UGK's Bun B tells DX about being a fan of Radiohead & Vampire Weekend, Pimp C's interests in Jazz greats, and why he's the trillest grandfather you'll ever meet.
Waving the flag for lyricists in the south way before it was the trendy thing to be, Bernard Freeman is the epitome of an O.G. His status as an Undergroung King amongst kings has never been in question and is one of the most highly respected artists in the game, bar none. Recently switching from Warner Bros. Records to bring his signature Texas drawl to Universal/Fontana, Bun B is gearing up to release his next opus, Trill O.G. later this year. This week, Bun is repping hard in his home-state at South By Southwest's Noisemakers event with Peter Rosenberg. But away from music, HipHop DX recently linked with Bun to talk about his life after the CD is over and the cameras stop rolling.
The Port Arthur native got real about taking his wife on the road (sorry groupies), Pimp C putting him on to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, his thoughts on John Mayer, why Chris Brown would be perfect for The Last Dragon remake, being friends with Rock stars and why he’s not fucking with Yoga. Get throwed!
HipHopDX: Bun, what up homeboy? How are you?
Bun B: I’m good, everything’s good. Family’s good. In a positive state of mind as they say. Can’t complain.
DX: Okay. Speaking of family, how’s that work for you, I mean being away from them for long stretches on the road. How do you balance being a rapper to the world and a father to your family?
Bun B: My kids travel with me. My kids are older than typical rappers kids tend to be. My kids are 24 and 25 right now. So I didn’t have the type of problems of having a young child at home but I guess I still had issues adjusting to the notoriety of being famous, being a person of interest or whatever you wanna call it. But I tend to take my wife with me almost everywhere I go. And we got a granddaughter now. She’s not really old enough to go to that kinda stuff yet though. But I’m Bun B when I’m at work but I’m dad or honey or Mr. Freeman when I’m at home.
DX: Word? You take your wife with you on the road? That’s cool. Do you get clowned for it at all? You know how Doug Christie’s wife had him…on lock!
Bun B: Nah, not at all. Because my wife doesn’t hover over me. She doesn’t have me on a leash or anything like that. My wife knows I love her and that my family is first. And she understands that I have female fans or whatever and some of them can be a little bit extra, but I can’t control other people’s actions. All I can do is control my actions. As long as I carry myself with respect and don’t disrespect myself or her, we don’t really have a problem. Most entertainers are actually encouraged and inspired by me and my wife. I can’t tell you how many people we know in the industry, a lot of them you wouldn’t even know are engaged or married, not saying any names, we’ve encouraged then to go on and lock it down and take it in. You can still be an artist or even a sex symbol and still…
DX: Bun, you’re a sex symbol now?
Bun B: That doesn’t apply to me, personally [laughing], but you can have a strong fruitful career and a strong fruitful family life at the same time.
DX: Switching gears a little, the anniversary of Biggie’s death just passed. I saw a blog on stories about Notorious B.I.G. that people might not know. I know you really rep for Pimp C. Is there anything about Pimp that people may not know ?
Bun B: I think people might not know how big of a fan of Jazz music he was. There’s a lot of songs in the UGK library that come from Jazz samples that he picked. Pimp was really big on Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis. He turned me on to a lot of stuff like [Miles Davis’] Bitches Brew and things like that. He was very much a musical cat and a lot of music on those [UGK] albums was produced by Pimp C. A lot of people don’t know that as well. It incorporated a lot of live instrumentation as well and that just comes from him wanting to pay respect to the artists that came before him.
DX: Wow, I definitely didn’t know that Pimp got down with Miles and Bird like that. What kind of stuff outside of hip hop have you been checking for lately? Me personally, I’ve been on Jet, Vampire Weekend…
Bun B: Oh yeah, Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend is actually a friend of mine so I’ve been real happy to see everything take off for them lately. A lot of people wouldn’t know that my favorite group is Radiohead.
DX: Oh hell yeah. Thom Yorke is that dude.
Bun B: I like any form of music, not just rap. Radiohead is my favorite band. Portishead was one of Pimp C’s favorite bands. Massive Attack, Tricky, listening to the new Dizzie Rascal album…
DX: So with Lil Wayne doing the whole Rebirth album, would you ever take a cue from some artists who’ve stepped outside of their traditional genre and do a rock album ?
Bun B: Mmmmm…probably not. Just to be honest. I’m content with what I do. I still don’t think I’ve fully mastered this game yet. So before I go into another one, I wanna lock down this one.
DX: Okay, moving along. The NCAA tournament’s kicking off. Are you a college hoops fan ?
Bun B: Yeah, actually I am.
DX: What’s going on with Texas, fam? They started out #1 in the country and fell to being #6 in the Big 12…
Bun B: Man, I don’t know what happened to that team. Somewhere along the line they lost their spirit. Which is sad to me because the point guard is from Port Arthur. So, I don’t know, man. I don’t wanna count em all the way out but it’s not looking good right now.
DX: Speaking of hoops, you know [former Olympic gold medal runner] Marion Jones is about to do her thing in the WNBA. What you think about that, you think people will warm up to her ?
Bun B: Well out of everybody involved in that scandal about performance enhancing drugs, well everybody lied initially, but she’s the only one that admitted to it and owned up and did her time and came back. She’s paid her debt to society, leave the broad alone.
DX: People don’t even know she was the starting guard when North Carolina won the title in ’99 so she can really hoop.
Bun B: Yeah, she was actually drafted to the WNBA in 2003 but she didn’t go.
DX: Speaking of not going, a lot of people aren’t going with John Mayer’s apology. What are your thoughts ?
Bun B: I just think he got a little too comfortable with his comments, a little too comfortable with his jokes. John Mayer is a light-hearted person. I don’t necessarily think he meant any ill will. I understand, I guess, what he was trying to say in that moment but he has to understand he’s not really in a position to address those kinds of things. This is still a touchy world that we live in. Race is still very much an issue. I don’t think it does any good to say "to hell with John Mayer" and even if the black community did say that, he’s not going to lose any money behind it. He might lose some sleep because I feel he’s affected by it. I think he just understands that he fucked up. He said some dumb things out of his mouth but who of us haven’t? He gets a pass on this one, as they say.
DX: No doubt. On another note, sadly Cory Haim just passed. The Lost Boys used to be my movie. What are some of your throwback favorites from the '80s ?
Bun B: Hmm. If I had to go there I would say Weird Science, off top. That’s just me. That was the shit of all shit. Then Ferris Bueler’s Day Off, Beat Street…um, The Last Dragon…and, I’d have to say Action Jackson.
DX: Oh shit, Action Jackson ! That’s one you don’t hear everyday. Speaking of The Last Dragon, I heard they’re doing a remake with Samuel L. Jackson playing “Sho-Nuff”…
Bun B: I don’t see that being good at all. I’m sorry.
DX: For real? I think he could pull that character off, easy. And I think Rihanna is doing "Vanity’s" part.
Bun B: So who’s gonna be Taimak’s character?
DX: Now that, I haven’t heard word on. I don’t even see who out right now would be good for that.
Bun B: I can tell you who would have been perfect, but will never get to do it in a million years and when you hear, it you gonna be like "My God"…
DX: Who ?
Bun B: Chris Brown.
DX: Um, I gotta disagree with you on that one, fam.
Bun B: No, Chris Brown’s got the baby face, he’s got the build. You can’t use an Omarion cause he’s gonna be too short. You gotta have somebody who’s physical stature will match up with Samuel L. Jackson. And if none of this would have happened, he still would have been her boyfriend…
DX: Okay. But in the original movie, Taimak had that naivety but at the same time you could take him seriously when he got into Bruce Leroy mode, for real, for real. I don’t see anybody taking Chris serious like that. I wouldn’t really feel too threatened, no diss to Chris…
Bun B: Let me tell you, he’s not a little dude. Chris is 6’2”. And he’s very athletic and once they would have put him through the ringers and taught him some of those moves…and he’s quick as shit too. I’m saying this because I know the kid. I’m telling you, he would have killed this movie. I was never scared of Taimak. [Laughs] I thought he could do Karate but…
DX: I don’t know, Bun. We might have to agree to disagree on that one. But yo, what do you do to relax ? A lot of rappers, quiet as kept, are trying Yoga. Would you ever be down to try it?
Bun B: Mmm, nah. Maybe because I can only see the physical side of it. I guess I don’t really understand the meditation side of it. I think I can find personal peace in myself without putting my foot behind my head and my ass in the air. [Laughs] But that’s just me.
DX: Ha, so what do you do when you’re stressed?
Bun B: Me, I tend to read.
DX: What pages you turning lately?
Bun B: I usually read biographies. It helps me understand my situation better and helps me get through because I see other people have been through way worse. Like, I read, which I think every artist should read, The Colonel Tom Parker Story. He was Elvis [Presley’s] manager. Like, he invented a lot of shit that we still implement to this day. A lot of people wouldn’t know that before Elvis, you had to wait until the end of the show to get your money. His manager was one of the first people to say "Give us the money before we go on. Bring it to the hotel." Which at the time was unheard of. Before that they had to count receipts to see if they made enough to pay you. But he also was at some point getting up to 50% from management. So he also taught a lot of people how to fuck over artists. He did some good things and bad things. He’s also the reason why artists can do movies and soundtracks by showing the star power of an artist in a feature film and having a song or album to accompany that. He wasn’t the first to do it, but the first to perfect it. You wanna sell a movie called Blue Hawaii, you put Elvis in it and have him sing a song called Blue Hawaii and it’s gonna go. That book fucked me up. [Laughs] I recommend every artist read it before their manager does.