December 10, 2016
It may not have been anywhere near the brutal winter nights that hit New York or Chicago over the weekend, but anything under 60 degrees means Houstonians either stay indoors or pull out their heavy coats, scarves and gloves. Which is why it was such a delight to see so many people enduring the chilly temperatures on the lawn in front of the Discovery Green stage this past Saturday night, all for a chance to catch a performance by an H-Town rap legend. People downright LOVE Bernard Freeman, a.k.a. Bun B of UGK. And seeing him perform his litany of hits for free is like opening your Christmas presents early, or at least before the rest of your siblings.
The night began with Kiotti from 97.9 FM The Box serving as the host, tasked with warming up the crowd with his comedic tendencies and dance moves. He introduced DJ Chose as the night's opening act, and both men proceeded to keep the crowd moving with a mix of H-Town classics, Top 40 tracks and even a few Latin dance beats.
It takes a really talented and dedicated DJ to keep the party going while still ensuring the tracks are family-friendly. The average age of the crowd was definitely grade school and younger, so curse words would not fly on that night. And yet, somehow Chose was able to hit tracks such as Big Moe's "Purple Stuff," Lil Troy's "Wanna Be a Baller" and the Swishahouse classic "Drank Up In My Cup" with precision and ease. Kiotti was even able to request his "favorite song," which turned out to be "Suavemente" by Elvis Crespo. The crowd simultaneously laughed and cheered as he showed off his merengue dance moves. Chose ended his set with a pop twist, dropping "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus and the biggest hit of the year, "24K Magic" by Bruno Mars.
Then it was time for the Trill OG to hit the stage, and everyone in the skating rink called over to him for a photo and an autograph. Bun was all smiles, as is his usual demeanor, always ready to talk to and take photos with his fanbase. He was cozy in his fashionable winter coat, and once he was handed the mike, he went into full UGK mode.
The set list began with "Draped Up," one of the most recognizable singles of his career. A couplet of the lyrics perfectly summarizes his mantra:
"We ain't playin' where I'm stayin' 'cause it's way too real.
No matter the situation, we gotta keep it trill!"
Again, keeping the balance between trill and family-friendly is not easy, but Bun did everything masterfully, keeping the tempo high and the mood confident. He ran through a few more of his hits, such as "Get Throwed" and "Big Pimpin," the crowd cheering louder and louder at every familiar tune.
You could see the love and admiration in the eyes of each fan, each of them basking in the greatness of the Port Arthur native and the legacy he has created. From building up UGK as one of the greatest rap duos of all time with his brother Pimp C to serving as a professor at Rice University, as well as all the charitable and philanthropic work he accomplishes every year with his wife, Queenie, and his team of Trill Gladiators, Bun B is a true hero and role model to Houstonians and many others across the country and the world.
The difference with Bun is that he genuinely cares for the needs of his community. After performing "One Day," he saw that a fan needed medical attention in the crowd, and immediately stopped the track to call over to security to attend to the young fan. "We can continue the party in a minute, but we need to take care of this person first," he promised. Later on, he invited a young boy named Thomas to the stage, making the kid's day by introducing him to the crowd and requesting that everyone say "Hello Thomas!" to the boy.
He ended the night, as is his custom, with "International Player's Anthem," and then posed for his traditional holiday Christmas card with his fans. Bun's arms outstretched, grin a mile wide, and the crowd throwing up their H's — it's definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.