By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Back in 1987, when Chad Butler and Bernard Freeman were first writing the rhymes that would become their debut cassette The Southern Way, neither one of them ever would have dreamed that their music would one day echo off the walls of a Louis Vuitton boutique in the Galleria. But that's exactly what happened last Monday night: Rap-A-Lot hosted a semiprivate listening party celebrating the release of Bun B's second solo album, II Trill, at Houston's outpost of the glitzy French luxury emporium.
Hell, back in '87, you couldn't even buy any Southern rap (other than 2 Live Crew or Vanilla Ice) in any record store in town, much less one in the Galleria. And yet, here, 22 years later, Bun B's music had conquered not just Houston but America and the world.
Perhaps all that factored into Rap-A-Lot's decision to hold the party where they did. In any event, it was a memorable evening. Trim, gliding waiters swished through the crowd handing out bottomless flutes of Moët while Box DJs spun everything from the White Stripes and Steely Dan to Pimp C. solo jams. Soon enough, Bun's mahogany voice rumbled lines like "Mane I'm a gangsta call me the hood superstar, and I'm a gangsta ridin' in my candy painted car, 'cause see a gangsta always down to rep for his hood, and to do a little bad so I can do a little good."
Madd Hatta, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, TV Johnny Dang, and Bun's Port Arthur Lincoln homie Stephen Jackson of the Golden State Warriors and a couple dozen stunning women milled around the store as starstruck shoppers gazed in the window at the flyest display in Galleria I, II, III and IV put together. Hell, for those two hours, the Louis Vuitton store wasn't even in the Galleria. It was, instead, in the Trilleria.
I walked over to Bun to pay my respects. I told him it was a triumph of a record and a wonderful party.
"Thanks, John," replied Bun. He waved his hand at the champagne, the ladies, the music. "Partake."
Which is just what I did that night, and is just what I've been doing with II Trill since I got it two weeks back. The verdict: Put the best nine tracks from this record together with both mixes of "Draped Up," "Trill Recognize Trill," "The Story" and "Get Throwed" from 2005's Trill, and you'd have something as good as Super Tight and Ridin' Dirty. What that means is that there are almost twice as many keepers on II Trill as there were on Trill.
As usual, the stuff I like best is church organ-drenched and full of funky, bluesy guitars. One such is the Chops-produced "Damn I'm Cold," which opens with some skittering, trademark crazy cat rhymes from Lil' Wayne, whose gravelly rasp is a good counterpoint to Bun's wood-grain thunder.
"Get Cha Issue" sports a similar old-school UGK gumbo funk groove, and better still, opens with an eerie descending banshee wail from none other than Port Arthur wild child Janis Joplin. Bun shines here lyrically, too; he opens by smacking around corrupt preachers and moves on to dirty cops and Larry Craig. ("Got senators suckin' dick in airport bathroom stalls.")
There's more than a little bit of a Jamaican tinge to the record. Sean Kingston sings the hook on lead single "That's Gangsta." On U.G.K. track "Underground Thang," producer Cory Mo whips up a Steel Pulse stew for Bun and Pimp to trade verses between sung hooks by Chamillionaire. Pimp's verse will make you laugh and cry at the same time; just something about the way his simultaneously elastic and metallic voice and praline accent delivers "bald-faced liar tryin' to call me a snee-yutch, I did four in population with a bald-faced beeeaatch" cracks me up until I remember, again, that the Pimp is no longer with us.)
Former Black Uhuru frontman Junior Reid sings the hook and raps on "If It Was Up II Me." This one is another classic, a heart-cry for our gentrify-first, answer-questions-later times. Bun decries lead-based paint and asbestos in the projects, not to mention the developers and politicians who would just as soon raze the whole thing and throw up some condos. "Development is good for the 'hood, yeah that's what you tellin' us, but bitch you on the payroll of builders and developers," Bun raps, sounding like a Southern Chuck D. "Fuck what you sellin' us, pipe dreams for suckers, you can't take that 'round the corner to them other muthafuckas."
But II Trill is not all jerk chicken jams and social laments. Shout-outs to the late Pimp C abound, from the J. Prince intro (by now, Rap-A-Lot should put out a compilation of their C.E.O.'s greatest hits) to the fun New Orleans-Houston club banger "Pop It 4 Pimp" (featuring Webbie and Juvenile, reprising "Back Dat Azz Up") and the touching, Stevie Wonder-sampling "Angel in the Sky," in which Bun not only reminisces on his late friend but also adds in a prequel to "The Story," Trill's oral history of U.G.K.