Bun B is busy. Between hopping on your favorite rapper’s songs and a year-round touring schedule, the surviving half of UGK hasn’t even had time to work on his third solo effort yet. Since the release of his legendary duo’s booming last album, 4 Life (Jive), Bun’s featured on the year’s best mixtape, and will show up on a gang of upcoming cuts. Right before he jumped on a plane to Toronto to perform with Drake, Bernard “Bun B” Freeman, 36, dialed up VIBE to talk about why Houston isn’t the only city with a rap problem, why hip hop of the future won’t be labeled, and spilled the beans on the songs he’ll feature on this summer—if he can remember all of them.
VIBE: Texas had a hot streak a while back with Slim Thug, Mike Jones, and Paul Wall. It’s slowed down a bit since then. How do you feel about Texas’ place in rap?
Bun B: I wonder if people who ask Southern artists that [also] ask West coast artists or Midwest artists or New York artists that, because all those regions are falling off. Hip hop, in general, doesn’t have the demand power it used to in any region. We had a good run in Houston, but every region’s in trouble. There are really only six people making money off rap music. Everybody knows that.
Who is the artist most likely to bring the light back to Houston?
I definitely think that Z-Ro is on the brink of becoming a national superstar. It’s pretty much up to him to decide whether he goes as far as he wants to go. The only thing holding Z-Ro back is Z-Ro.
You were on the year’s hottest mixtape—Drake’s So Far Gone. What do you think he brings to hip hop?
with Drake, I think the best thing he’s doing is that he’s taking away a lot of the labels that we tend to put on people. Chamillionaire and I had a discussion after his show in Houston as to how you would really classify him. He was like, “Well, you can’t call it hip hop, because he sings. And you can’t call it R&B, because he raps.” That’s the problem. I think labeling it kind of takes away from it. It just is what it is. It just feels good and feels right to people. Drake’s saying: “Life isn’t perfect. I’m going through a lot of different things. The world doesn’t work the way I thought it does, but I’m still going to move forward.” That’s the plight of the everyday person.
Why do you think rappers are more open about their lives today?
I think that YouTube and camera phones have made the everyday lives of artists more accessible to the consumer. So there’s really no need for you to build this façade about what you’re doing like you’re balling everyday because if it’s not true, people are going to find [out].
You were on Wale’s The Mixtape About Nothing. What do you enjoy about him?
I like his wordplay. I dig his point of view. It’s refreshing. His passion is something that you really don’t see. You hear a lot of people talking about how they’re grinding and all of that. It’s an easy thing to say, but it’s a different thing when you do. I’ve really seen him get out there and work hard and stand up for himself, the D.M.V. area [Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia], and especially his music. With the D.C. area, I want to help their movement in any way I can. They’ve always supported UGK.
VIBE caused a bit of a ruckus with our 50 Hottest Rap Blogs list. What are your top five blogs?
1. AustinSurreal and HoustonSoReal
Do you have an idea of when your next album will come out?
Yeah. Be on the look out for my third album, Trill O.G. aka The Trilogy. That’ll be coming in August. I haven’t even started [it] yet.
Like Lil Wayne, you’re always featured on a lot of tracks. What are some others we should look out for?
Um, let me think…I’ve got so much. It’s almost getting ridiculous now. Let me pull out my iPod and see. I have stuff that I did with people months ago and it still hasn’t come out. I’m on [Raekwon’s] Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. I’m on Wale’s album, a track called “Mirrors” produced by Mark Ronson. I have a great song with Uncle Murda that hasn’t come out yet. And I’m really happy about the remix to [The Cool Kids’] “Pennies.” I’m on Shawty Lo’s album. I got a song with Ginuwine on his new album. I got a song with Case. You’d be surprised at how much music I do. There’s no count on my discography. We’ve all lost count.