Interview: Insanul “Incilin” Ahmed
Bernard “Bun B” Freeman keeps on moving. He leans back into his black leather recliner to change out of his Nikes and into socks and sandals, but he doesn’t sit for long. He gets up and grabs his iPhone or he stares out the window of Jive’s Midtown office in Manhattan, New York. He’s in New York promoting the final UGK album, 4 Life, which drops March 31st. Taking a moment out of his busy sked, he sits with RapRadar and reflects on Pimp C, the history of UGK, and being apart of the most underrated rap groups of the ‘90s.
You and Pimp were known for disagreeing a lot. What was that process like when you and Pimp were debating about song structure?
It wasn’t a big deal. It was like [leans back into chair and does Pimp’s accent]; “How we gone do the last verse?” “You want to do it?” “You want me to do it?” “You want to split it?” “We could split it.”
[Laughs] Like southern gentlemen on the porch.
“What you want to do, 8/8?” “Do 8/8? “ “We could do 4/4/4/4?” “Aite, we’ll do 8/8.” “Aite, cool.” Sip your lemonade and wipe your brow.
One of the things I notice when I listen to your solo albums, is there are a lot of features. Are you a reluctant solo artist?
Well I didn’t want to be a solo artist in the first place… Here’s the thing, when you’re a solo artist you’re used to writing three verses every song. I don’t come from that context; I come from a group context where it was always split. At the most I had two 16s, I never had to form the entire structure by myself. So for me, my first solo album I guess you could somewhat consider it some of it to be more of a cop out. Just being very real, it would be a lot easier if I could let so and so come and do this third verse. It would be a lot easier to just let him rap. It’s not like, I don’t want to do it but just put someone else on it.
In the long run, 10 maybe 15 years from now, how do you want UGK to be remembered for and as?
Honestly, I’m not even going to lie about it, I been thinking about it ever since I realized how long it’s been since we put out our first album, but in 8 years we’ll be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So I’m curious to see where UGK stands in that lexicon. There are a lot of great groups that came out around ’92; OutKast, Tribe, Wu-Tang, 8ball and MJG, will all come up that year. There’s a lot of legacies that are getting ready to come up in rap. It will be interesting to see who, when, and how that acknowledgment gets made up.
Is that the acknowledgement you want? Would that make you happy?
It honestly would make me happy because Pimp always wanted UGK to be seen as a true music group, not just two rappers. UGK is a group, with the producer for the group having incredible musical sensibility. UGK was always Pimp’s baby I just helped him raise it… No homo. That’s a good place to put in no homo.
But to me that’s the essential thing of it. For me, a long time I was very indifferent about UGK: Either it works or it doesn’t. But I realized that a lot of people took it way more serious than I did, so I probably need to respect it because it’s something that I may look at as just a job but it’s something that’s very real to a lot of people. When you realize how people look at you and what you really represent, it gives you a better perspective. What I really lacked for a long time in UGK was the respect of who we were in the terms of everything because I honestly didn’t believe we were on anybody’s radar.
Now that you look back, what was UGK?
Shoo… I think Sach [Sacha Jenkins] and them put it pretty good; I think we probably were the most underrated rap group of the 90s.
The most underrated?
I think that’s fair. That’s what ego trip magazine nominated us. That’s why I say it. I don’t want to say we earned it. But I think it was fair to give us that label. I think UGK gets a lot of credit because of the fact that you put me and Pimp in the studio, you get back an album. And I think that’s the true definition of a duo, a real group. You put those guys in the studio and they come back with an album.
When Pimp first got incarcerated, I think you told XXL, that you were really depressed; you were drinking a fifth a day, punching out windows. Was it like that when he passed?
No, not at all. I think that was more due to a lot of uncertainty. Just to be very real, this is something I never really talked about, but I was mad at him. I was fuckin’ mad at him! I felt like he had taken everything we had worked for and potentially thrown it away. And I was very pissed off about it. Primary, not just for myself but also for him because he was the one who did all the hard work and he just threw it away. Once I came up out of my funk, I was determined to not let it go to waste. I was determined for myself, and for his sake, and all the people who had given so much to UGK, to try to do right by it. And at least keep it where it was. By the fact that I wanted to do right, other people did right and I got a gang of support and it ended up becoming even bigger than it was then when he went to jail.