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Bun B

All hail Bun B! Happy to take on a father figure role for the many rappers in and around his beloved Port Arthur, Bun has taken more hits than a heavyweight in a career spanning over 20 years. Despite that, he has never failed to be anything other than a true statesman for Southern hip hop: a walking advertisement for his hometown. If you’ve not come across Bun’s backstory before, be prepared for a rollercoaster of trials, tribulations, guest appearances and life lessons direct from his lecture at the 2008 Red Bull Music Academy. UGK for life!

Hosted by Davide Bortot Audio Only Version Transcript:

RBMA

Bun B is from Port Arthur in Texas, which is a 90 minute ride from Houston, I guess. He is part of a group called UGK who released their first album 20 years ago in 1988 called The Southern Way. They had their first number one record last year, almost 20 years later, which for hip hop obviously is a ridiculous time span, and he is still around, so give it up one more time for Bun B.

(applause)

Bun B

Thank you again for having me, thank you.

RBMA

So when Chuck D was on this couch this morning or this late morning, he called you an “analogue person”, would you agree with that?

Bun B

Absolutely. Chuck D would understand, I come from the age of recording on the 2” reels, before ProTools and Digital Performer and all the things came into play. Recording back then in the early days, firstly it was more time-consuming. Say, for example, if I had to redo a vocal take, you would have to stop the machine, wait for the tapes to rewind, wait for all the tracks to lock back in and then go again, whereas digitally it is two taps of the space bar. That being said, a lot of the people who came into the music industry working on 2” reels, they have a better understanding of how music and vocals laid to tape are just a little bit deeper and have a little bit warmer sound than the digital sound and it is really a personal preference. I can do both and I have done both, but with the UGK records we always try and bring everything to the 2” reel. If you are a DJ, and we have a couple of DJs in the house - (to participant) you did a great job last night, by the way - sometimes you have records and some of them just hit so much harder than the other records and, really, it has got a lot to do not just with the mixing and mastering but the actual recording process.

RBMA

So I think we will have to talk about the special sound that you introduced to the game later, but first of all, Port Arthur, I don't think many people are familiar with this place.

Bun B

Port Arthur, Texas, is a very small refinery town in South East Texas. The town next to it is where the largest oil drilling in the world has ever happened, at its peak it was releasing 100.000 gallons of oil a day. The whole area of the city I come from was all built off of the refinery so if you don't work in the refinery, you don't have a good job in that area. There is only 50.000 people in the whole town, only two high schools, three elementary, everybody knows everybody. Not many rich people in Port Arthur, Texas. When I say rich, rich in a small town like that would be someone with six figures. Most people who work in Port Arthur don't make more than $35.000 a year American [dollars]. So there is not necessarily poverty but most people in the town are just getting by. My mother was a nurse, my father was a janitor, so no big crazy house for me, small house, small bedroom but big love. When you're from a small town or a small village or whatever it is, you have a deeper sense of community with people, you don't make fair weather friends. Usually, most of the friends that I have will probably be my friends the rest of my life. You don't have to worry about personalities changing, you pretty much know how everybody is. Because where I and my partner Pimp C were raised in the small town, it affected the way we communicated with the world, not just musically but personally. We wanted to make sure that people understood that we were always a group that never wanted to put a wall up between the people that listen to their music because there was no walls where we came from. Everybody knew everybody, we could just be sitting in the living room and somebody would just walk up and come in the screen door and say: “Wassup man, what are y’all doing over here?” So we wanted to make sure as a group and with music that we were as open to people as our city was.

RBMA

I think what is kind of interesting is that obviously you have been associated with Houston, because it is the next big city and everything, but you never really claimed that, you always represented PA and it was really important to you, I think. A lot of other people would have said: “Yes, we're from Houston,” just to make it easier to get a foothold in the industry. Why didn't you ever do that?

Bun B

When you are from a small town, most people in those towns have a lot of pride in their community and it's one thing that we definitely had. We loved being where we're from and it made us the people that we are, and I think we're pretty good people. For us, we knew that a lot of the people in that small town would probably never leave that town. They would never go out in the world, they would never be able to go and see things. Most of the people I know that I grew up with never left Texas, much less the US. So, for us it is important to let them know that no matter where we went in the world we represented for them, for the people who couldn't go out into the world. It would be very easy for me to say Houston every time someone asked me where I am from or represent. It would be easy for me to say Houston, but the easy way has never been the way that we take it. We wanted people to respect us who we were, we never wanted to try and fancy it up or dress it up a little bit. We're from a small town, Port Arthur, you either like it or you don't, you either accept it or you don't. Either way we can make this music, we're going to be here, we're not going anywhere. For me, it feels good to be in Los Angeles and New York and even in Barcelona and be like: “Port Arthur is in the house.” Those people see those moments on TV or the internet or things like that and it uplifts them because it is very easy for people to forget where they come from. It is very easy once you ‘succeed’ in the music industry, to forget the little people. But us, we are the little people, we are the underdogs, that's why the group is called the Underground Kingz because we were always the guys that nobody thought could do it. Because we came from a town of people that people thought couldn't do it and would only be who they were. It was important for us to let people know: “Don't think you know everything about me, just because I'm from a small town.” Believe me, I can take it wherever I need to take it.

RBMA

So, I guess it was 8-Ball & MJG refuse to have their music called hip hop and say they make country rap, can you relate to that state of mind?

Bun B

A lot of times in our early days coming up, hip hop and all of the movement for whatever reasons, they didn't want to include us. There was a geographical distance thing or whatever, but I think people just didn't think we knew what we were talking about. They didn't think we had the same appreciation, and when you really think about hip hop it is more of a lifestyle. It is not just music. Hip hop is MCing, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti. We are just MCs. What we do may be considered a part of hip hop, but we are not hip hop. We just really wanted to carve out our own identity. Since we thought we can't really be a part of what they are doing, so we will do what we do and make sure people fully understand that it is of itself. It is primarily just from this area. In saying that we never wanted to exclude ourselves from other people, we didn't want other people to get into what we are doing, we just wanted people to understand what the core of what we were doing meant. In America, if you don't live in the major metropolitan cities, they call you country, it's basically that simple. You are country. With me, I don't mind being country, I love being from the country, I love being from a small town. If you think something is wrong with that, then you are obviously out of your rabid ass mind.

RBMA

How important was Houston as a city for you to become the MC that you are now? Clubs, record stores, whatever?

Bun B

Obviously, yes, that was the hub for anything, any and all things rap and hip hop in Texas, as far as I knew. If you wanted the new albums, you either had to order them specifically or you could just ride to Houston and Houston would have them. Same thing with concerts, we didn't really get a lot of concerts in Port Arthur, the only concert I remember as a rap concert was the Geto Boys and that wasn't until ‘90 or ’91. So, if we really wanted to see something or know something about rap, we had to get in the car and drive an hour and a half, go to record stores, go to the flea markets. You would have to bring your radio with you so you could put on a local radio show and it would have rap shows on Saturday night. The university in Houston has a communications department and they have a radio station, and they used to do a two-hour show, which would basically debut all of the new rap records. So unless you had a real big antenna at your house, you couldn't catch the radio in Houston. So we would ride out to Houston on weekends and bring a radio with us, tape the shows, and bring the shows back home and play them to people.

RBMA

So the production, was it all Pimp C back then?

Bun B

I did a couple of tracks in the beginning but I realised that I was just making beats, that I wasn't a producer. There is a difference and I don't think a lot of people realise that. Probably anyone in this room can make a beat, someone shows them how to work the MPC and play the keys, you don't even need keys…

RBMA

I can’t.

Bun B

I know you can.

RBMA

No, I can’t.

Bun B

You can! Trust me, I said the same thing. You take a record, a turntable, a sampler and a drummachine and anybody can make a beat. But that does not make you a producer. Being a producer is knowing the right kind of sound from the records, hearing the whole song inside your head before you even touch the first instrument. People like that, you hear them and see the eyes rolled back, you are like: “What are you singing?” And they’re like: “Some song.” You go in there and hear the beat and it's like(sings beat): “Damn! How did you even know how to get that shit out of yo’ fucking head into a tape machine?” That's the difference between a beatmaker and a producer.

RBMA

So where you always around when Pimp made the beats, or did he do it in a studio at home and brought you the beats and you rapped on them? Speaker: Bun B

We would sit around, Pimp would make beats all day. Most producers, that is pretty much what they do. They wake up, they go to the machine and they start making music. They make four, five, sometimes even as many as ten songs. But most producers I know will make it, listen to it, you’ll be like: “Damn, that shit’s dope, that shit’s dope.” And they’ll be like: “Nah, it’s bullshit,” and they clear the whole board. I’ll be like: “What the fuck is wrong with you?” They’re like: “That shit was garbage,” and they’ll start again and you’re like: “Damn! Actually, that’s better than the last shit.” “Yeah, but I don’t like the drums, fuck that shit!” I’m like: “Come on man, what you doing?” And they’re like: “No, man, if we’re going to do it, it’s got to be perfect, every song. We can’t put out half-assed music, not if we care about what we are doing and not for who we represent.” People where we are from don’t get a second chance, so when we come, we got to come with it. And he was always right.

RBMA

So the "Tell Me Something Good" record, do you remember how it came about when you recorded it?

Bun B

We did that record actually at Pimp’s mom’s house. All the first album, all the preproduction was done at Pimp’s mom’s, but "Tell Me Something Good" specifically. We originally started doing all the music at Pimp’s bedroom because he only had a little keyboard and a little sampler and a little Dr Rhythm drummachine and shit. We were making literally everything in the bedroom and rapping on a RadioShack microphone. Then we started saving up money and invested it in bigger equipment and we all went in and bought an Ensoniq. Once we got the Ensoniq it was too big for the bedroom, so his mom was like: “You can put that shit in the den, but let me know when you make that music so I can go to my room or something.” We were making music that at first, his stepfather Monroe, he would just call it noise because he was from a different generation. He didn't really understand it, and lots of older people would just call it noise. So for us, we wanted to incorporate records into our records that we knew our parents listened to and was the shit to them and we put our rap spin on it and just made it happen. So, "Tell Me Something Good", the original record was by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, anybody over 30-years old in the US knows this record, it is a major record, always a party starter. My mother loved the record, his mother, everybody loved the fucking record, so we thought if we do "Tell Me Something Good", then at least they won't complain about that one. On every album, we wanted to try and pull some of those records that we knew people loved from a different generation, just so that they would be able to have a chance to get into us a little bit. They weren't going to listen to a "Pocket Full Of Stones" but maybe they would listen to "One Day".

(music: UGK - Tell Me Something Good / applause)

RBMA

Wow!

Bun B

I’m 35-years old, I was 18 when I made that. I sound fucking crazy at 18. I was trying real hard to let people know I was hard back then, I hear that in my voice. What the fuck was wrong with me? That’s actually crazy that you found that version. The version that he just played is the actual original version that we recorded. When the record company got ready to put the album out they pulled the sample because they told us it didn’t clear, but then I found out later that they just didn’t want to pay for it. That’s the kind of shit record companies do to you. But that’s it, that’s the first song we went into what you would call a full-functioning recording studio. I recorded all of that on a reel, just going to the studio and being like: “Yeah, we went to the studio today.” We brought the tape from the studio and we put it up on the wall, we were like: “That’s our first tracklist, look at that shit” - it was big for us. The only other people who made music from Port Arthur, Texas, were Archie Bell & The Drells and Janis Joplin. You’re looking at the ‘60s and the ‘70s and then nothing for thirty-odd years. To us it was a big accomplishment, not just for ourselves, but for Port Arthur people.

RBMA

So what kind of music were you listening to back then, since there was no hip hop music scene in Port Arthur, what was there, New York rap or other Southern rap?

Bun B

You could hear rap, most of the music out at that time was basically the East Coast scene, Juice Crew, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap. I remember the first time I heard Public Enemy, "My Uzi Weighs A Ton" come out, goddamn! I was a big bass head back in the day, I loved bass, Houston, Texas, we have a real big car culture because of the fact Texas is so big. Texas still has one million acres of land not even civilised, that is just land that is not people living there. Unlike Europe you can get anywhere on a bike, in Texas you’d arrive hot, tired and sweating, you'd be no good when you get there. Everybody has a car, and in order to make your car stand out from the other thousands of cars in the city, you're either going to put the crazy candied paint or the rims on it. Or you are going to put a lot of music in it, especially if you don't have money for rims and paint and shit. I remember when I was little, my mom would go to sleep, I would take the stereo speakers off the house stereo, lay them on the back seat of the car, wired them up. We wouldn’t even play them through the car system, we would have a radio that somebody took out of somebody's car and a car battery, and we would have that shit wired to the battery and the speakers wired to the radio through the outputs and be playing it like that, just riding around. People were like: “That’s banging, what you got in there?” I’m like: “My mom's speakers.” That is what you do, you compromise in this world. Everybody can’t afford to do what other people do, but that doesn't mean you can’t be part of the party.

RBMA

So what music was really big in Texas, East Coast rap? How about Miami music, the bass music?

Bun B

We didn't even look at that shit like that because it was still so new. Rap music started getting regionalised over the last 10 or 15 years or so. Back in ’89, when you listened to Big Daddy Kane, you didn't consider him an East Coast rapper, he was just a rapper. You listened to NWA, the only reason you would be like: “Those are West Coast people,” is because they wore L.A. shit all day, every day. And when the Southern rap started coming you had in the early days DJ Magic Mike, he would just make bass music, just beats, stupid bass in it, no rapping, nothing. That shit went gold. He was the only person I know that went gold with a rap album that didn't rap. What kind of shit is that? No video, no radio play, nothing. Everybody just wanted the bass. Ghetto-style shit like the Gucci Crew,MCShy-D, MC Twist, the early Rap-A-Lot records like "You Got To Be Down","CarFreak". The first-ever Geto Boys were Slim Jukebox, Prince Johnny C, Bushwick Bill and DJ Reddy Red. Scarface didn't get to the Geto Boys until the second album. So we were listening to that kind of shit. We were listening to the first Geto Boys album and hearing this thing, like "My Balls And My Word", and hearing this shit in Houston, it will fuck you up. “Wow, Houston people are making rap music? That is crazy! I didn't even know people can do shit like that. This rap shit is going to be all right.” Next thing you know, people in my own town started rapping, I was like: “Hell, no!” I was breakdancing, I didn't really look like I knew a lot of MCs back then. I look like it now because I'm a little bit past my prime as you can see, but I used to be the suicide man. I used to be breaking and falling on my back and jumping up and I can't do any of that shit no more. But East Coast, if you want to call it that, the early inception of rap, once the West Coast guys had really started making more harder-edge music, that is when I said to myself: “Yes, I think we can do that.”

RBMA

So you said it wasn't important to you where you came from but still your early record was called The Southern Way?

Bun B

We just wanted people to see the way we do things. Everybody knows how in L.A. they ride on the subways and they go to the bodegas, they gang bang and shit like that, we just wanted to say they have their way. He has it his way, but down here we do it our way, the Southern way.

RBMA

But there was no gang-banging in Houston back then?

Bun B

Not really, not gangs, nothing like that. I don't think Houston got BloodsandCrips until maybe five years ago. Over the last five and six years you have people who would come from the penitentiary, who would have affiliation through prison, but as far as just being from the streets, neighbourhoods being blue or red, we didn't have that. That being said, South side of Houston it was always into red, red cars. It was never a gang thing. North side of Houston was always into blue things. It never was any correlation with what was going on in L.A.. We had North side people, who were down on South side people and vice versa, but could you find it anywhere. Anywhere you go where there is a South side and North side they probably won't get along. Korea, Ireland, all that shit, motherfuckers don’t get along.

RBMA

Is the South side and North side thing a big issue in Houston?

Bun B

It got big during the Screw tape scene. Lots of problems came about from the Screw tape scene, just because screw music was purely South side, and they were talking about how much money they were making and the cars and all the shit they were doing. And North side people were like: “Damn! It's not like we're not doing it, we're balling, we’re making money, we're doing the same shit.” But they didn't really have the outlet to represent that kind of thing. Michael Watts and them didn't come until four or five years after Screw so it did get crazy for a while. But then again, even then it was specific neighbourhoods versus specific neighbourhoods. It was never everybody from the North side being against everybody from the South side. It was people from third ward with cats on the North side. It even got on the tapes. It was crazy for a while, but unless I'm mistaken, I think they had a bulletproof… what it was, they were robbing people in cars just as nice as the car they were driving. So when the car would pull up on you, you thought it was just another car and the next thing they're jumping out with AK’s and shit and then they're jumping in your car and both cars are going down the street. You’re like: “What the fuck just happened?” It would be like if somebody pulled up in a Rolls-Royce, took you out of your Rolls-Royce and robbed you. It was people jumping out of nice shit to take nice shit, it was crazy.

RBMA

You mentioned screw music, and for us Europeans who grew up on healthy Pete Rock,Nas and Wu- Tang diet, it was always hard to understand what you guys were doing. But with screw music, when I first heard it, I thought, ‘What’s going on here?’

Bun B

Me too. I wanna be very, very specific about that. I met Screw in ‘92 before the mixtapes were going on. At the time, Screw was just a mixtape DJ like everybody else, making mixtapes and selling them, just a regular thing. It was probably around the end of ‘92 I got one of his mix tapes and it was totally fucking different. The shit was all slow. I brought the shit back. If you remember back in the cassette days, anybody here ever actually bought a cassette? Ten years ago you bought a cassette? Not just an album but you bought the cassette, 120 minute cassette? If you got the 100 minute ones, sometimes it’d be so much tape in it, it would get caught up. Especially back then, if you tape too much, that shit would pop and then you have to get out and splice it, get some clear tape, sometimes it would get too thick, I had some that was popped in two or three different places, the shit would get all fucked up. So I was like: “Screw, my shit must be fucked up, maybe there’s too much tape or something in here.” He was like: “My bad,” and he gave me another one and the shit sounded the same. I said: “Something’s wrong with this,” and he said: “No, man! That's how the shit goes, that's how it's supposed to sound.” I was like: “OK.” So I ride around with it and then I heard myself and I was like: “Whoah! Now, I really don't understand this shit, my shit was never meant to be like this.” In my own mind I couldn't really grab the concept of that shit. One night I’m out at the car wash, it was a Saturday night, and I heard it playing in a car with a lot of bass, lots of bass, and I heard how long that bass kick would last with a record being played at a third of the speed, and I was like: “That is what it is about. This shit is about making the bass even louder, you can play it harder. I can get used to this shit.” Then I smoked me a blunt or two and that's when it really started making a lot of sense. I was like: “Now I can get into the shit for real.” It was so mellow and laid-back, it's not something you need to be high to get, but you do need to be in a very relaxed state of mind. So if you can get yourself in your own personal Xanadu without doing drugs, that is beautiful. I absolutely recommend that. But if you're already doing something, then Screw music is the perfect thing to do it to (laughter).

RBMA

We could try it.

(music: Chopped and Screwed - unknown)

Bun B

Now, keep in mind that a screw tape still has all the traditional shit that an average mixtape has: it has trick scratching, shout outs and all of that, the only difference is the tempo. That was an original invention by Screw and it is so crazy because very seldom do you have an invention named after the inventor. When Michael Watts and different people started making these mixtapes, people got offended, they were saying that it is screwed up, but only Screw can screw a mixtape. How can you say it? That's like saying I just bun’d it, how can you if you ain’t Bun? There was a lot of beef. There are still a lot of people who feel funny about it because it was one man's invention. It was named after him by him for him and then other people started doing it, but giving him no credit or acknowledgement of the fact that it was his invention, his creation. There are people today who still feel that there are certain DJs who have not given it up enough for Screw. I remember when Justo, rest in peace, it is crazy because they are both gone now, but Justo put together the mixtape awards in America for the DJs to honour DJs. I remember when he called, Screw said that they were giving him a special award because he created his own special style of DJing, and he said: “Man, I never thought them boys would fuck with me. I always thought there was hating.” I was like: “Man, they just didn’t get it.” I can understand because people didn't get us for many years after the fact but as a DJ and coming up on people like Grandmaster Kaz and all these guys, Flash and Marley Marl and having these people, like, you know: “It is incredible what you did,” and I think they even gave him a ring and he never took it off.

RBMA

Was it important back then for you that people from other regions would feel your music and understand what you are trying to say?

Bun B

Like, the same way that we'll listen to music and try and figure out what the fuck does 'buck 50' mean, what does that mean? You would hear all these regional sayings from places, you would be like: “What does that shit mean?” So you have to keep listening to the records and trying to listen to the context of the record, take some kind of miseducated and misguided guess. Sometimes you got it right, sometimes you got it wrong, but a lot of it was just trying to figure out what it was they were into. But we were just happy that people took the time to listen to try and figure it out and get into our world because that is what music was, it was really letting you into our world. For people to come in and appreciate it and be like: “I liked it and then when I found that you all were talking about this, man, that is my shit now.” That is how I used to feel, that is how I still feel when I listen to shit. I was watching this kid - where were we? - we just left Denmark. There's a kid Bushido, he's not from Denmark but he’s a European rapper. I was listening to this song, I had no idea exactly what he was saying but I could get the gist of it, he was saying: “Ching ching, bling bling, it's a ghetto thing thing.” I was like: “You are just looking at making money, and if you are not from the ghetto trying to make money, you probably don't understand it.” You don't have to understand German to get that shit. It is just about the fact that people are taking the time to get into what you are doing. That is really what we make our shit for, to see if people really appreciate the effort put into it. Because for years people didn't think rap was much, they just said we were saying things over other people's records and nothing could be further from the case.

RBMA

I think for a kid who grows up with hip hop nowadays it is kind of impossible to imagine that there was a time where rap music from the South was not that popular, and today it is all about the Jeezy’s and the T.I.’s. So when do you think it turned around?

Bun B

When "Mind Playing Tricks" went to number one on the charts, not just number one on the rap chart but number one record in the country. The Geto Boys and the 2 Live Crew, these people went out and they went to every one of these cities before any of us did it. They went out there when we didn't know what people would think of us, they didn't care. They basically formed a path that everybody walks now. It is easy for us to do it now, but back then, for one, being from the South, everybody assumes that if you are not just stupid, you are at least dumber than them. That is just a given. That has nothing to do with music, that is just being a Southerner, just being a Southern person, they assume you are stupid, uneducated, ignorant, tacky. You've got no fresh, no swag, none of that shit and you don't know what the fuck you are talking about it. So the first thing was to break that idea, or that notion, and a lot of that came through the lyricism of Scarface. Him being such an incredible writer and lyricist, people just had to give it up for the crew, they were like: “Yo, this dude here is a real fucking rapper.” It was like: “This is the South and you can call us country, all that you want, but if I hear you say it, I'm going to beat your ass.” And it was evident that: “OK, I don’t know what they're doing but that dude is gonna kick somebody's ass so if I don't like it I’m going to just keep quiet about it.” That is the best thing to do, just keep quiet. And then Bushwick was there to let you know it’s still music, still a party. Everybody was still having a good time, it's all right to dance, it’s OK to laugh, it is OK to have a little fun with it, but those guys going out there you heard a lot of stories going to these different cities and people thinking they were a joke, and there were so many times that they had to fight their way out of places. Then they would come back to that same city that they had to fight their way out of and they would be kings because they had earned the respect. That is really what it is about, not been scared to go out and say: “If you don’t like me today, I'll be here tomorrow and maybe you'll like me then.” That is really what this is about. When you’re an artist trying to get into the game, most people aren't going to like what you are doing. That’s OK because they probably just don't get you yet. I remember the first time I heard The Chronic I thought it was terrible. Most people I knew thought it was terrible. And the next day everybody was like: “This is the shit.” I remember we popped it in and we thought, ‘This is The Chronic? This shit is no better than an NWA album’. But it was so new, everything Dre put in The Chronic was so new, the way he was structuring songs, the way he was producing, the way people were even rapping, SnoopandRBX and Kurupt and these guys, they brought a whole new style and interactivity into the game, and the shit was a little bit too much to process the first day. Then the next day we listened and were: “Yo, I don’t know what we were thinking yesterday, this shit is not jamming, this is the most jamming shit I ever heard.” It took me two or three listens to really get into it and I realised it wasn’t just songs, it was an album. A lot of rap was just eight songs or ten songs, random rapping about the girl, rapping about the club, rapping about the car, rapping about the neighborhood, rapping about peace, rapping about war and whatever the fuck. The Chronic was a full thought-out about album from beginning to end, the way the skits were done, the music, the way it was put together it was very fucking precise and I think it really changed the way people put things together. I know it did for us, not in the fact to emulate it, but in the fact we had to ensure our shit has to stand out like this. When they put our shit in they may not get it at first, but they keep listening to it they’ll realise it’s just a little different and that’s why I didn’t get it, it’s a bit different to what I’m used to. This shit is good music, period.

RBMA

So is it important to you when you are creating an album to do something like The Chronic was, a coherent, consistent album?

Bun B

Yeah, like I say, most rappers are not consistent, it is not coherent, it is random thoughts over random beats. And with that kind of shit going on it is understandable why a lot of it gets criticised because most people are not putting a lot of effort into what they were doing, they were not looking at it as a full project. As soon as we started realising that we are not just making music we are making albums and we had careers... In the early days you didn’t know how long the shit was going to go on. Once people sort of realised, 'OK, I got a record deal, I got a budget, let me sit down and really concentrate on what the fuck I’m doing and how it is going to be presented'. That is really where the game started changing with us. When we were younger we were just making songs about going out one day and seeing a dude in a nice car and women are jocking it and we made a song about women jocking the car. But then we started thinking we need to make a full album, we need to pick a theme, let’s ride on that theme, that is what we started doing.

RBMA

I think it is pretty common sense that the closest you got to making a proper album album is the Ridin' Dirty album, would you agree with that?

Bun B

I kind of would have to. Musically, we were probably in our prime for the time, lyrically we were definitely in prime for the time, and we had a lot of shit going on in our personal lives that affected a lot of Ridin’ Dirty. But, more than anything, Ridin’ Dirty was the first album where Pimp and I got to do every song we wanted to do the way we wanted to do it. We got to put the album together the way we wanted to put it together, we got to do the cover artwork the way we wanted to do it. It was the first time when a record company said: “You guys know what you are doing.” Even the record company thought we were stupid – remember, we’re from the South and we don't know what the fuck we’re doing - they would be like: “That is a good song, but the people in L.A. aren’t going to get that, you probably need to do this.” I said: “I didn't make this for the people in L.A. to get it, I made it for all the people. It doesn't matter where you're from. I'm not concerned about making something that New York is going to jam. If it is good music, they will get it anyway. You are thinking about radio and the people that you hang around with, I can’t give a fuck about that. Give that shit to the man in the street and he is going to dig it.” Their problem was that they were scared and they would only service it to people in the South in the street. I used to go to New York for my album and I couldn't find it. They were like: “We have it in a couple places but we don't think people…” I'd be like: “There are 8 million people in New York, how the fuck do you know what 8 million people think? Why don’t you sell more music if you all know what the fuck people want to hear? You'd all be billionaires. Every record you put out would be number one around the world. Bullshit. You don't know what you’re doing. Give the shit a chance.” Ridin’ Dirty was the first time they said: “OK, this Screw shit, the candy paint and the cars, I think people can get it.” I said: “No, shit! You can fucking see Screw tapes selling all over the world. We have been telling you about Screw for three fucking years. You don't think, you know, let's be real, so let us do our thing.” “Do the album, make the music, this is the budget. Make it in the budget and we will put the shit out.” And that is what we did, they left us the fuck alone and we made the album we were supposed to make.

RBMA

Let's listen to a song maybe…

Bun B

If you're an artist you have to fight for your individuality, don't just take what the fuck a record company tells you. Argue with them motherfuckers, call your A&R a son of a bitch, don't be scared to come up against people, they can't hurt you. Just tell them how the fuck you feel and they will actually respect you a lot more for it, believe me. I called my CEO a bitch, that wasn't a good one. They didn't answer the phone for two months, but it’s all good (laughter).

RBMA

By the way, talking about labels, I remember there was a situation you put out an album but didn't do any promo for it.

Bun B

Yes, that probably would have been Dirty Money, that was because there was just a lot of bullshit with them. We finally had the big record with Jay-Z "Big Pimpin’", and that was something they could understand. OK, it was Jay-Z, it was Timbaland, it was a big hit. “Let's just do another one, then y’all can have a big hit too.” I’m like: “That's not a UGK song, that’s a Jay-Z song. We don't do Jay-Z songs, we do UGK songs.” And they were like: “Still, now people know you from this.” I'm like: “I don’t give a fuck where people know me from, that is not how I want to be presented on my own projects. If that’s how he wants to present me on his shit that’s cool, but when it comes time to my shit, my shit rolls different with no disrespect to Jay or Timbaland.” They wanted Hype Williams to shoot a video and all that shit, so I’m like: “OK, let me get this straight, if I go and get Jay-Z and Timbaland and do another song, you will pay half a million for Hype to do a video. But, if I don't get Jay-Z and Timbaland, will Hype still do my video?” “Let's not concentrate on that.” “No, simple questions, if we do this and we don't put them on it, do we still get a Hype Williams video?” “Probably not.” “Gotcha! Well, fuck you and fuck this album, we’ll turn it in and you do what you want to do with it.”

RBMA

We need to talk about the Jay-Z record, but let’s hear a UGK song as you put it. Here’s one off Ridin’ Dirty.

(music: UGK - One Day/applause)

Bun B

Thanks. I perform that song at every show but it’s always different when you listen to it. I don’t know if that’s just me, I don’t listen to myself, and I do probably a good 150 shows a year and perform that song 150 times a year, but I never really listen to it. There’s a certain disconnection you have sometimes as a performer, like, you know that it’s kind of just tying your shoes and shit, that’s just what the fuck you do for a living. Like, if you work at McDonald's, you make the Big Mac, you don’t fucking think about it, you just make the Big Mac. That's what we do as rappers. When I listen to it, it is crazy because it still hits me the way it did when we wrote it. When we made this record we couldn't believe that it hit us like it did. It is a very personal record there is sort of really very real shit on that song and to hear it today it is still crazy. I just left Orange not too long ago, I talk to my homeboy Bobo all the time and he has remarried and has a new baby girl now and we still do these songs and every now and then we get on stage. We still cry on stage with this record, because we're talking about people that we loved and lost and that is when music is supposed to be at its best. Don't get me wrong, at the very least music should entertain people, but music when it is done at its best should be able to inspire and enlighten people and take them somewhere. It is supposed to be a transcendental experience, it really is.

RBMA

I think on an emotional level some of your songs are very strong, people can relate to it and I think part of that is that you are constantly trying to keep it simple somehow, the flow and even some words it is very direct and straight and appealing in a straight way. Is that something you try to do consciously?

Bun B

Pimp’s main thing is that he really didn't want to lose people with flows and styles, he was like: “Bun B, you can do all that shit, you can do the crazy flows, and I’m gonna keep my shit sweet and simple.” We had to get the message across to people, it wasn't about us showing off as lyricist and writers. It is about really getting your message across, and with a record like "One Day", the whole point of it was that we know that everybody goes through loss, we all grieve, and it's painful to everybody, so why not let people know that we are just like them? A lot of times in rap music particularly, people put up walls and they put up these pedestals and soapboxes to preach to you and look down to you like: “Yeah, I’m the shit.” When really we should be like: “Yeah, I’m the shit and you can be the shit too.” That is the message we need to be getting across to people, not that: “I made it and look at you, ha ha, you're still broke.” This is about everybody coming up. With "One Day" we were like: “Yes, we might be UKG, we might sell records, but we lose someone and it hurts me just like it hurts you. When somebody goes to jail it hurts me just like it hurts you, everything we go through in life.” And sometimes it throws it at us a lot worse because I'll be out of town somewhere when somebody passes away and I can’t get back in time for the burial. That has happened to me at least four times. Once in particular, my aunt passed away, she was a woman, who, when my mother had to work late I would go and stay with. I couldn't even grasp the concept that she had died because I hadn't gone to the funeral. You associate it with the person, you go to the wake or the funeral and make your peace with it, but because I wasn't there and I was removed from the situation I would come home after about a month and be like: “Aunt Jenny is dead, right?” And my mom would say: “Yes, yes. I just told you last month, she is dead, accept it and deal with it and move forward.” But that's the thing, you get so far gone in this music sometimes you can lose a sense of reality. So we try and put as much reality into the music as possible so that it is always there, you always know who you are and always know where you status is.

RBMA

There is not one single rapper on the whole scene or industry that doesn't respect you and I think a lot of that comes from you being honest, is that what you mean when you say reality?

Bun B

Absolutely. I know the first time that when we went on the radio and told people we were broke. We didn't tell the radio station what we were doing, we just said we want to come up and go on the air today and they said sure, so went to the radio and they said: “What is going on with UGK today?” And we said: “Shit, UGK is broke,” and they said: “Excuse me?” And we said: “Yep, we're broke, the record company are playing us. We signed a fucked deal, and we fucked up, you bought all those records and we didn't get a dime of it.” So then people are calling up and going: “Why didn't ya'll get paid?” So then we pull out the contract and start explaining to people on the air how fucked up our contract was and it gave the consumer an inside look into this, they wouldn’t understand at the time: “You sold 500.000 records, shouldn't you get a cheque from that?” “No, I can’t get a cheque from that because the way my deal works I don’t get paid off that, I get paid off this. I only get paid off the 7% of what money is made, not the 100%.” People didn't know this type of thing, the consumer didn't know this about the game. We tried to expose as much of this shit as possible. One, for an up-and-coming artist who might want to be us, it is important to you to know the game and have as much information as possible and know how these record companies will fuck you over. And for two, you can front the people all you want, eventually they will see who you are. You keep talking about Benz’s and Bentley’s and all this money, and they are going to see you get out of a car, and if it is not the Benz or the Bentley, you are going to get confronted. Like: “Bun B, you jumping out of a Hyundai? What the fuck are you doing in a Hyundai? You said you rolling in Benz’s.” People see you shopping, they see you taking the kids to eat, you will get exposed. I don't care who you are and how good you think your lie is, it will catch up with you. This is the internet age, camera phones, there is a camera on every corner in most major cities. So whoever you are, you’re telling them you've got all women in the world, but you really like men, you can front all you want to, we will eventually catch you with a boy. The reality is nobody really cares who you fuck with, nobody cares, we’re only mad because you lie. People should be real about who they are and honest about who they are and let the people decide if they want to fuck with you or not, you would be surprised. “Well, you know I don’t have all that, I don’t have all that but I have talent.” “Good enough for me, let’s go.” Most people don’t really give a shit about that. You make good music, I can deal with that.

RBMA

But still between talent, truth and being proud of where you come from, being this honest guy to not selling out, that is a big difference and there are a lot of compromises to be made. When the record company asks you to make the next Jay-Z record, just explain, "Big Pimpin’", it blew up on national radio and made you famous in other parts of the country. Then they ask you on your next record to do another track with Jay-Z and Timbaland, how tempting was that at the time, did you think about it one time?

Bun B

Not at all. For us, the exposure was good but we knew it wasn't ours. Like: “This song is number one but don't get big heads because this isn't your song. You may have helped this song be number one but we know who the star is. Let's be real, it's a Jay-Z record, the biggest shit on the planet. Keep it very real, don't get a big head, get back in your little world.” Because all that’s going to happen is if I let them go and get the Jay-Z verse, then they are going to pay $100.000 for that. And if I go and get a Timbaland beat at that time they would have had to pay half a million dollars for that. The Hype Williams video, a half million dollars for that, so already just off one song I’m $1.2 million in the hole. Now, do you wanna be famous or do you want to actually make a fucking living out of your music? That is what a lot of artists have to come to terms with. Very few people get to be rich and famous, it doesn't really work like that. You either get to be rich, those are the people who work behind the scenes, the producers, executive producers and people like that, or you can be famous, the ones in front of the camera doing all the singing and dancing. Everybody doesn’t get to be Mick Jagger, we're not all going to be filthy fucking rich and super fucking famous. So at the very least, maintain your integrity, you can make a living off of integrity.

RBMA

So there is the money argument and there is the argument that the song with Jay-Z would have been your song, but still it sounds like if you would hear the song now, the "Big Pimpin’" record, aren't you proud of that? If you play it in a club nowadays, it still works, people still go crazy. Doesn’t it make you proud at all?

Bun B

It's not like I'm not proud of the music, but at the same time it is not my song. I can try and take as much claim as I can but that shit says Jay-Z featuring UGK, not UGK and Jay-Z. It was his record, he asked us to be a part of it, we put together, it ended up being a big thing, but after that he still gets to be a superstar and I am still here in my world. I did get a few more fans, yes, I did increase my fan base a little bit, but still at the end of the day, if I go out of my way just to appease the new people who listen to me just because of Jay-Z, then I disrespect the 500.000 people who have been supporting me just because I am me. And I'd rather have people like me for me than like me for anybody else. Fuck that, like me for me, because if you like me for Jay-Z, as soon as you stop liking Jay-Z you stop liking me, right? So if you are going to fuck with me, fuck with me on my terms and on my terms only, or don’t fuck with me at all. I'm still going to sleep at night. It’s all good.

RBMA

So, I think we have a very good example here of a record with Jay-Z that is still very much a Bun B song or a UGK song.

(music: Bun B feat. Jay-Z - Get Throwed /applause)

So that’s a song with Jay-Z. Jay’s verse is at the end of the song. When I listen to your music or just look at what you do with your music, sometimes it even looks like you do that stuff consciously. Like, you have the Jay-Z verse, but you put it at the end of the song just to show people that: ‘I can have the Jay-Z verse but I can put it in the end if I want to'. Is that true?

Bun B

No, you put the Jay-Z verse at the end of the song so people have to listen to the whole record. Especially for a DJ, because otherwise the DJ gets the Jay-Z verse and then it’s on to the next record. So if you want the Jay-Z verse on here, you have to listen to the whole song. Anybody out there, you get a big- name feature, you spend a lot of money on them, put them at the end of the song. If you put them at the beginning, when they play it on the radio, as soon as that person's verse is over they are going to go to the next record. Be very careful with things. Spend your money and make sure people stay to the big show you have to make it a big surprise at the end.

RBMA

So that was a song off your solo album Trill released in 2005. In 2002 your partner Pimp C was incarcerated. Apart from the fact that whenever a good friend is incarcerated it is always hard, but for you as a musician, as a group, what did that mean to you in that moment? What did you think when you heard that he would need to go to prison?

Bun B

I was in the courtroom when he was sentenced and my primary concern, for one, was for his kids. As a father and as a provider for his family, how do you take care of his family while you're in prison? So to me, that was my main concern: how do helpless men continue to earn money? How do I make sure that his name still has weight when he comes home from prison, so that he can continue to make music and provide for his family? Initially, we didn't know. He had recorded some songs before he went in to try and put something out during the time, but he wasn't going to be available to actively promote the album. So I said: “OK, I am going to have to make sure I get out there and promote his name as much as I can.” There are no guidelines to that kind of situation rap-wise anyway, there had never been a situation where you take a two-man group and you take one of them out the group. How does the group exist when it is an individual as opposed to a group? That is the meaning of the word group, more than one person, so how do you continue to exist? And for a while we weren't really sure about how to keep it going. I went and visited Pimp and we would talk about different things and he was like: “You know, you have to make an album, right?” And I said: “I'm not making an album by myself, that's dead in the water.” He was like: “Man, you are going to have to, it is the only way, you are still UGK. Just because I am not on the streets, we are still UGK. People know we are down with each other, you have to keep the music going and keep the name alive.” I had apprehensions about that shit myself because I didn’t want people to think that once my man got locked up I am like off on my own and doing my own thing. That is not how I operate and people know I am a very loyal friend, so I was like: “How can I make sure that whenever I'm doing music people know that I’m still down with Pimp?” And that is where "Free Pimp C" came from, that whole campaign. Whenever I did a feature or a verse on somebody's album or wherever I was, to made sure I shouted “Free Pimp C” so there was always association with Bun B and Pimp C so that people couldn't twist it. For a lot of people it is out of sight out of mind, but my thing is you can't see him but you can hear him, you're going to hear his name constantly. And any time they see me or hear me they are going to hear me say his name, they are going to see me wearing a shirt with his picture or something. I’m going to fucking let them know that Pimp C is still here.

RBMA

So as far as loyalty, at that point did it even matter to you, or was it even relevant whatever he did or if he did it?

Bun B

No, because at that point, if you love people, you don't get to worrying about that kind of thing. And I know it sounds crazy, but if your brother’s killed somebody, you are going to be like: “Damn, you are a murderer, that's fucked up…” – I’m not saying Pimp’s a murderer, just making a point – “…but you're terrible, we used to play football in the backyard. I can’t believe you would want to kill somebody.” But that doesn't mean you instantly stop loving somebody. You may not like them much at all but it's still your blood, it’s still your kin and it is still your family. It is not easy to write people off that much sometimes. My thing was like: “OK, you made a mistake, who is to say that I won’t make mistakes? I can’t sit here and judge you like that but I am all right with you. I rolled with you before in the good times when we were making money and riding around and having all kinds of fun, it was all good. But now that you are going through a rough spot, I am not just going to write you off like that. I just can't do that it is just not in my nature.”

RBMA

I think Pimp’s case is in a way very special, or wrong circumstances or whatever, but don't you think that it is kind of often overlooked in hip hop, whenever there is a ‘free somebody’ campaign going on that those people are actually criminals sometimes?

Bun B

Yes, absolutely and sometimes people just don't care. Of course, he's a criminal but in prison he is paying his debt to society so we're not just saying open the doors and let him out. We know that is not possible, that is more just a reminder. Let my man go, and at some point he can come out on probation or parole so give my man a chance, that's all I'm saying. We know that when we start a ‘free somebody’ campaign, a lot of times the person may not be free, but sometimes you have to fight fights you can't win just to let people know you are willing to fight.

RBMA

So that point when you started your solo career and became a feature machine, Bun B is on everybody's song and does solo albums and that kind of stuff, at that point were you sure you can win this or was it a fight you just started to show everybody you’re willing to fight?

Bun B

I wasn't sure. I felt like I was in one the greatest groups of all time, and never wanted to be a solo artist. I was very comfortable working with Pimp as a group. I had no intention of wanting to go off and do my own thing, but sometimes life takes you out of your comfort zone and shows you who you really are and what you are made of. Had I stayed in a group situation longer, there is no way of telling if I was able to make a conscious decision to go ahead and try a solo career. My solo career came basically out of necessity, the fact that it was the best way that I could keep the UGK name going, so for me to make a solo album, a lot of it was really getting started. Once I made the decision I was going to do this, because I probably spent 18 months just sitting around saying: “I can't do it, I don't want to do this, I don’t want to make a solo album. Because, again, I don’t want people thinking I'm thinking about myself.” I talk to people about it and people said: “Shit, if you want to go along by yourself that’s totally understood, dude. He went to prison, whatever you have to do to keep yourself going.” People would have understood if I decided to go off on my own. Where I'm from, loyalty is the key because in small towns sometimes all you have got is your friends, and I know that for a fact, had I being in his position he would have done exactly what I did and maybe even more. Sometimes you have to make sure you do for people what they would do for you, at least that is how I feel.

RBMA

Did you talk to him about it when you consciously started to work on the album?

Bun B

I would go and see him and send different letters and talk about different stuff. And Pimp had input, he said: “Man, you got to talk about the broads.” I said: “I don't really do that, you do those kind of songs.” And he said: “Well, go and get whoever is doing the best songs about girls right now, it is not like they're not going to work with you.” So I got the Ying Yang Twins, who were making all the best booty records at the time, and said: “Yo, let’s do a party record,” and they were like: “Hell, yeah.”

RBMA

The solo album was a totally different approach to what you do with UGK. UGK always had its sound, had its topics, its style, and now this record featured pretty much everybody and there was a whole lot of different records, was that intentional?

Bun B

Me doing a solo album was not so much about getting my own personal views of the world out there, it was really about trying to touch as many people as I could and I have gotten flak for that because people say: “Well, you didn't need to make a song with Trey Songz and Mike JonesandBirdman for the ladies,” and I said: “Well, I did because I needed to get my message to Trey Songz’ fans and Birdman's fans and same thing with the Ying Yang Twins. I needed to get my message out to all these peoples’ individual fan bases, “Free Pimp C, UGK For Life,” was important and I wanted as many people as I could get to hear it. That's why I ended up on so many albums because I said: “Anybody that's working let me know. I'm open and I really want to get this message out.” And then I would have people call me, like Ludacris was like: “Bun, I know what you are trying to do right now. If you need me for something, let me know.” Same thing with T.I., like: “Bun, if you need me for something, let me know,” and T.I. was like: “Come, get on my album. That way you can really get in touch with my fan base.” A lot of that was really people offering themselves to the project. I had so many guests featured because I had so many people wanting to help me keep the UGK name alive. There is probably two or three songs that we didn't even use because I thought we got 18 features, this might be too much, that is almost a compilation album now, but that it is just a testament to the love that people had for Pimp C as well as UGK.

RBMA

How did it feel like when you recorded the album? When you listen to it now you stressed 25 times before you are really not about touching as many people as possible or thinking about target groups, but now you actually did that, and there was a good reason to do it, but still, how did it feel?

Bun B

I can't even lie, I was numb through a lot of it. I had a really bad drinking issue through at that time. It is that's the way I chose to deal with the fact my best friend was locked up and maybe my career and life is going down the drain. I hit the bottle and it was probably one of the lowest points of my life, literally. I'm ashamed when I look back and I talk with my wife and my friends about it. You're looking at a person who was properly drinking a 1/5 of Hennessy a day, trying to drown myself in the pain. Every morning I would wake up, but the pain would still be there, and then you go and try to numb that shit again until finally you make a decision to deal with it and get over it. Because, obviously the liquor isn’t helping and the problem it is still there, you take the pills, you can take the drugs, you can do whatever you want, but eventually, when the cloud leaves the problem is still there and it is harder to keep that cloud in front of you. To me, as I said drinking was a big problem and I really just had to get out of feeling sorry for my fucking self, there is simply no other way to say it. I was like: “Pimp C is gone, the group is over.” All this shit, my wife was like: “OK, get the fuck up and do whatever it is you need to do. You can't be playing here, life still goes on.” I sucked it up, I got in the studio, I surrounded myself with people I knew I could trust. My manager Red, and I recorded with people that I knew had my back and people who would tell me that it's not jamming. That was my main thing, if I'm going to do an album and Pimp is not here, because Pimp was the person with the ear and knew what songs were hitting and what wasn't. I needed people whose opinions I could trust. I didn't need somebody just sit there in the studio I needed someone who would not be scared to tell me to come out the booth, just get out here, that's terrible. Which doesn’t happen that often because I'm pretty good right now, but at the time I was very unsure about the shit and I needed people, some honest people that I knew would give me the right information and hold me down the right way.

RBMA

So when the record came out it was this big time for you, for Texas, Mike Jones and even Chamillionaire started, so how did that feel for you, the success? Even for a solo album which was released independently it sold crazy units and it was really a big success and at that point maybe a success that no one really expected. So, could you even be happy at that time looking at the rap scene, what was going on?

Bun B

I wouldn't say happy. I felt like the mission was accomplished. It is bittersweet, we have had a lot of that lately with the UGK legacy. It is hard to celebrate when the person that you usually celebrate the shit with is not there to celebrate and my whole thing is trying to get him the album so he could hear it. How the fuck do I get this album into prison so he could hear it? I can't get into how he got it but he did eventually get the album and he listened to it and he was proud of what I did and that is really all the confirmation I needed. I appreciated the sales and that's important, the radio play and all of that, but at the end of the day I wanted to make my homeboy proud and then I knew we would be selling records.

RBMA

There is this one remix on there with all the Houston rappers on it, when you look at it, it is just a regular posse cut, everybody doing their thing like a mixtape rap, it is nothing special, but you can really hear the pride in that. Is that true?

Bun B

My whole thing, it is called the "H Town Mix" and my thing was like: “Paul, you are doing it. Mike, you're doing it. Slim, you’re doing it. Ro, you’re coming up right now. We need to show them this united front, we need to show them that all of us are here and we are doing it big and we are going to be here for a while.” Not everyone can do that. Slim can call Paul or Mike but maybe he can't call two or three other people. Everybody can't get everybody, I understand I have a certain position in the game where people look up to me. So if I call on somebody to do something for me it’s not just because I can, I call them because I have a deeper purpose in mind and I know that just because we have the light now that doesn’t mean to say it’s going to stay there and the best way to keep the movement going was to show a united front because there is strength in numbers. And that’s what we tried to do on the remix.

(music: Bun B feat. H-Town All-Stars - Drapped Up remix / applause)

Wow, I don’t even know the last time I heard that shit. That was a big record, not that I really listen to it I am really thinking back to when we did it. It was to us. We were thinking we can make a nice little posse cut but the city was really, really proud of that record. That was how we always need to look, we have been trying hard to look like that ever since but people are people. Nobody is perfect.

RBMA

From an outside perspective it was like those two years where Houston was really big, it was all about Houston, those different styles and all the music and everything, and suddenly everybody disappeared. Is that something you agree on from a Texan perspective?

Bun B

I wouldn't say it disappeared, it was just the amount of music people were putting out. When you look and see these people who look like they are blowing up out of nowhere it is no coincidence. 50 Cent blew up because he was putting out the most music and mixtapes. Same thing with the Dipset, Dipset rose to prominence making the most music. That is really what it is about, putting out product for the people. As the years have gone by and people get more and more into the musical experience, and not just listening, actually understanding the process of music being recorded, people realise now that it doesn't really take a lot of time to make a song per se and there are so many songs that you could be putting out for free. For example, anybody that wants to rap to a Beatles record don't even consider putting it out for sale because it is not going to happen. You will never clear it, it will never fucking happen in a million years. That doesn't mean you can't make a great song out of a Beatles record and just give it to the people. All the samples that you know won’t clear, that is the perfect way to get your name in the game. Usually, when a song doesn't clear it is because the song is real fucking famous and people don't want you fucking with their shit because there is a lot to be gained from it. So that is the best thing to do, take these big ass records you can't make any money off of, but that doesn't mean you can't get it to people and they can't like it, listen to it, jam it and appreciate it and you. You look back two years ago and the number one album was The Clipse mixtape. It was music that they couldn't put out but it was still good music that they made. At the end of the day that's really what this is about, none of us is really going to get filthy fucking rich off this music, but we should at least be trying to have fun with it. You want to sit around a studio with someone who is serious and broken and frustrated? I'm broke and frustrated that doesn't mean I’m down all the time, that is the whole point of making this music: have fun, lift yourself up, lift your spirits and hopefully other people's spirits, too, or stop. We shouldn't all be making Philip Glass music and depressing the shit out of everybody. You didn't know Bun B knew about Philip Glass, did you?

RBMA

So when Pimp came out of prison in 2005, going from a situation where it really seemed like it could be the end of the group, where it came to a situation where the group was maybe stronger than ever before, what was his state of mind as he restarted working on the next record?

Bun B

We were just happy, all bullshit aside, we were just ready to make music together and do what we had been doing for so long. Pimp was a person who I know personally since he was about 14-years old got up every morning and made music, literally. So you do that half your life and then one day you wake up and you can't make any music at all, it will fuck with your mind. Like, if you could do anything every day and then all of a sudden you can't do, they tell you your favourite food is potatoes and then you wake up tomorrow and there is no more potatoes. There is a mad potato disease and they had to kill all the potatoes, we can’t eat potatoes ever again. That’d fuck your head up because there isn’t a replacement for potatoes if you like potatoes. You can't eat cauliflower and eggplant and just because it's white and mushy, that shit’s not a potato. I just figured that out at the hall in the buffet(laughter). So I was just so happy that he was home and he was like: “Man, I just want to make this music again.” We went in the studio, he was trying to go to the studio the day that he got out of jail. I was like: “No, you need to go take a bath, you need a good fucking meal, you need to kiss your kids and your wife. Spend time with your family, studio is going to be here it is not going nowhere.” He was like: “Shit, it just went somewhere for four fucking years.” I was like: “Wow, touche, my bad. But seriously, give yourself a day or two.” The first song we did when he came home was the "Get Throwed Remix" that he rapped on. We sat there and we put the beat on and we looked at each other and one thing, when he and I write our rhymes we are in the same room without talking to each other. He'll be on one sofa and I'll be on another sofa and the beat will play and we will write our rhymes but we won't say anything about the rhymes until after it is written, and that shit always meshed. We don't even understand that. You do you, I do me. For some reason it always made sense together. That was the one thing that we wondered, he'd been in prison four years, can we still do that? He wrote his rhyme, I wrote mine, it made perfect sense in the world and we looked at each other and said: “Let's go,” and we just kept making music. That's why the UGK album ended up being a double album, we really made 35 to 40 songs for the album. We were just on a roll and it was feeling so good, it was so right it made all the sense in the world. Me and this dude was supposed to make music together, there's no way around that shit. When he came home from prison it was something that we really both started understanding a lot clearer, not just that we make good music together but that we were meant to make this music together. And at that point we were like: “Let's just fucking make it, let's just keep making it. Whatever goes goes, whatever doesn’t doesn't. Let's just make music and at the end of the day that is what we are supposed to be doing together.”

RBMA

I understand it worked out well from the first day he came out of prison but was it any different from how it was before?

Bun B

No, not at all, and it is a funny thing that is what we were worried about. Is it going to be different? But after we did that first rhyme we knew it wasn’t different. In fact, it was going to be even better because we began to appreciate it more. We knew now what every song meant not just to us but to other people. We had a much better understanding of our history, our legacy, our reputation, our fan base as well, we knew everything we needed to know about this group and everything we needed to know about making the music that this group makes and our connection to the people, so let's just do it. The record company was like: “Yes, please, we don’t want anybody on this album.” We said: “No, we’re still going to put features on the album.” Well, whatever, let’s just give the people UGK and by that point everybody understood what it was.

RBMA

Person-wise, as a musician he didn't change in those five years but as a person did you notice any difference when he came out?

Bun B

Just more of an intensity. We would talk, I would come in and I would actually be like: “Have you been writing?” And he’d been writing 400 songs. Like I say, when you're a producer you constantly have these songs in your head and I asked him: “How do you do it, all the beats that are in your head?” He’s like: “I write them out.” I’m like: “How do you write a beat out?” “I just think of what the drum pattern will be and I make notes to myself.” It's not something you could read Bun B and understand but it's some stuff that I can look at it and realize, yes, that was this song. Just by saying it is this bassline, trust me I know what I'm saying, I know how to put that down on paper so I can look at it, and still make the music.” All the songs that he made and all the different samples, nobody ever made them. He would have ideas for songs and samples in the four years that he was gone and he was able to come back home and put the same songs out that he had envisioned in prison.

RBMA

You said before that whenever you started working on an album together you always try to put together a concept or an overall style for the album. So what would you describe as the theme for the double album the Underground Kingz?

Bun B

First off, it’s kind of crazy ‘cause we waited five albums to do a self-titled album because the name of the group, the Underground Kingz, summed up everything that we had gone through. No one was supposed to be able to come home after four years and still have a career. No one man was supposed to keep a group a live. Who goes to prison and comes back bigger? It doesn't work like that. So against all the odds and obstacles that people put in on our way we surpassed it, we went past the point that everyone said we would end up stopping at. When Pimp got locked up all of those people said that was it and that was going to be the end of it and I kept doing features and everyone said: “Still, you aren't going to have a career.” And I did a solo album and they said: “You've got a little career but it still isn’t UGK.” Then he came home and we were still UGK. Every time they said we were going to fail we achieved and succeeded and that is because we are the underground kings. Every time somebody thinks they know who we are we proved them wrong. Every time someone thinks we have flocked in a spot we have passed that spot and it's because we care more than they hate.

RBMA

So the underground is that what you mean by that, when you call yourself an underground king nowadays? You're not underground in a classic narrow sense but is that what you mean by that, standing up for yourselves?

Bun B

Even when you say we still wouldn't be considered underground, we still rep for the underground and we are here as an example of how far an underground artist can go. So just getting into the game, there are so many levels to success within this music industry that you can achieve. I still haven't made a platinum album and there are people who come out the first time, many people probably don't even like what they are doing and they go two, three times platinum, so there are still levels of success that this group is trying to achieve so for us we're still the underdogs. I use Jermaine Dupri as an example to where I want to go with my life a lot because Jermaine Dupri is my age, but Jermaine Dupri is worth probably about 100 times more than I am because I am not doing it like that. He is really, really rich but he’s my age, and I keep thinking to myself, ‘What the fuck am I not doing? Am I not working hard enough?’ It is not so much comparing myself successfully with him, it is a matter of thinking as much as you will think I'm doing it, there is somebody who is in the game no longer than me but has managed to get further than me so maybe I should still be trying a little harder. No matter who you are in life, never think that you've got it because just when you think you've got it somebody will walk right past you with it and you are like: “Damn, he's got it.” And then you're forced to choose: do I hate him or do I go do my thing? And I think the answer is obvious.

RBMA

Having a number one album, did that mean anything to you? Our generation grew up listening to chart shows on the radio and it was always about who is number one, it was important, was it like that for you?

Bun B

At that point, yes, because we understood the game a little bit better. We understood that there is enough people that fuck with UGK, that if this record drops on the right day, and say Mariah Carey orCelineDion or Tim McGraw or somebody that usually sells 5 or 6000 albums the first week, if nobody like that comes out, we might actually have a shot at having the number one album in the country. And for us, once again, we are from Port Arthur, Texas, a little bitty town, it would have meant the world to them. A lot of times when you are an entertainer or a person of influence or whatever it maybe, lots of people tend to live their lives vicariously through you and they take your success as their success. So with us being from Port Arthur and another kid from Port Arthur sees us: "If UGK can do that then I can, too," and that kind of shit is important. For us, to have the number one album in the country from where we're from it meant everything because it is that much more inspiration to a lot of people who don't really have a lot to be inspired by. And I think that is really at the core of UGK, to inspire the uninspired. “We know where you are at, and we know there is not a lot going on, but if you really want to have something in life you can have it, right there in a little ass town, you can have it.”

RBMA

So if the Underground Kingz record represents the essence of the group, do you think there is one song that represents the essence as well, one essential tune off the record?

Bun B

There are several. This is an album where we said we weren't going to leave anything out on the album. We want to talk about family, relationships, religion, the way we look at the world, the way the world looks at us, we want to be very, very real about this, and lots of songs represent that. Some songs, like "Live The Life" represent that, "Lord, I’m Just A G". A lot of people who are in the streets doing different shit they think about a lot of things. If you are a criminal, you spend your life doing criminal shit and late at night when you are at home you wonder how God looks at you. You wonder if you have done so much wrong, would God forgive you and let you into heaven. You know you're a good person, you've done a lot of good shit, when you really know how it works is God forgives everybody for everything regardless and you are still looking at life from the point of a man. That is the kind of stuff that cats in the street have issues with. “I'm trying to do this and I know it's wrong. I’m doing it because it seems like it's the only thing I can do and will people forgive me when this is over?” So there is a lot of stuff like that. We did a record with Ronald Isley that didn't make this album that I felt represented everything that had to be said about UGK but it'll be on the next album, which is getting ready to come out.

RBMA

Do you have it with you?

Bun B

Do I have it with me? My engineer is with me, he might have it. Even though he won't admit it, he probably got it all in his computer listening to it at night without telling anybody at the studio. We all love music, there is no way anybody in here, anybody who gets new music cannot not play it to somebody, you've got to, and he has probably got all of that shit but he wouldn't tell me because he knows not to play that shit in front of me. On the Underground Kingz album probably "The Game Belongs To Me". Because that's how we felt and that is how I still feel.

(music: UGK - The Game Belongs To Me / applause)

That shit be crazy to listen to, I might be in the minority but I don’t listen to myself. Does anybody around here listen to the music you make? Ride around listening to yourself? I’m not talking about when you’re making it and you put it in, you want to hear how it sounds, maybe play it to somebody else for an opinion but I just can’t sit around listening to myself. And I have been with people, I won't name names, but that is what they do. They get in the car, they put their CD in, turn that shit up, put the windows down, lean out the window, like: “It's me!” “Jesus, you really like you, don't you? I hope other people like you like you like you because it seems really important.”

RBMA

So why don't listen to your own music? Is it uninteresting or does it bore you or do you not like your voice?

Bun B

I'm not into me like that.

RBMA

But the game belongs to you?

Bun B

I don't sit around reminding myself, I know what it is, I'm cool. I still love music more than being an artist. I will always consider myself a fan of music more so than an artist because I listen to music more than I record music. That is just me personally, so I am always listening to whatever the new shit is. If I can’t find some new shit, I start playing old shit again. Not me, I'm not too keen on me. It seems a little facetious to me to sit around listening to yourself all day, like: “Really? Why don't you just carry a mirror around and look at yourself all day too?”

RBMA

Talking about new shit, I think what really sets you apart from other rappers that have that status is that you still always work with people that might not have that much of a big name or a big budget or whatever. On the Underground Kingz record there is a Dizzee Rascal song and you are featured on his record too. Is it important for you to help people? You are like some sort of legitimiser, you rap on people's records and from then on it's like: “He has Bun on his records, it must be good.” Is it important to help in their career or is it that you just like them as artists and want to work with them?

Bun B

It's a little bit of both. I listen to a lot of music and you know when somebody has got it. You can listen to these cats and think, ‘Yo, this guy has it, this boy is bad, he’s a real good artist, and I hope that the game doesn't fuck him up'. Because that is what happens to a lot of young, talented people is that the game will chew you up and spit you out or frustrate you to where you don't even want to be a part of it. A lot of times as an artist there is nobody to talk to because nobody really understands the situation. You can't go to your friends that don’t make music and tell them: “I've got this music and I just want to get it out. You don't understand I need to get this out to the people, I need them to feel this, and to hear this and see this.” A lot of times you aren’t able to talk to about this stuff. Me, if it wasn't for Too $hortorE-40 or J. Prince I wouldn’t know where I would be today. If it wasn't for these people taking the time to listen to me complain about different stuff, the difference is that I wouldn't be here today, I wouldn't have a career today. And many times I felt it was only right to be that person for people that Too $hort and E-40 were for me. If I hear a cat I think is talented, I’ll call them and let them know: “Whenever you start going through some shit because you are going to go through some shit, give me a call.” A lot of times right now, because I have been with my wife for 10 years, we’ve been married five, most of the young rappers who are getting engaged or are ready to get married they pretty much call me because they want to know how you balance a career with the family. When money gets fucked up and contracts aren't right they call me because they know I had a messed up contract and was able to work above that. That is why we try and be honest with it so that when people have the same problems that we have they have somebody that they can come to. Some people I just call and tell: “Look, you are going through some shit, I know what you're going through, and know what is happening, you fell out with the management, you went over here,” they are like: “How did you know all this?” And I say: “It happened to me twice. It is no big deal you are going to get over this.” But a lot of time when you are in this stuff you can't see past it. They say you can’t see the forest for the trees and it is important to call, say, Killer Mike and say: “Just keep your head up, G. And if you don't understand some shit, just call me and I will try and talk you through as best way I can.

RBMA

So this whole inspiring other artists and helping them all along the way, is that the main reason why it is still "UGK For Life" even after Pimp C’s death? I can't even imagine how it feels like if your partner in the group dies after all you had been through, is that the main reason that you really want to keep up the group's name and keep doing what you are doing just to show as many people as possible?

Bun B

My thing is that you can tell people all you want, you can talk to friends until your tongue falls out, but it's only when they see you doing what you say they really understand what you mean and give you credit for it. Me, I could talk all day but I rather lead by example and prove the point by action. I try to keep integrity to the front as much as possible. I tell every artist: “If you have no integrity, you have nothing. Your friends will leave, your money will leave, your fame, everything will leave that is not built on integrity. That is the foundation of every artist. Whatever you are true to, be true to that.” With UGK 4 Life, UGK could have lasted a few years, especially after Pimp went to prison and came home, but we both came to the understanding that UGK is bigger than just the two men in the group and it means a lot to people what we have been through, what we represent, the length of time that we're in there doing what we do. The fact that people have been supporting us, for one financially, all the bills and everything like that I have paid because people come to my shows, buy my records, other artists who like me buy verses off of me, and that is how I take care of my family. There is an appreciation for my art. And you just have to keep it real with people nowadays. This world is very real and it doesn't matter if you are Bun B, shit will still fuck you up, you can still get crossed out in this game, you just need to know how to persevere and fight through this shit. A lot of people, I can tell them, you probably will have a bad run but it might not be as rough as mine. If I can make it through this shit and UGK can still be here, then anybody can do it, and that is what UGK can stand for. Anybody can be an underground king, most people in this world are underdogs but that doesn't mean you are going to stay an underdog. Don’t let the fact that people don't appreciate you today stop you from being who you want to be tomorrow, you have to keep that in mind.

RBMA

You already said that without Pimp it was hard for you, you said you were sitting around for 18 months not knowing what to do, but now the situations is even harder, it seems to be completely different. Is that something you learnt from that situation?

Bun B

Absolutely. If we had not had the previous situation with Pimp going to prison, we would not have known we could persevere through his death, if we had not persevered through his imprisonment. We look back now and realise that with him being locked up it was a test for me. It was to test the people around me and the people who have been working with this group for so long. Can you do it by yourself? I didn't understand it then but it makes all the sense in the world now, unfortunately, that I was going to have to continue this by myself. Now we all know that I am capable of doing it by myself so I just have to make sure that I am based right, make sure that I keep focus and know what the purpose is and just have the right people around me. People know that we can do it because unfortunately we’ve had to do that before.

RBMA

The whole responsibility thing that you were talking about, being influential to young artists and helping them, does that go beyond career issues or music business issues, do you feel some responsibility in other respects, too, when it comes to politics?

Bun B

Absolutely. Just because I make music it does not mean that I am not beholden to the same laws that everyone else is in my community. And it is important that I show people that I care about the same things everyone else in my community cares about. It is important for me because I am a parent and I am also going to be a grandparent next week, which sounds crazy, I'm 35-years old and going to be a grandfather, don't go there, but it is important that people understand that I am still a person. I still pay taxes, still have to vote, the shit that is going on in my community still affects me. Even if it doesn't affect me directly I can’t sit back and let them fuck over you, even if I have come to the point where they can't necessarily fuck over me. At the same time I have to understand that because I have more to lose as well. At the end of the day, being a human being, I have responsibilities to the world, I have to show compassion for people that don't have what I have. I have to show concern for people being mistreated around the world. I like to call myself a person of influence. I wouldn't say I was a role model, but people are certainly influenced by things I say and do, so I have to make sure it is not always bad shit that I am saying and doing. You have to equalise the effect. I understand I've made some records in my time that have some raw, raunchy, ‘Wow, did he really say that?’-type of shit. Probably 80% of the shit I made I wouldn't dare play in front of my mother. My mum has my first album and if I took it right now and put it in the tape deck it would pick up from the second part. The first album comes on and says “Pimp C, bitch!” - and that is all she heard. She put it in and said: “I want to hear what you're all doing,” and she heard “Pimp C, bitch,” and said: “Cut that! Get that away from me!” Saying all that, I do feel the right, or the need rather, to get involved with certain things. Of course, politically, I inspire people so I should inspire people to get involved with the voting process. I try to be as fair as possible and not tell people who to vote for. It is important to get people involved with the process because a lot of times, especially in America in the inner city in the hood, they don't even approach us about voting until it is a presidential election. But keep in mind that there is a lot of state shit that goes on, city shit, local community shit, even in your respective community they maybe passing laws about the school or a dress code, you can't keep the music loud after 10 o'clock, shit like that. And if you don't know about these things and are not registered to vote on it, people will always be making decisions for you. So that is what I have been trying to do, get people involved with the process so they can start having a say. I tell people all the time: “Do you know you can go to your senator's office any time you want and talk shit? If you don’t like some shit your representative is doing you can go to his office and say: ‘Where the hell is the senator? They said they would fix my street out there three years ago, I pay your taxes, I voted for you, where is he?’ You have the right to do that when you vote.” But most people who complain about stuff they just like to complain and it's time they stop talking and start doing and I know that I can get people energised. If I say Benz’s is the new car, people going to buy Benz’s. So if I say that voting is the new shit, maybe they will go out and vote and try and make the process easy. I try to get people involved in the world, too many people are just looking at the world letting it go by, being fucked up. Take charge, that is what's wrong, that's why the world is fucked up because there are so many people who just don't want to do anything about what is going on and I'm just trying to light a fire under some asses right now.

RBMA

So with the situation right now where everybody seems to feel like he needs to have the Obama mixtape or whatever, do you still think it is a good thing? In the end it’s not like those rappers who represent Obama make people think about it, they make the decision for them, do you think it is a good thing?

Bun B

It is good to get people involved and Obama is the first candidate…

RBMA

But do they get people involved?

Bun B

Here's the thing. Say, for example, I am a gold artist. Gold in America means I have sold 500.000 records. So if I say: “Vote!” Does that mean 500.000 people are going to vote Obama? Fuck, no. Those people like different things, some people like the style, some like the music, some people like the content, some people might like the whole package. It is just to try and get people involved with it. But that being said, a lot of people jump on the bandwagon and make songs about Obama and don’t know his policies and any of that stuff and a lot of people who like Obama today are not going to like him no more when he’s president. Everybody always has some issues at some point with the standard president and a lot of people are just jumping on the bandwagon and joining the hype. But I speak to cats all the time who are like: “Yo, Obama for president.” “OK, so you’re going to vote?” “No, I mean I’m down with him, I’m running with him.” “What does that mean, you're down with him? He isn't just going to win, do you think he’s won already?” You've got to get in the game. A lot of people are so separate from the process they don't even understand it. We got to get people involved.

RBMA

So what is happening right now, will it change anything? The election has not even happened and still Obama is this pop culture icon who everyone seems to like and he came to Europe and everybody was crazy about it, hundreds of thousands of people showed up to hear him speak. Do you think some kind of change is already going on?

Bun B

Absolutely, I say this to a lot of people, it is not just that Obama is black it is because he is different. I just think he inspires hope, he looks different from everything that comes before him. Every president before Obama, possibly with the exception of Clinton and Kennedy, but for the most part, most of them pretty much look like the ones before. If you put up a picture of George Bush and put up a picture of George Washington, there is not much of a difference, about 6 inches, they pretty much look like the same motherfucker. He could have been George Washington’s great grandson, or great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson. America has always said it is the melting pot, it has always said that we are open to all these different cultures and all these different races and all these different whatever you say. We welcome everybody but the country has never reflected that. It the first time we have a candidate that actually reflects what America looks like. Like I said, he could have been Hispanic, he could have been Asian, he can be European, but the fact is that he is different and the world is so fucked up and people are so disenfranchised about everything, family, friends, economy, house, car, everything is fucking people up, and nothing anyone says makes people feel the slightest bit better until Barak talks. It is sincere and it is genuine and if it is not, he is the best liar God put on this planet, point blank. I honestly believe that he wants change, can he actually make a change? With our help, yes, he can. But he cannot do it alone, we have to support the man beyond the election and we had to hold him to his shit. That is the main thing, don't just vote for Barak - this is for my people who are probably going to see this online or whatever - don’t just vote for the man because everybody else is and then when he's elected say: “OK, we are going to be good now.” We have got to make sure that he makes good on his promises. We have to hold him to the standard that he is putting up there.

RBMA

Don't you think it is pretty sure to come to a point he has to make a decision he doesn't want to take or goes against what he says now, isn't it in the nature of being president and could that even be a bigger problem? Like, when George Bush was president not too many people expected too much and he was just another president, but if now some person steps up and everyone has this high expectation and are really expecting to change the whole world, don't you think it would be even more of a problem?

Bun B

That is the thing, it is not that we expect him to change the world. He is just one man, he is only as powerful as the country he represents. And it's not just the President of America, it is Americans as well, we have to believe in his message of change and be prepared to go out and start making a change. We as citizens have to help him make America a better country, we have to out start looking out for our fellow man more, we have to be more environmentally- conscious, we have to be more understanding to other peoples and cultures and lifestyles. This is what we have to do as Americans to help America make a great country again. He is a president who wants to help us do this, he is the person that is inspiring us to be better people. And McCain will only make people feel worse about the state of the world that they are living in now: “OK, great, four more years of Bush, this world is going to shit. Why should I go to work? Why should I give a fuck any more?” And Barak is telling people that this country can be great again if we believe it, but we don't believe it when the other guy’s talking.

RBMA

So it is more about motivation than actual politics? So Young Jeezy could be president.

Bun B

I hope so, it would be a reflection of the inner cities of America. The thing in America is that anyone is supposed to be able to become president. The fact that a president's son became president kind of fucked that message up for people and it made it seem like this shit was an inside job. He has no qualifications to be president other than the fact his daddy was president. That’s alumni shit, what the fuck is that? People are just tired of the same old shit and they are tired of this guy getting this guy in and everybody that has the power and influence in America, there are all helping each other. It is the top 3% of the world running everything else and it is no different in America than anywhere else and people are just tired of it. We are a democracy, the people are supposed to run this shit. But we haven't had representation to tell us: “Hey, you are supposed to be telling me what to do, you're supposed to be doing it.” Now we do. Until then it has been: “Trust me and I know what’s good for you,” and now Barak is telling us to trust in ourselves, that is the difference.

RBMA

So that is very similar to what you are doing, right? In a way, that is the same words you used when you are talking about your first album?

Bun B

You brought that shit around, didn’t you? If you say so, I don’t ride around with a mirror to my face. I am trying to inspire lyricists to make better music and be better people because I know how we get looked at a lot and it is time to start changing the perception of a lot of stuff. If I could be hip hop’s Barak – shit, yeah, I am with that. They can make all the songs about me they want.

RBMA

I think that might be a good point to ask you if you have any questions?

Participant

Hi, I’m Michael from Israel. I just want to know how, you said that back in the day when hip hop just started out in the South you would listen to a lot of the shit that was going on in New York and the West Coast, but how did the people producing hip hop in the South and rapping in the South, how did they come up with the distinctive sound, with the slow tempos and the whole style because it is a distinctive musical style in hip hop, it is not just trying to do something else?

Bun B

If you look at New York, New York is a city where most immigrants come into the country, so a lot of what goes on in New York is very international, it is very cosmopolitan. There is a lot of influences from a lot of places and a lot of people. Rap is basically disco music mixed with Jamaican DJ sounds put together. So that is the influence on the East Coast. The West Coast has more of a rock tinge to it, a lot of guitars and stuff like that because most of the music coming out of L.A. is being made in that area is rock-based. In the South, most of us in the South, our parents listened to blues, a lot of gospel, most Southern producers are heavily influenced by gospel, blues and early r&b. We pretty much made a lot of the music we listened to. For a long time we didn't really notice it, but now that we are more cognoscent of it, we try to put as much influence into it as we can, just to give our music more of its own personal distinction. Also jazz, a lot of people don't know that a lot of the Southern artists, because they think we're stupid, listen to a lot of jazz music and there is a lot of influence in that, not so much the sampling of jazz, but more the instrumentation. Southern artists, more than artists of any other region, use live instrumentation in their music and a lot of that comes from the fact that most musicians are from the South. There’s a guitar player everywhere you look. There is a certain thickness when you listen to Southern music, there is a thickness in it that comes from the strings of the guitar, the strings of the bass guitar, the keys on the piano, it is a different sound and that basically comes from the music that we listened to coming up.

RBMA

Don't you think it has a lot to do with how and where people are listening to music? When you are from New York you listen to music on the subway and on your iPod or whatever. You mentioned before that Texas is so big you need cars and listen to the music when you're in a car, and the same goes for L.A.. I think that is a huge influence on how music sounds?

Bun B

I could agree with that, definitely. Then again, you have to be careful about that, too, because you almost want to say that a lot of East Coast music isn’t bass-influenced. But a lot early hip hop was 808, the Marley Marl records had a lot of bass because they were making music for the park, actually to be played outside. But I do understand the philosophy of living in a city where most of your transportation is public so you have to condense whatever you are doing to your own personal space, hence the iPod and personal computers and things like that. So, I totally understand that and I do believe that has an influence in it because why would you put a lot of bass in your music for people who aren’t going to listen to it with a big stereo? That being said, you can buy some headphones now that sound like a goddamn car when you put them on. Some of that Skull Candy shit I can’t even put that shit on my ears because it is too goddamn loud.

RBMA

I know that Jay-Z has a theory that a good song has to work on the most shitty speakers ever and if it doesn't work on those speakers, it is not a good song. So what is your take on that coming from a Southern perspective?

Bun B

That is absolutely, positively 100% true. When you go in the studio on these big control rooms with all these monitors and these big ass woofers, it doesn’t matter what shit you play, that shit sounds good. I don't give a fuck how good the shit is, if you play it loud enough on the right stereo, that shit sounds great. But then you take that shit and translate it to another form it in another form and it doesn't work at all. One thing we do and a lot of people do this, you take whatever you do in studio and you take it and go to the little battery operated CD player with one little speaker and a tape deck and you play it. Not some Blaupunkt shit, I’m talking some cheap-ass Wal-Mart $30 boombox and if that shit jams on that, it is going to jam on anything. And that is as true as it is. If it doesn't make sense on there, because the majority of people aren't listening to music in big houses and stereos and cars, they are listening to it on little shitty ass radios at home.

Participant

Hi, I am Sarah from London, which is why I wanted to ask you about the Dizzee Rascal collaboration and how you first heard about him and what it was that he did that made you want to do a track together?

Bun B

I met Dizzee Rascal at South By Southwest, I would probably say about five years ago through the guy who books the rap acts at South By Southwest. He said: “I’m bringing this dude from London. This dude is hard.” I said: “London? I never really heard a London MC.” So he played "Fix Up Look Sharp" for me and I said: “This shit is hard, this dude has real breath control.” Then, when he came and performed and I really saw him doing some real grime shit, like some real high speed crazy ass shit, I was like: “This motherfucker is a problem.” Then I talked to him and it was a whole other story when I talked to him. Dizzee Rascal, in my opinion, and I want to make sure I say this right, I have never met a person anywhere in the world in any class of life doing anything that understands people as well as Dizzee Rascal does. It has got a lot to do with his own personal experience in the life that he has led but he really gets it. He understands. I know this may sound crazy but he understands everything. When I talk to him about stuff he has such a grasp on everything and this kid is like ten years younger than me and I was really impressed when I met the kid he was probably 19 or 20-years old and most kids at 20-years old when they hear they are the shit, don’t give a shit about being anything other than the shit. When I was 20-years old I didn't give a fuck about anything else, I was the shit, but this dude has compassion for other people. He goes to these other countries but he doesn't just perform and take money, he really looks at what is going on, at people's conditions and shit like that, and I really just ended up having a lot of respect for the young kid. We were friends for three years before we even went in the studio together. We felt we needed to do a song, where you're at, where I’m at in the game, we just need to come together and show a connection. Because Southern music and grime music have so many parallels: in the delivery of the vocals and the production of the music, the energy of the artists and the energy of the crowd, and a lot of times it was really about just being true. A lot of the times rappers meet each other that is the first thing they say: “Let's do a song,” but they very seldom do the song. I don't even pay attention to that shit any more. “Take my number, we’ll hook it up,” whatever, you know they are going to change the number on Monday anyway. But he just really intrigued me, how could this young kid know so much about everything? And when I got to talk to him it was just the life that he has had. Unfortunately, he has been privy to a lot of shit in his life but he didn't let it bring him down like a lot of people I know. He let the stuff that happened to him make him. Whatever you have as a person or you have been through it doesn't make you, it doesn't define what you are. Just because you're from somewhere else to other people doesn't mean anything, you are who you want to be, and you go as far as you want to go in life. He’s a real good example of that and I wish he could get the success in America that he gets in London so that people could understand him as a person because I think if people got the chance to know him as a person, it would take him so much further in this game. But sometimes we get locked into our artist identity and you don't get the chance to let people know the real you. And also he's a good ass rapper that’s why we did a song together.

Participant

I am Reggie from Australia, in Australia we get UGK records and that is it. So we've got East music and the West music and just recently people are starting to get a bit more into the South and where I am from in Perth, Australia, sometimes we have discussions about how maybe there is a tension or animosity between the East and the South or the West and the South or the East and the West. Do you connect with many people from the East? I see that you collaborated with Jay-Z?

Bun B

I have a lot of friends on the East Coast. I hear a lot of talk about there being problems with the East and the South and it is really only the media trying to pump things up. Most of the people on the East Coast and people in the South when we see each other we kick it, have fun, smoke, drink, whatever else they do, pop pills come whatever the fuck, everybody does that shit. We have way more in common than we do differences. The only time I see any kind of a iffy behaviour is around award time and that is just natural. That has nothing to do with music. I am sure when Oscars come around whoever is nominated is not crazy about the other people either no matter how you act socially: “I respect all the nominees and I'm just happy to be nominated and all that shit.” If you get nominated you want to win, that's why we do things. We do it for people to acknowledge these things. I'm sure there is a couple of artists in the East Coast who didn’t like the success the South is getting, but I'm sure there was also people in the South who didn't like it when the East Coast was on top. The reality is that no region gets to claim this, at some point Australia will get the crown and everyone it is going to have to roll with it. You ain’t going to be the shit forever and if you are in the mind that once I am the shit… you’re already lost. It is a baton passing. The music industry and all that shit is just a relay race. I get my chance on the top and people start fucking with me, they start fucking with you. I pass you the baton and you get your run, you pass the baton, or what tends to happen is that some people try to hold on to the baton too long and somebody has got to come and take it from you, and you don't get it back. If you can willingly say: “Hey, he is doing his thing and I’m just going to fall back and let him have it,” a lot of times they will honour that respect and be the people to bring you back. But if you shit on the next person coming up, becauseou see everybody in life twice, once on the way up and once on the way down, so how you treat people the first time will be how they treat you the second time. A lot of times in the South, I had East Coast artists front on me when I was first coming up. Do I take that as a reason to just hate all East Coast artist? Fuck, no! Maybe just this dude was a dick. There are some dicks in the South too. There is bullshit music where I'm from, there is some bullshit music where you are from in Australia, that is the reality of the world but there is also some real good shit, too, and there is no need to be a bitch about it just give everybody their due credit. East, South, nowhere near the East/West, and even when it was the East and West there really was just this dude didn't like this dude, it was nothing personal about the region, it was just this dude is a dick. Anybody else? It looks like that's maybe it.

(applause)

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