some of these things we can control and some we can’t — but whenever something would happen I would get very caught up in that moment and very angry in the moment. I would turn around and look at Truck or look at Bone like, “Motherfucker, I will kill you right now.” [Editor’s Note: I have seen this look on Bun’s face. You never want to get this look from Bun.] I learned this from the UGK days. UGK didn’t have music videos, right? We didn’t have magazine covers or anything like that and we didn’t have a lot of exposure to the fans. So the first and only time people would get to see us would be on stage. So if there was any imperfection on stage… especially in the early days, people didn’t know what a sound man was, so if you went to a show and your sound fucked up, that was your fault. That’s why you always hear stories about rappers beating up the sound man. Because you fuck up the only connection some of us will ever have with our base, which is the time that we share when we’re on stage, and it’s this reciprocal energy, right? The crowd is hype, so you get there and they make you hype, you get hype on stage, it makes them hyper. Just all of this reciprocal energy and any break in that flow is very hard to bring back. So anytime that kind of thing happens, I would feel like, “Oh, God, they just fucked up the connection with me and the people, I have to figure out how to get it back.” There’s nothing worse as a performer than having to start a song over because when they hear those first initial few notes to the song, they’re like, “Ohhhh shit here we go.”
Sama’an: And it’s hard for them to keep that excitement for a second time.
Bun B: Right. They don’t know what the next song is going to be until they hear the music. Then you’re like, “Okay let’s do this again.” There’s nothing worse to me than fucking up “Murder” or maybe “Big Pimpin’” because universally that’s probably the biggest song that we are known for. Unless you’re an old school fan “Big Pimpin” and “Sippin on Some Syzzurp,” those are the moments you are waiting for. If you’re a Bun B fan, “Murder” is the moment that you’re waiting for. So if we ever blow those moments– like, I’ve always said, if I ever fuck up the lyrics to “Murder” on stage my career is over. Because that’s really all anybody wants to know: can I still say “Murder” with the same intensity and breath control that they’re used to. The day that they feel like I can’t do that anymore, I’m of no use to these people.
Sama’an: Yup Yup. Well I hope and pray that you keep that ability for a long long time.
Bun B: Well if I ever mess it up I’ll just be like, “Take the music out, I wanna do this a capella.”
Sama’an: [Laughs] There’s tricks.
Bun B: And that moment makes it even better. “Murder a capella is a big thing.”
Sama’an: True. That’s a good point. Well, I just want to say thank you so much for sitting down and telling these stories with me, it means a lot.
Bun B: Thank you for having me. I’m going to get out of here because I know my wife is expecting me.
Sama’an: Sorry, Queenie, but we made some hummus for you so please don’t be mad.
Sama’an: Man thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it.
Bun B: I appreciate you, man. I think this is a very interesting take on conversations, it’s not the usual conversation people have with artists. It makes it much more personable because it’s not about what these moments mean to you, it’s about what the moment means to the artist. That’s a totally different perspective. You’ve got something going here.
Big KRIT’s “Time Machine” plays
Sama’an: So you can kind of piece this together from other episodes of the podcast but Bun and I met in the summer of 2010. I had just turned 20 years old and I had been given the reins to the hip-hop tv show at The University of Texas. You can hear the story of how Bun and I first met by listening to the Lupe Fiasco episode but I’ll add some details for you since you’re here now. I was young and naive about the way things worked and I viewed Bun as a demigod. So I thought it would take me years and years to ever meet him, let alone interview him. But there I was in the summer before my sophomore year of college, helming a tv show without a name, standing face to face with Bun B. Somehow, I wasn’t overly nervous. That night was the album release party for his Trill O.G. album and our tv station’s entertainment director, Tabitha Lipkin, told me she wanted me to rename our hip-hop show and make it my own. The show used to be called ATX Most Wanted. It was an award winning show ran by people such as Courtney Cox, Jerod Couch AKA J Couch, Terry Williams, Amanda Sargent, Ariel Bradford, Kevin Jack, Ethereal, and a whole bunch of people whose names I can’t find online right now. But they were an award winning show with brand sponsorships, a real solid producing team, and a knack for landing lots of big guests. When I first got involved with the tv station I was trying to join the show anyway I could, but I never seemed to be in the station at the same time as the ATX Most Wanted crew. So I took matters into my own hands. I saw that one of my favorite rap groups at the time, The Cool Kids, were coming to Austin for a concert at a venue called The Mohawk. I had my own handheld camera, so I emailed the manager of The Mohawk, a friendly guy by the name of Cody, and asked if he could help me get an interview, and sure enough he did. So I brought my best friend Jeff along as a cameraman and we did the interview with no microphones. So the audio is just absolutely terrible. But we did it! That was the spring of 2010, and most of the ATX Most Wanted show had already graduated so when I finally tracked down the few remaining members and told them I had an interview with The Cool Kids, they were ecstatic. That was my key to joining the show. I appeared on air as a host for the rest of the semester and there’s some really embarrassing clips of me on the internet that you can find if you’re really, really interested. If you do find them, send a screenshot, tag me on twitter or instagram because I love to embarrass myself online. Anyway, by the time I had the reins of the show, the rest of the ATX Most Wanted team had graduated so I felt a lot of pressure to keep their legacy alive and I had to start from scratch essentially. So that summer I had already landed interviews with Texas rap heroes Z-Ro and Slim Thug. I had a little momentum but that Bun B interview was huge. Tabitha had told me that she wanted me to come up with a new name for the show and make it my own. So I came up with a very simple name, Longhorn Hip Hop, which was our school’s mascot plus the culture we were attempting to document. I figured that if it sounded good when Bun said it, then the name would stick. So sure enough Bun said it, it sounded amazing, and we ran with it.
It took me a while to actually earn Bun’s trust because I had to earn the trust of basically everyone around him first, his managers Bone and Red, his photographer Kalele, his graphic designer Kelly, his DJ Domo, and a whole other bunch of people. They would invite me out to his events all the time and I would drive from Austin to wherever they were in Texas to be there. A big regret of mine was back when I hated Drake, they invited me to come to a video shoot for Bun and Drake’s song “Put It Down” in Houston. I had a test the next day and I can’t even remember what class it was for and in hindsight there’s absolutely no way that test was more important than getting the chance to hang out with a young Drake. Anway if you listen to the Hannibal Buress episode, you can hear all about the weekend we spent with Drake a few years later. Eventually though I got in good with Bun and one time I was still very intimidated to be around him. I could barely talk. I was so scared of saying the wrong thing, but eventually I figured out that if I got comfortable being myself, I might have to put up with some roasting but I would be alright. Sure enough, Bun has opened more doors for me than any other person in my life. It’s been incredible. Our relationship has grown to the point where now I can create opportunities for him and that’s a really good feeling. That’s a dream come true. So I’ll save my sappiness for another day but just know that Bun has seen me come a long, long way. He’s advanced my career, he’s protected me, championed me, made sure I didn’t go home hungry, and put a little bit of money in my pocket. I’m endlessly grateful for his presence in my life and I just want to say, Bun thank you so much for doing this episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. We’ll catch you next time.