Bun B, Kirko Bangz Warehouse Live March 16, 2014
By the time big Southern rap impresario Bun B took the stage at Warehouse Live early this morning, there was a lot to celebrate. It was St. Patrick's Day, of course, but the occasion also marked the kickoff of the UGK star's "Trillest Tour" with Kirko Bangz. There was even cake and champagne on hand to commemorate Bun's birthday in his adopted hometown (he turns 41 on Wednesday).
In fact, with respect to Mr. Bangz, the whole evening felt like one big celebration of Bun's status as Houston's hip-hop godfather. But it took a long time to get there, and we're not just talking about Bernard J. Freeman's two-decade-long recording career.
The large crowd that turned out to see the stars put up with a St. Paddy's Day parade's worth of opening acts, highlighted by a strong set from Doughbeezy and an appearance by Young B, Bun's stepson and a promising talent in his own right. Major (motherfuckin') Money put in work, as well, with his customary coterie of hoes tossing fistfuls of cash into the audience.
That certainly perked up a few in the crowd, but as the procession of up-and-comers stretched past midnight, all of the artists became something of a blur. Between acts, ladies in the crowd started up loud "Kir-ko Bangz!" chants, impatiently reminding all in attendance that Bun B wasn't the only draw on the bill.
Indeed, the high-pitched screams that greeted the fresh, young "Drank in My Cup" hitmaker when he appeared at last rivaled those enjoyed by Justin Bieber. Clad in a shiny black vest and shades, Kirko looked and sounded every bit the man that Bieber thinks he is as he performed to countless camer phones on "What Yo Name Iz."
Although hundreds of people were crowded on to the stage -- more folks than most local rappers can pull into an entire venue -- all eyes remained on Mr. Bangz throughout his set. Swigging from a large bottle of Hennessey, he drove women bonkers with R&B-tinged hooks and had the whole crowd bobbing their heads to club bangers like "Shirt By Versace" and "Play Me."
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Basking in his fans' adoration, Kirko took a trip through the crowd on the shoulders of one of his homies, doling out dap and rapping right along as people snapped photos and passed him joints. With the audience's energy at a fever pitch, the young rapper led everyone in a massive singalong of Lil' Troy's 1998 classic "Wanna Be a Baller." Fun!
By the time Bangz had played his hit, taken his bows and introduced his mother to the crowd, he'd turned in a performance too hot for all but the strongest locals to follow. Fortunately, they don't come a heck of a lot stronger than Bun B, who arrived after a quick palate-cleanser by Just Brittany.
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Straight out of the gate, Bun opened fire with his legendary verse from UGK's "Murda," as jaw-dropping a piece of rhyming as the state of Texas has ever produced. Dressed in black like that bad man that he is, the mayor's favorite rapper mixed in solo street sweepers like "Draped Up" and "Trillionaire" with his verses from UGK favorites from "Pocketful of Stones" to "Sippin' on Some Syrup."
Unavoidably, the specter of his late partner, Pimp C, hung heavy in the room, with an endless slideshow of UGK pics cycling through on the projection screen. On "Big Pimpin'," Bun led the crowd through a massive rap-along of the Pimp's verse -- a reassuring sign that the Dirty South legend's memory is far from being lost more than six years after his passing.
"Big Pimpin'" is hard to top, even if you're Bun B. So the King of the Trill brought out some help for his encore. Kirko Bangz returned to duet on "Triller," and then none other than Northside boss Slim Thug came out to favor the remaining fans with "Thug From Around the Way." Even more unexpectedly, Mississippi's own Big K.R.I.T. appeared suddenly to join Bun on the rollicking "Country Shit."
With all the guests having finally arrived, the evening ended the only way it could've: with cake, sparklers and a champagne shower during "International Players Anthem," the song that may go down as UGK's most beloved ever.
By the time the lights came on at last, it was closing time. But the Trillest Tour has only begun, set to take the H-Town gospel across the country courtesy of two different generations of stars. After one hell of a strong start, the celebrating, it seems, may never end.
Personal Bias: Awfully sleepy.
The Crowd: Diverse.
Overheard In the Crowd: "R.I.P. Pimp C!"
Random Notebook Dump: The folks onstage and behind the bar weren't the only ones making money at Warehouse Live on Sunday night. In the crowd, hustlers were hawking CDs, photos and likely a lot worse out there in the dark.
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