SHOOT TO TRILL
UGK legend Bun B gave a hit-filled performance on his way to retiring his trill mantra Wednesday night.
Bun B closes the book on “trill”
Port Arthur, Texas rap legend Bun B didn’t spend any of the first two decades with Underground Kingz cohort Pimp C looking to compromise the duo’s fierce autonomy, even in the face of opportunities to stick in mainstream hip-hop, but he has spent the last few years quietly trying to reclaim the state of being that became synonymous with not just UGK’s independence, but also the scene that they represented. Bun’s “Trillest Tour” stop at Greene Street Club last Wednesday in support of Trill OG: The Epilogue, his most recent (and, as he has stated, final) solo record, brought a set that was as much a victory lap through his best recordings as it was a reminder of the genesis of rap’s most pervasive slang.
UGK took possession of “trill” following its coinage in the early ‘90s by a locked-up comrade and deployed on their early records as shorthand for an individual in a certain milieu worthy of exceptional reverence and loyalty, and who also reciprocated those qualities. Like any good provincial vernacular in the Internet Age, however, it was bound to find its way to a wider audience, and the meta-regionalism of New York rapper A$AP Rocky and widespread streetwear appropriation in his wake has predictably diluted its meaning. In the current glossary of Bun B, however, it is most genuinely applied to a particularly elite class of people: himself and his deceased partner Pimp C.
Bun, ever the stoic and laser-focused marvel, hit the stage spitting his 2005 hit “Draped Up”, the track most known as the epic posse cut that served as the most comprehensive in memoriam to the late Houston patriarch DJ Screw and the last of many “Free Pimp C” cattle calls before the then-incarcerated rapper was released from jail. He offered up the full album cut rather than cherrypick the gauntlet of feature verses on the more popular remix, his hype man Wee Man playing the part of Lil Keke. Right off the bat it was one of the most comprehensive pieces of the night, but in his older, wiser years, Bun is picking his verses more carefully.
You don’t have to delve too deep into the UGK catalogue to find a minefield of deeply misogynistic, anti-gay verses, but Bun has made a concerted effort to distance himself from them, going as far to call them “indefensible” in an interview with Rap Radar, and reversed stance in 2012, at roughly the same time as Jay Z and T.I., via a video supporting gay marriage. At his earliest worst, his guest verse on cult Houston rapper Example’s 2001 track “Southern Rap Phenomenon” included the line “I’m not homophobic, baby/I’m homo-psychotic/Take your wooden ass down to the shed and dry rot it.”
UGK as a whole has managed to transcend the raw, uncouth views they offered when they were still actual kings of the underground, and in the process, sidestep the ire they deserved, if mainly thanks to the legend of Pimp C as made the idea of him greater than the reality. Even renowned New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica sports a photo of him for his various social media avatars. Bun himself drew a crowd that was as diverse as any big rap show at Greene Street in recent memory: dolled-up college girls, a Bhutanese kid in head-to-toe “Trill” paraphernalia, the fifty-something parents of local support and white-boywasted epitome Charlie Lean.
He and Pimp C cast a wide shadow throughout popular music in the latter days of UGK, and it was the litany unimpeachable of verses from their classic Ridin’ Dirty and the stream of collaborative verses that built him a fan base from all corners Even with a new album to push, Bun was quick to dip into his vault of golden bars on other rappers’ songs. In addition to an undiluted cover of Pimp C’s “Pourin’ Up”, he pulled his and his partner’s verses from Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’”, the UGK verses from Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ On Some Syrup”, his quick hitters on Big KRIT’s “Country S—t” and Young Jeezy’s “Trap or Die”, along with more classic UGK cuts than solo performances. There were two obvious mile markers among them: first, the Ridin’ Dirty Hit “Murder” in which the half-capacity audience were nearly unanimous in helping out on Pimp C’s verse, “Comin’ back from Louisiana in a Fleetwood Lac.” The other, predictably, was the UGK contribution to their timeless Outkast collaboration, “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”. While Andre 3000 and Big Boi would complete their respective starry-eyed and pragmatic quarters of the song two days later at Coachella for the first time ever on stage, Bun B carried the weight of the song’s player and the hustler himself.
Judging from his feature on Bun’s swan song, however, “Trillest Tour” support and presumed torchbearer, Kirko Bangz, has been certified trill, even if the association comes across as a relationship of convenience. Bangz hails from the same Houston scene that UGK and their affiliates rep and certainly had a hand in bringing out the younger element who might only know the term “trill” from his throwaway single and their Been Trill logo shirts, but the only significant stamp on his credentials is his recent association with Bun. “Trill recognize trill,” Bun rapped toward the close of his 45-minute headlining set on their shared track, “Triller”, but only after couching his endorsement in his general ambivalence toward new rappers. “New n—-s in the game get your share/Long as you ain’t touching mine, I really don’t care.” If it doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of his young tourmate, the weak hook Bangz contributes would argue he’s not deserving of much more. At the very least, he’s making it that much easier for Bun to take it back. !