Interview with Bun B - 12/06/2007
Rest In Peace Pimp C
I got a chance to talk to Bun B today and do a little interview. Really couldn't believe it, and didn't expect it, but like when his partner temporarily left him for the penitentiary, Bun's already holding it down for his partner forever, Pimp C.
HSR: This is such a crazy situation. It’s not like when someone gets shot or had been sick. Have you been able to really grasp the fact that Pimp is gone yet?
BUN B: Hmm. In certain senses, you know what I’m sayin’? Yes. But, there are surreal aspects to it. But I’ve um, I’ve likened it to trying to hold onto a bowling ball with silk gloves on, it’s the only way I can explain the process of how I’m trying to wrap my head around this. It doesn’t process in the normal sense that things logically process. It’s an entirely different grieving process opposed to every other time that I’ve ever had to grieve anyone’s passing. It’s absolutely different to a relative, or… my father passed recently. I took it pretty hard but this is still a little bit different you know? I’m not saying that I hurt more for him than my dad, it’s just different. I’m stronger than I think I am but I’m not as strong as I would like to be. People think I’m doing a lot of things like talking to you , or talking to The Box (97.9 FM in Houston), the assumption is “Wow this guy is really strong for him to be able to do this right now.” But the true reality is that I’m weak, and that’s why I’m doing it. Because I need to talk about it, I need to think about him amongst people that loved him. Not just by myself and with family, but his fans loved him unconditionally. His family loved him unconditionally. Even all the artists that have called into local radio, and XM and Sirius, we’re aware of all of that. The tribute that you guys made, I got calls from London, Canada, Amsterdam, Nigeria, and when I was at The Box this morning a guy emailed in from The Virgin Islands. It’s just incredible, not just the extent that the music reached, but the extent of the acceptance and the admiration and honor and the respect and love that transcended as well. I’m in awe.
HSR: Well I can see that looking at it from the inside out, it might be a little hard to really put it in perspective, but you have to realize the impact that you guys have had on this music and culture since day one. Maybe even more so recently, which is also crazy because there are not too many artists out there who came out when you did and are not only still doing well, but you guys put out a number one album this year. This is unheard of in rap.
BUN B: We were just starting to understand the full range to which we had been accepted. It took a long enough time to realize that internally in just this country Matt that people in North Carolina could love you as much as people in Texas. People in Washington state and Nebraska can love you as much as the people in Louisiana and Mississippi. Cuz we really didn’t get to see it like that, we didn’t get to feel it like that. But you go out to these shows and you sing a song from 1997, you sing a song from 1995 and even “Pocketful of Stones” from 1992, and they knew it all. We were just starting to understand the acceptance. Now I’m just starting to see the extent of the admiration and love and how close people felt themselves connected to UGK internationally. When Pimp was locked up, I really began to understand what we meant to people. The way people reached out then in that respect. But to really just start to see it internationally with the different places that we have been to and just the interaction with Germany and shit like that.
HSR: Well I said it on the radio last night, but when I worked for Murder Dog, my main job was traveling to all these different cities and interviewing all the people in the rap scene from the dudes with demos tapes on up to the big guys and basically do scene reports and when I would ask the artists who they were influenced by, two names always came up. First was always UGK and then 8Ball & MJG. And to be honest that surprised me because I had been a fan at least since “Tell Me Something Good” came out. But everywhere I’d go, your name came up. Not only did you show these young cats that it could be done, but y’all were the first ones down here to get that major deal with a major impact. And when you listened to those UGK records, you didn’t just hear UGK, you heard 3-2, you heard Botany Boys, you heard people from Port Arthur and Houston who never really had deals, they were just the real deal people from the streets out here and I think one of the things that people need to recognize about UGK is that since day one, you have had success, but you’ve also always given back.
BUN B: You know we were really lucky to have Scarface, Willie D, Too Short, J. Prince, you know, to really pull us to the side in parts of our lives, not only in our musical lives but in our everyday lives, and just give us different game on different things. And some of the shit was really life altering and career altering. It made such an impact that we felt it was only right to give whatever we had learned, to others. We were never selfish about that. Anything I could talk to a cat about, lyrically I would try to talk to them about that. Pimp C mentored a very large percent of the people who are doing it and making a lot of noise right now. Not just producers, but lyricists as well. We wanted everybody from here to win, and that was something that was really instilled in us by J. Prince. He instilled that in us a long time ago. He said “No matter what you do or where you go or how far you get, you remember where you came from.” And for us, it was the south. Don’t let anybody make you feel that you can’t be who you are. We took that shit to heart man, Pimp more than anybody. And we were determined to make it on our terms and we wanted other cats to understand that and we wanted them to make it on their terms so they wouldn’t owe anybody. So they could really be able to take pride in their success or feel comfortable in their failures. Pimp was very gracious in that respect, a lot more than people would ever know. You have to think like, people like Crazy C, he gave Pimp C his organ sounds. So whenever someone would ask Pimp where he got his organ sound from, Pimp would give it to them because he had gotten it from somebody. How could he claim the right to that when somebody gave it to him? Different little things like that. He’d show people different little ways to program, different ways to sequence, just different things.
HSR: Everyone is wondering what the hell happened in that hotel room. No one knows how the man died as far as we know. I don’t want you to have to speculate, but I have to ask, was he stressed? Because reading a lot of the stuff he said in Ozone, and listening to some of the radio interviews he did, it seemed like these things that he was talking about were really, really getting to him.
BUN B: First off it’s still too early to speculate on how he died. To be honest, we don’t know yet. We haven’t gotten results back from toxicology, we haven’t gotten the autopsy results yet. Everything is based on the condition he was found in and the condition of the room. Pimp was never one to bite his tongue about things. Sometimes in life it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. I think that the way Pimp phrased things was a little more off putting than what he was saying. It was just his blunt honesty about things. Pimp didn’t really have a filter, he wasn’t really good at sugar coating things for people or being PC about things. If it was something he felt strongly about, he had to say it. He just could not hold it back. Keep in mind he had a lot of positive things to say too, like “Knockin’ Doors Down.” I would hate to try and even guess what his mental state was in that sense. You know he had been in the studio with Paul, he had been on stage with Paul, when we know for sure we will let it be known. These things are public record. Why lie on someone who wouldn’t lie on himself? One thing that people respect about UGK is that we were always so honest with them. We let them know about our ups as well as our downs. And we tried to let people know that no matter how big we seem, we’re human. Pimp C did a crime, he had to go to prison, like everybody else. We’re human. When he did his interviews while in prison, he said I did this, it was my mistake, it wasn’t anybody’s fault and I’m paying for it. He stood up as a man, he did his time in general population and he came home to respect, love and admiration. We were together last at the Jeezy concert here in Houston at Bar Rio, you know, we went there, jammed Jeezy. He wanted to go there and let it be seen that he had nothing against Jeezy and that he enjoyed Jeezy’s music, which he did. And he wanted Jeezy to see that as well. People think that a lot of that was personal, but it wasn’t. I talked to Jeezy at the Dirty Awards and he wasn’t trippin’, and Pimp wasn’t trippin’ and I don’t want anybody to think that he passed away with any issues with anyone. Anyone he had a problem with he had already rectified all those issues.
HSR: I want to talk with you a little bit about the music, because I personally feel like UGK is really the platform that a lot of the south really came from. And more specifically I think the production, Pimp’s voice and your voice, were the ones that really came out sounding like you were from the south. Like you were from the backwoods, the swamps, a small town. And that’s really what the bulk of America is really like. The bulk of America is not like Manhattan or Los Angeles. I think people really felt the realness that y’all put forth. But musically straight up, you guys weren’t the first people to ever rap about cocaine, but y’all pretty much set the standard and gave the rap community a story line to build on for years.
BUN B: Well, we just gave like we got. We listened to the early NWA stuff, the Ice Cube stuff, we also listened to Public Enemy, Tuff Crew, Gucci Crew, Ron C, every thing you could think of. We took it all in. We really love and respect music and we just wanted to honor and respect the people who opened the door for us. Personally, I really can’t speak exactly on who we influenced, even if I know this. Most people I would name are actually out there saying it themselves, but I can speak personally to the fact that I would not be the lyricist that I am today were it not for Pimp C. Just being able to try things musically and content wise and substance wise, it was always Pimp C that was ready to cross the boundaries as far as content, lyrically and musically. I’d be like “Shit man we can’t talk about that.” And he’d be like “Shiiiiit man, yeah we can.” A lot of things we brought to the table was Pimp. He was more than happy to show somebody how he did things musically.
HSR: Well for me as a fan and as some one who knows you and have talked to you about a lot of different music, I always thought that was you. Because when it comes to music, and your taste in music, you’re definitely not one-dimensional. You’ve surprised me a bunch of times with how much you actually know about not just hip-hop and soul, but popular music in general. You’re very informed on that and I always kind of thought from my perspective that you were the more adventurous one musically.
BUN B: Well I was willing to listen to different things, as he was, but I was nervous about bringing that kind of stuff into UGK. You know I listen to Radiohead sometimes and stuff and Pimp and I would both listen to stuff like Portishead and Massive Attack and stuff like that. He would want to incorporate that stuff into music and I’d be like “Aw man, I don’t know if we can do that. That might be too much for people.” But anytime you think of any of the radically impacting songs from UGK, nine times out of ten, that was him wanting to go there. I tended to want to play it safe and just make stuff I felt people wanted to hear. And different times he’d be like, naw we need to talk about this shit. Pimp was a big jazz enthusiast and really big on live instrumentation. He loved old soul, The Meters and stuff like that. That’s why we had Leo Nocentelli on so much shit, the lead guitarist for the Meters. A lot of people don’t know that he played lead guitar on a lot of the stuff for Super Tight and Ridin’ Dirty.
HSR: Whoa, I didn’t know that.
BUN B: A lot of people don’t know that. And that was Pimp making a personal appeal to the man, telling him how much he respected his sound and he didn’t want to get somebody to try and do it, he just asked him to come in and do it. They could talk to Pimp about different things and they knew that the kid knew his stuff. We did it with respect and honor. We didn’t just chop somebody’s music up, he treated peoples music like he would want people to treat his.
HSR: I think that him setting himself apart and setting UGK apart with the Country Rap Tunes declaration was a really bold statement, and it was very important to the development of everything that has happened down here. I like all kinds of hip-hop, but for the most part, a lot of the indie hip-hop and classic rap fans were definitely not southern rap fans, and the southern rap fans didn’t even know who any of these indie and “real” hip-hop artists were. I think that before Pimp made that statement that people only looked at this rap down here on the surface, but that statement really set a standard and told the world that you guys are who you are and you do what you do, and you’re just as passionate about it as anyone from the east coast or anyplace else.
BUN B: Well you know, you ask anybody in those early days from that era, you know, it was really hard to get people to take you seriously. We’re just going to be extremely real about this. It was very hard to go to some of these different media based markets and prove to these people that what you were saying was impactful. Because the reaction in their area was really not the same as the reaction in our area, so they really didn’t see it and didn’t understand it and basically didn’t believe it.
HSR: Well I can back you up on that, cuz I remember calling (a magazine editor) one time around when Dirty Money was supposed to come out, and I told one of the editors that I wanted to do a feature on UGK and he said to me “No one cares about UGK, why would we do a feature?” Now the same dude probably has you on his top ten MC’s list.
BUN B: Well I mean, you got to think of the perspective of where they are from, and ten years ago nobody did care about UGK. But down here it was more than care, they really gave a fuck. And over the years, they were like, “You know what I know y’all the shit here, but I got cousins in Philly and in Cali and they don’t understand. They don’t understand that somebody down here could be the shit.” And our whole thing was always, “We ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we ain’t finna stop rapping like we rap, so, they’ll get it eventually.” It was a rough ride for a long time. I didn’t do shows in New York till after “Big Pimpin’.” But that was cool because I didn’t want it to be fake, and Pimp didn’t either. That’s one thing about New York and LA, if they don’t like it, they will tell you. But at the same time, I would go to New York and meet up with real dudes on the street, I would go to Harlem and get my haircut on 125th Street and get Jamaican food and go around the corner and pick up some bud and I would tell people the name of my group and they’d ask about our songs and I would say “Pocket Full Of Stones” and they’d know that one from Menace II Society and I’d say “Front Back and Side to Side” and they’d know that one too. But because the visual aspect wasn’t there, like I say - these media based markets – there was no correlation. And the record companies, they didn’t know how to market that kind of thing. We would tell them to market it just how it was and they didn’t really know, they didn’t understand it, they were so far removed. Telling a room full of people from the Bronx and Brooklyn how to market two boys from Port Arthur, Texas, I mean, shit. Them boys from Port Arthur, Texas probably couldn’t tell you how to market a kid from the Bronx. At the time I was young and I didn’t understand it. All we really wanted was just a chance, a fair shot. But at the same time, we wasn’t the easiest people to work with, at all. But getting back to the original point, it was hard back then to get out there and represent it. But we in the door now, we have no regrets. There was no hard feelings either. New York is supposed to stand up for New York, because truth be told, if you was in the south in 87, 89, to maybe 1991 and you were a hip-hop head, you were a fuckin’ minority.
BUN B: If you wasn’t jammin’ Geto Boys and PSK 13 or even K-Rino, Ron C and them, shit from Dallas or somewhere, or Luke, you was trippin’. Nobody wanted to know about God Body and Knowledge Me in Houston anymore than people up top wanted to hear about 5th Ward or South Park. The wall was put up to make us think that we was so far removed from the struggle of each other and there was no way we could relate. And the perception media wise was backing it up. But once we actually got to New York, once we got to Chicago and Detroit and LA and Oakland, those people were just like us. Their words were a little different, but their walk, their vibe, they swagger, their attitude and the way they cared about stuff was exactly the way it was for us. And then we had to take it back and tell people down here that them New York boys is real. People would look at us like “What is you talking about?” And we’d be like “Man, them New York boys just like us. You just don’t know cuz you ain’t been to New York.” I remember talking to Camron about it. He came down to Dallas to go to community college then went back to Harlem and was like, “Yo, listen to this UGK, this how they get down out there. It just sounds different, but this is how we live.” This is as much us, as what we do.
HSR: Which is what was beautiful about “Big Pimpin’.” A lot of people say that Jay Z brought you to national prominence, but they don’t realize how many people in the south you brought Jay Z to as well.
BUN B: It’d be ignorant of anyone to assume that UGK didn’t benefit from that. Regardless of what Jay Z got from the record, it doesn’t lessen or strengthen the fact that we got a lot out of that record. We definitely appreciated that. I understand the issues that some people have, because people fought very hard, and I understand this with you too as a fan Matt, you fought very hard to support us cuz we were a group that were going about it on our own terms. There were a lot of opportunities to jump on the bus, to jump on the different movements. The Cash Money movement, the No Limit movement, and I know that a lot of you guys wanted to see UGK get the credit for a lot of the work that they put in themselves. The old fans just want the new fans to recognize that. It’s not that the old fans don’t want to give Jay Z his card, you have to give him his card. He’s a great artist, he had southern fans, and whether or not we strengthened his connection with his southern fans or not, now it’s now a moot point. Because I know for a fact that whether or not it strengthened him here, I know for a fact it strengthened me there. Not just inhis region, but then like on a whole different social level.
HSR: Well that’s a great example of an artist being from a media based market and an artist who’s not anywhere near a media based market.
BUN B: Right, and that’s a pure collaboration. Showing that we can all do something together. Like the song with Jay Z and the song with Outkast they’re both emblematic of a lot of different things with a lot of different people. To be a southerner, to be a Houston person, to be on a record that big, you know, Jay Z could have rapped with anyone. So for him to call upon us to get on that song, people knew it was going to be a big record. That shit solidified a lot for a lot of people here. It was like, “You know what? They do know what’s up.” We’ll always be grateful for that. I understand your point, duly noted, but it was a great experience, I owe him a lot. Just expanding us to more markets, getting more shows, that was money you know? The features, being taken seriously. Just being on a real video set in terms of a million dollar budget and knowing what a real high dollar operation is supposed to look like, running. The Roc-A-Fella boat was nice to watch while it was going. It was nice to watch No Limit, Cash Money, it was good to watch that because you know what, we can do that. No disrespect to their movement, but they taught us that we didn’t have to jump in their movement to reach that level because they didn’t jump in anyone’s movement to get to that level. If we just stick to our shit, we’ll get where we’re trying to go.
HSR: I know you’re working on a solo album, and you’ll always be an artist, and it’s probably a bit of a dumb question this soon after Pimp's passing, but where do you see yourself going right now?
BUN B: It’s not a dumb question because even if I don’t say it out loud, I ask myself. I remember going to Dallas, actually it was in Arlington, with DJ Whoadie and doing some of the first shows prior to Pimp being locked up and how hard it was to get on that stage and do a dedication “This gonna be for Pimp, y’all gonna rep with me for Pimp.” That was hard enough and I knew that was temporary. I just can’t even say what that holds. I know I have to carry on this tradition. I know that I have to get back up on that stage, I gotta get in and finish this album, I gotta get out and promote this album, I gotta get out and honor his memory and lift him up and maintain the legacy of this group as well as Pimp C the individual. It’s just, I can’t even see that far right now. You know like I know we were mid stream on that thing, hell he was midstream on his solo album and we had another album we had to do and turn in this year. We were trying to get it back together, he was getting his equipment together and we were trying to figure out what we were gonna do respectively on each others albums, but before I can be a strong artist again, I have to be a strong man. I’m not gonna put myself under any pressure to feel like I gotta go in, but eventually I got to get back on it. I’m gonna give myself some time to heal. We still haven’t buried Pimp C yet and I’m not sure what the after effects of actually seeing that will be. I can’t tell you how I’m gonna be until that happens. At this point it’s still somewhat surreal.
HSR: It’s extremely surreal.
BUN B: I can honestly say that it still hasn’t really washed over me.
HSR: And to add to the surrealness of it all, one day later you get nominated for a Grammy.
BUN B: Yeah, exactly.
HSR: Pimp C touched a lot of people. There’s people all over the world who are feeling real fucked up right now.
BUN B: You would be surprised Matt at the outreaching that has occurred. Like I’d never expect to get a text from the RZA. Only because you would assume that our worlds are so far apart and that we’re so on different tangents as far as artists. But as men, as brothers, he’s already been where I’m at. ODB wasn’t just a member of his group, he was his cousin. When you’re poor and cousins, y’all use the same spoon and shit for cereal. These are people that probably started building things at the same time in their lives. I had people like that reach out to me, just to say they care. And for him to see my pain, you never know who cares. But so many different people are calling in, telling their Pimp C stories. Because you know anytime you met Pimp C there was a story. If you met him three times, you had three stories to tell. Literally, that’s no joke. That’s just how hard he was on peoples minds. He was just unfuckindeniable. You was gonna know he was in the room. That’s my motherfuckin’ brother. You was gonna know he was in the house man. Square business.