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Bun B

Trill

Some MCs are dancers and dodgers -- they're like Barry Sanders on the mike, and it's hard to get a grip on them. Bun B is not one of those rappers. As befits his stocky frame, he's more in the vein of Jerome Bettis and Earl Campbell, a human cannonball who moves piles of humanity with raw, directed power. "I ain't with all that back-talking, sneak-dissin' or plexin'," he raps on "The Inauguration," Trill's intro and Bun's self-coronation as President of the South. "I'ma tell you how I feel 'cause I'm a goddamn Texan." And that's his approach throughout this almost wall-to-wall collection of bangers about Southern pride and the perils and glories of the dope and rap games.

Bun guested on just about every Dirty South rap album in the past year, so it comes as little surprise that Trill is loaded with guys returning the favor. Everyone from Too Short to Ludacris to T.I. turns up to pay their respects, as does every Houston cat from Scarface to Lil' Keke to Paul Wall. There's also an abundance of big-name producers -- Salih, Mannie Fresh, Lil Jon, Jazze Pha and Rap-A-Lot cats like Bido, Mr. Lee and Mike Dean.

Luckily, almost all of these guys come hard. On one of the album's strongest tracks -- the spacey, Mr. Lee-produced, rock-tinged "Get Throwed" -- Pimp C, Jay-Z, Young Jeezy and Bun trade verses as Z-Ro sings the hook. Other highlights include the morbidly obese keyboard-driven single "Draped Up," another feather in the crunk-ass cap of Texas producer Salih. Two versions of this walloping cut are on Trill, the radio single and a special "H-Town Mix" with verses by everyone from Aztek to Z-Ro. The Mannie Fresh-produced "I'm Fresh" and "Trill Recognize Trill," one of Lil Jon's strongest (and strangest) head-bussas to date, also shine, as does "Pushin'," on which Bun, Scarface and Young Jeezy trade rock-slangin' tales over a sped-up Curtis Mayfield sample. (The Ying Yang Twins collabo/2 Live Crew update "Git It" seems to be the weakest track, although I've yet to hear it in its natural habitat -- which is when you're tequila-drunk in a strip club -- so I can't say that for sure yet.)

With all the expectations Bun B's solo debut has brought with it, and with all the guest shots and hype, there's bound to be some initial disappointment when listening to Trill. Get over it. Rock it on your headphones a couple of times. From beginning to end, this is the strongest H-town rap album of this miraculous year and easily top ten -- perhaps top five -- all-time. "Draped Up," "Get Throwed" and "Pushin'" are all destined for the honor roll of classics. And that's "The Story" for real.

 
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