"It's more than a concert. It's a celebration of what we stand for. Of what we believe in. Of the values we share. And it's a first for Houston"
Bernard Freeman sits nervously at the head table in a room full of wealthy, powerful, and influential Houstonians, waiting to be introduced as the day's honored guest speaker. In the four years we have been covering him for the Houston Press, this is the first time we have seen the beloved rapper known around the world as Bun B visibly intimidated.
The event is a meeting for the Houston chapter of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), and the setting is Tony's, one of the most luxurious restaurants in Houston. This is one of those "jacket required" places, with $100,000 supercars lined up at the valet station.
The meeting doubles as an announcement of Bun's collaboration with the Houston Symphony for the November 14 event at Jones Hall entitled "Houston In Concert Against Hate." Both the symphony and the ADL are celebrating their centennial anniversaries, and have requested a special performance from the hip-hop legend in order to help spread the message of unity, diversity and an end to violence and hate.
According to Bun, he and the symphony will also invite a group of 600 kids to the concert as an outreach to the community and to plant the message of peace to the next generation.
"We need to work together to stop these negative aspects of life," Bun says to the meeting attendees and media gathered at the event. He continues to express the need to achieve a society free of hate and violence, with equality and diversity as the foundation of a peaceful society.
The symphony plans to play the works of several composers at the event, from Aaron Copland to John Lennon. Without giving away the surprise, Bun says that he will perform a well known and beloved song complete with original lyrics in tribute to four prominent Houstonians: Esther Campos, Michael Feinberg, Dr. Thomas Freeman, and Carol Shattuck.
After the media interviews and announcement, Rocks Off followes Bun and his manager Anzel Jennings to the restaurant's bar for a break from the day's commotion. The rapper confides that the scope of this collaboration is immense.
"This is my most important venture to date," he says. "I mean, for the first time in its history, a hip-hop artist will perform with the symphony. How awesome is that?! I'm not rapping, I'm giving a performance. This isn't rap, this is about striving for excellence through hip-hop."
This will also be the first show in his 20-year career that his mother will attend.
"I've never been comfortable with her coming to any of my shows until now," he says. But on November 14, Bernard Freeman will be in front of the Houston Symphony, in a tuxedo, spreading the message of peace.
Trill in a tux. Amazing.
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