In a way, hearing the words "Bun B" joined together with "new album" should make people throw rice in the air. It doesn't necessarily meet with the same amount of fanfare in 2013 as it would have in 2005, say, but that's only because the idea of Bun B in 2013 is vastly different from the one in 2005.
There's no proportionate way to look at his career arc as a rapper without mentioning how much of a figurehead he's become away from the microphone. He's a sublime reminder of when underdogs sneered at the chance to become larger yet did anyway (1999's "Big Pimpin') and why loyalty above all else is one of the fundamentals of any rapper's ethos; see any solo verse of his from 2004 to 2006.
Bun's longstanding visage of a fitted cap, fresh Dickies and the latest pair of Jordans has been replaced by images of him beside Houston Mayor Annise Parker, as a constant fixture on Channel 39's Newsfix and recently sporting a tuxedo in Jones Hall while performing with the Houston Symphony. This is not to say that higher art has acquired Bernard Freeman away from us rap fans, just that Bun B -- even as more of a dignitary than a combative metaphor-pusher -- has a bit of sway.
Late last month Bun released his fourth solo album, Trill O.G.: The Epilogue. Properly, it's more of a bookend to the three albums that preceded it than a fully fleshed-out piece of work. This isn't to say it's not solid, because all the components are there: production by Steve Below, a Bun mainstay, as well as Big E and Big K.R.I.T., coupled with the rapper's ability to assail his detractors with a bit of fire and create some notable moments.
But those moments are way too far in between. A vast majority of Epilogue is leftovers from sessions for previous albums, so it feels more like we're being handed a playlist of what wasn't on 2010's Trill O.G.
With that in mind, since The Epilogue allegedly marks the final piece of Bun's solo album career -- at least under the Trill moniker -- the best way to assess where it fits chronologically with "the "best of Bun" is to craft the ultimate Trill album. Of course there's a bit of structure here as there's no way you can call an album great based solely off the singles. You could make the Thriller version of four Bun albums, but where exactly is the fun in that? So here's the ultimate Trill album, taking three songs (and three songs only) from each of the four LPs to make one truly memorable Bun record.
"The Inauguration" (Trill) How would you not start off the ultimate Bun album with the greatest album introduction in the history of man? J. Prince's baritone and that circus-like version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" are ultimate wins from the jump. Bun really could have just repeated his verse from "Murder" and the effect still would have been the same.
"Get Throwed" feat. Young Jeezy, Pimp C, Z-Ro & Jay Z (Trill) To be fair, "Get Throwed" ranks as one of the 25 greatest Houston rap songs ever recorded. The guitar underlay here is staggering, but Bun's "pie a la mode" lyric might be the weakest part. Four short words; that's it. Everything else, from Z-Ro's murderous chorus to Jay Z shaking off a bit of rust and enunciating "throwed" in his weird "I'm Still The President of Def Jam," posture make it worthwhile.
"Stop Playin" feat. Royce Da' 5'9" & Redman (Trill O.G.: The Epilogue) Rap has plenty of duos who could arguably rank as the best ever: Pimp and the Bun, OutKast, Eric B. & Rakim, and if you loved Blackout!, Reggie Noble and Method Man would be up there too. Bun's always been one to stand next to punchline assailants with glee and on "Stop Playin," one of Epilogue's usual piano-tick high moments, Bun and Reggie Noble (aka Redman) get to trade verses along with another guy who was part of a pretty nasty duo, Royce da 5'9."
"Put It Down" feat. Drake (Trill O.G.) When "Put It Down" originally surfaced on the net as a Drake demo track, it fittingly went to Bun. Out of Drake's two features on Trill O.G., this is clearly the dominant one, right down to that sinister organ.
"Pop It 4 Pimp" feat. Juvenile & Webbie (II Trill) You need one party record and as fun and slightly humorous as Bun's humor has been over the years ("Pregnant Pussy," anyone?), getting a woman to do whatever in the name of his brother the Pimp wins out.
More Trill on the next page.
"You're Everything" feat. Rick Ross, David Banner, 8Ball & MJG (II Trill) "Fuck you dawg, this the South... hate it or love it hoe!" Murky synths, choir chants and a Jodeci sample -- yeah, this wasn't getting left off.
"The Legendary DJ Screw" feat. ESG, C-Note, Trae Tha Truth, Lil' O, H.A.W.K. & Z-Ro (Epilogue) Any disciple of UGK knows that the tape Bun and Pimp C did with DJ Screw remains one of the more sought-after and legendary tapes in existence. Closing out the album with Screw's echoing voice, following massive verses from Z-Ro, H.A.W.K., Lil' O, Trae, C-Note and ESG, is perfect.
"Let Em' Know" (Trill O.G.) That's Bun, one-half of the legendary UGK, rapping over a beat crafted by DJ Premier, a Texas legend and one half of the legendary duo Gang Starr. To this day we're still wondering how Pimp would have sounded over Primo's scratches.
"Don't Play Wit Me" (Epilogue) Like a Bun album isn't going to feature a chorus strictly with Pimp C's voice.
"Damn I'm Cold" feat. Lil Wayne (II Trill) Jeez, how far has Lil Wayne truly fallen? "Damn I'm Cold" arrived in 2008, right at the apex of Weezy's powers. Sadly, Mike Tyson should have heeded these words of never marrying Robin Givens.
"I Git Down For Mine" (Trill O.G.) Utterly pissed off and swinging fire, Bun B is easily the greatest Bun B known to man.
"The Story" (Trill) The proper closing of any Bun-related project should be "The Story." Here he charts out UGK's history from the beginning, Pimp's incarceration, how "Big Pimpin" broke them nationally and how Bun began that torrid pace from 2004-05 where every track he appeared on was a complete wash. Tack on the final words of Pimp, and you have the perfect piece of closure for Bun as a solo artist and arguably the best solo rap album Houston has ever seen.
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