Growing up, life wasn’t easy for Bun B. He didn’t come from a family that had much in the ways of money, but he did have a mother that had a wealth of caring in her heart. Dealing with his brothers going in and out of jail, Bun B wanted to be the shining star for his mother. “I got tired of seeing my mom cry,” explains Bun B. “Then, I told her I wanted to be a rapper. She stopped crying and started getting mad” Even though it took a while for her to come around, Bun B did become the person she wanted him to be, but in his own way.
Recently, Bun B has been on tour around the nation as the host of the Red Bull EmSee battles, and The Loop Detroit was able to talk to the legendary emcee outside of Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit before the battles took place.
Entering into a third decade of putting out records globally, your emcee style (delivery, cadence, etc) is still very fresh sounding and ultimately timeless, do you think this is something naturally inherent within you or did it come with much practice throughout your career?
It’s just that I care. I’m always trying to improve myself in life in all aspects. This is just a part of that. I think that in order to be better that have to want to be better. As soon as you think that you are better, it kind of when you start going down. I still love the art. I still love the culture. People are still doing new and incredible things. I just want to still be a part of that.
As an emcee with such a timeless style, when involved in battles such as this Red Bull EmSee competition, what advice do you have for these young artists coming up in excelling as an emcee?
They can not be afraid to lose, but they can not be afraid to win. You’ll be surprise how often I’ve seen that. People will get into these competitions, and they’ll blow it themselves. Subconsciously, they don’t want to be there in the first place. They got to want it. They really got to want to win. Confidence is key. They definitely going to need some character. Not necessarily be a character, but have some character and a little personality. Just be honest. Just be real with people. You don’t go up there and tell them what you going to do to somebody because you are not going to fool anybody. We got people like Trick Trick as a judge [laughs], so just be yourself.
Hip-hop originated with a high priority for the performance aspect of being an emcee, whether it was on the street, at a club, or in an arena, in the culture’s previous generations. Do you think the current generation understands that facet of the emcee game?
For the most part, people know they have to bring their A-game, but at the end of the day, its more about what people are actually able to do. A lot of up and coming cats don’t have money for video and big theatrics, but they can be original, they can be innovative, and you can do a lot with a little sometimes.
Hip-hop is a hard game to be into because there is a good case for the amount of vultures that exist in exploiting one another. You lost your close friend and UGK mate Pimp C. How do you go about continuing his and the UGK legacy without allowing others to massively exploit his passing?
For one, they get sued. For two, they get approached by me. That’s usually it. That’s usually all it takes. People know how much I care about Pimp C, and honoring his memory. They know how much I care about UGK’s legacy. I’m not the baddest person in the world, anybody can take an L. People know that I’m willing to take that L for Pimp. I’m willing to give one too. It’s not easy. Legally, we have everything trademarked so that protects up for the most part. We have a lot of people, fans, friends, and family all over the world that support us and love us. When something doesn’t smell right, they are not afraid to speak up on it. He has fans that if it ain’t right, they going to front people and ask me. They going to want someone to get down to the bottom of it.
What was the earliest age you were conscious of music? And what were you listening to or exposed to?
Maybe about 4 or 5 listening to blues and gospel records that my parents were playing in the house. That was the majority of music that was playing in our house.
I know you have much love for Detroit. What are your thoughts about Detroit music both past and present?
I think its incredible. I think there has always been that hardcore Detroit scene that has been representing hip-hop. Now more than ever, you got so many people. People like Dilla and Eminem opened a lot of doors. You got Marvwon, you got Guilty Simpson, all the way up to Black Milk and Danny Brown now. Definitely a lot of doors have been opened and people are stepping up to the plate in Detroit. They are continuing in the tradition of representing the city and hip-hop together.
Is there any albums from Detroit or artists that stand out to you?
Probably Fantastic Vol. 2 [by Slum Village] because it didn’t necessarily fit the image I had of Detroit but it was incredible music. I think it really opened up a lot more people’s eyes to just how good of a producer Dilla was.
You’ve been to Detroit many times. Do you have any interesting stories you can actually share?
[laughing] I have a lot of interesting stories, but not too many of can tell. Let’s just say most of my stories involve Royce, Trick Trick, Hex Murda, or a combination of.
That’s a deadly combination there! What’s your thoughts about Hex?
Hex. I hate him. [laughing]
We all do [laughing].
[laughin] I don’t think I can put it any clearer than that.
How was Bun B as a kid? What sort of family upbringing did you have?
I wasn’t a wealthy kid if that’s what you mean. My parents divorced when I was in the 5th grade. Brothers were in and out of prison getting caught up in bullshit. I just didn’t want to be the kid that hurt my mom. Back then, rap was really not a career, especially being in the south. A lot of people associated drugs and what not with it. My mom just wanted me to do better.
What did you mom do for a living?
My mom was like a private nurse, clean houses, clean offices. Because of that, she went back to college and tried to get a degree. Tried to get herself a respectable job and instill it in me to want to do more. Then I told her I wasn’t going to go to college and I was going to be a rapper.
What was her reaction when your rap career was finally hitting?
It really just hit probably in the last 6 or 7 years. My mom really didn’t get it until “Big Pimpin’” that this was an actual career and I wasn’t just saying was doing it and selling drugs on the side. Over the last couple years, she’s really come to embrace it. It was just always an ugly cloud saying your son was a rapper. Even though I was successful, it wasn’t what she really wanted me to do. She sees now the ability I have had to impact society and affect social change, which is what she wanted from me. It all worked out.
As a bonus, check out this joint that Bun B did with Red Bull Big Tune winner 14KT. Also, peep the footage of Bun B and 14KT in the studio making the magic.
LISTEN: Bun B and 14KT – “The Life” | [DOWNLOAD]