In the end, fans are left with a pleasant close to a respected series, and one of Hip Hop's most respected voices still outshining the majority of his peers.
On the third installment in Bun B’s Trill series, Port Arthur, Texas’ very own finds himself on Universal Fontana after having left Asylum, while still waving the Rap-A-Lot flag proudly. Bringing along new friends – and old – to assist, the UGK emcee closes out the trilogy that defined his solo work, and paired Bun with a who's who of Rap over the last five years.
The album gets rolling with “Chuuuch” , which features appropriate organ keys as Bun B comes to “tell the whole truth.” It’s a good launching point, but it’s difficult to get past J. Prince's grandstanding about Drake's discovery. Prince's intros have been a staple in Rap-A-Lot classics since the '80s, but what does Drake really have to do with a 16-year veteran? The decision is both strange and awkward, but at least the track itself is nice. As the album rolls on, it’s simply a relief to see an artist enlist T-Pain rather than try and use Auto-Tune itself, which is why “Trillionaire” won’t instantly make "D.O.A." champions recoil. The drums are hard hitting, and T-Pain actually delivers with the chorus, while Bun delivers the standard fare: haters throwing rocks, flossin’, and maybe even a little bossin’. “Just Like That” has Young Jeezy joining the fray, and is definitely one of the whip. Rolling bass percussion and synth everywhere gives this the vintage UGK sound fans have come to know and love in the 2000s.
The theme of keeping it trill is embodied in “Put It Down” , which features the aforementioned Drake. The track doesn’t really distinguish itself much from the previous, but one can’t help but see a recurring theme with Drake’s hooks: rapped lines followed by the song’s title sung a few times for effect (see “Miss Me” and “Light Up” for example).
The album’s until-now heavy sound takes a break with “Right Now” , a smoothed-out affair with Pimp C, 2Pac, and a hook courtesy of Trey Songz. The two posthumous verses sound as though they could have been recorded together, though history and Bun has confirmed otherwise. It’s a refreshing change of pace, for sure, and brings some more levity to the album. Another highlight on Trill O.G. is “I Git Down 4 Mine” with infectious and sinister synth keys courtesy of longtime UGK producer Steve Below. The song itself isn’t really much different in terms of subject matter, but the production lights a fire under Bun’s belly, and has him rhyming more energetically.
After "Speakeasy," which features a stellar guest spot from Chi-town's Twista, Trill O.G. begins to seriously drag. "Lights Camera Action" doesn't really contribute much to an album that devotes a lot to the gloss and glitz of the entertainment lifestyle, and "Snow Money" is likewise unnecessary given the inclusion of "Just Like That." "Ridin Slow," however, is distinctly a Houston affair, with its laid back bounce assisted by Slim Thug's gruff delivery.
The unquestioned gem of the album, however, is “Let Em Know.” This is the type of collaboration that feels truly special, on an album filled with guests from all walks of Rap. A string loop perfectly accompanied by some off-kilter keys (and well-timed scratches, of course) are all it takes to make magic: “Bun is on the mic, Premier is on the track / The south is in the house, now what can fuck with that? / And who can fuck with me? You’re not built up / I’ll break your bitch ass down and leave you filled up / See that’s how blood gets spilled up… / You the type that gotta call up the goons / I come one deep strapped like an arm platoon / When I get to gladiating on haters like Leonidas / Niggas just gonna have to admit he’s the tightest.” The two put it down for Texas, as Bun receives one of the unwritten certifications of being a lyrical giant.
“All A Dream” is the only real departure in terms of lyrical content, having Bun wax nostalgic about his upbringing and his deep aspirations. Utilizing the popular sample from which its namesake is derived, the song illustrates that Bun is capable of exploring much more topical matter than he chooses to, which is simultaneously encouraging and frustrating; maybe the ratio of 13 to one of tracks devoted to being trill versus the difficulties of growing up in Houston is a bit one-sided?
The trilogy of solo albums have been much more consistent than both Jay-Z's Blueprint and Lil Wayne's Carter. However, as Bun gives us glimpses of going personal on "All A Dream," or going to traditional emceeing on "Let Em Know," that consistency has perhaps compromised progression. Musically, Trill O.G. is very different from its predecessors, as times have changed. Lyrically, Bun B's work with UGK and guest appearances prove that he has much deeper range than limited topics heard here. In the end, fans are left with a pleasant closing to a respected series, and one of Hip Hop's most respected voices still outshining the vast majority of his peers.