This month Bun B, one half of the Underground Kingz, of Port Arthur, Texas, released his fourth solo project and celebrated the 21st anniversary of his group's first album, Too Hard To Swallow. The road Bun has walked over those years hasn't always been smooth. In 2007 his partner Pimp C died, and, in their early days, the duo's musical and critical success wasn't hitting their wallets.
"I had literally the No. 1 record in the city and was delivering soul food dinners. Because we were making absolutely no money from the record company," says Bun about the period between 1992 and 1995. "We went to the radio station — KBXX 97.9 The Box in Houston, Texas — asked them could we go on the air, and told the public we were broke. Our record company had us in a crazy contract, management had us in a crazy contract, so if they see us and we don't look a certain way, don't think it's a misuse of funds on our part. We're not getting it. If you're paying the record company for this music, the money's not getting to us."
Bun B also spoke with Microphone Check hosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley about Lil Boosie, Ed O.G. and the real meaning of trill.
FRANNIE KELLEY: You got a lot going on.
BUN B: Well, that usually happens for whether you're an artist or your album's releasing or — whatever it is your field is. If you've gotta sell the product to the masses, you gotta get out there and be about the business of selling.
KELLEY: Well, you got more going on than most.
BUN B: Yeah. I feel a certain way when I'm not busy, you know. I feel a certain way if I'm not actively pursuing something that can better my situation. So if, like — if I'm sitting home for too long, I get very antsy. I get very anxious, and I get very irritable. So my wife is always like, "You stay gone too much, you need to come home." And then when I'm home for a while she's like, "You need to get out of here." But it works, you know.
And I've always been the person that goes out, sees the world and brings the information back. So I'm like Indiana Jones of my hood, you know what I'm saying? Go out and find the things that they probably would never see cause I just try to open people's minds and enlighten people's minds. I'm from a very small town and most of the people that live where I'm from ...
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: Tell people where you're from.
BUN B: Port Arthur, Texas. It's a small town about 90 miles outside of Houston. And it's a refinery town, so if you don't work at the refinery, life is not the best life for you. Like I said, most of them never have the opportunity to leave that small town and go out into the world and see things. So I feel kind of obligated to go out and explore the world for their sake.
MUHAMMAD: When you were growing up, was that a dream or was it like you kind of thought that that would be your life?
“ It wasn't just like they felt a certain way on Friday and made a song about it. They felt like they felt every day and they stood tall on their convictions.
BUN B: I wasn't sure that music was gonna be what I was gonna do, but I did know that whatever it was that I wanted to do, I probably couldn't do it in that town. I mean, if I wanted to have — could I make a living in that town? Yeah. Would it be the kind of living that I wanted? No.
So for me I kind of had to go out into the world, and we actually had — the precedent was already set because Janis Joplin is also from my town. And when she tried to do her music at home, she wasn't received at all. Like people really were against her because she was trying to do soul music, collaborating with black artists, and my town — the town I grew up in in those days was very racist. The outlaying areas are still very racist. And she left and went out in the world and made her bones and came back as a legend, you know.