Through no fault of its own, Bun B’s Trill triptych comes to a close in shockingly divisive fashion. Some relics of hip-hop’s Golden Age have an interesting habit of remaining relevant through the years; for The Source, it’s most obviously their genius marketing of the coveted 5 Mics award. Nevermind that its last recipient was the maudlin pornography of a fading Lil’ Kim, the mythology of 5 Mics remains ingrained in hip-hop culture. This is the award genre classics like The Chronic, Enter the Wu-Tang, Ready to Die and Reasonable Doubt weren’t considered worthy of at the time of their release. It’s the award that certified OutKast, and the South as a whole, as nationally accepted hip-hop with the crowning of their 1998 LP Aquemini.
This is not a criticism of criticism, but to discuss Trill O.G.‘s nature one has to be prepared for disappointment from all sides. Not only because Trill O.G. fails as a record to live up to the standard (Lil’ Kim excluded) of other so-called classics, or because the masses may be prepared to give Bun a career late-pass with Trill O.G. despite his stronger back catalog, but because for most of its runtime the album fails to match even Bun B’s own shaky solo career.
What’s perhaps most unfortunate about Trill O.G. is that, like the original Trill, there are few hints of UGK and the thick, organic funk only Organized Noize could match when Pimp C and his crew were at their best. Honestly, there are only slight hints of Bun B, either. A lot of his lyricism here consists of standard hip-hop brags and boasts delivered in his booming monotone. It’s no secret that Bun B has one of Those Voices in rap, the kind of thing that rumbles walls independent of the bass and forces every word to slip into your ear whether you’re ready or not. The problem, I suppose, is that most of the verses here are fairly predictable, Bun by Numbers affairs. Not only is he repetitive in his subject matter (two Chopped & Screwed puns, complete with screwed vocals, to open the album?) but his word choice is mostly bland and strictly to the point. It’s striking how simple most of his rapping feels.
More notable is the lack of the more social tracks that made II Trill such an improvement on Trill, namely “Get Cha Issue” and “If It Was Up II Me”. Bun B has described his mindstate for Trill O.G. as that of a young prodigy, and one can certainly get that feel from his incessant desire to prove his talent and worth. But his actual content is that of a seasoned veteran, so as every song comes tumbling out of the speakers with yet another confirmation of opinions his listeners likely already had of Bun, it can become taxing. Songs like “Trillionaire”, which is backed by a lush, maybe even stunning J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League concoction, just feel too robotic and calculated to leave listeners with any thoughts (and the idea is just bland on the heels of Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”). As ear-catching as they are, “Countin’ Money” and “Just Like That” are not as titillating as the collaborations Bun’s already done with these artists on their respective free mixtapes, and their conceptual similarities to “It’s Goin’ Up” and “Trap or Die 2” respectively provides even stronger feelings of “been there, done that”.
There are highlights, though, and while the aforementioned songs are way too easy to pick apart they’re still well done and performed. But compared to the energy of an early 2000s Pimp C verse and a mid-‘90s 2Pac verse on “Right On”, or the laid-back Houston pop feel of “Ridin’ Slow”, it’s just hard to get excited for the rest of the album. “I Git Down 4 Mine” is the one moment on the album Bun really rips it up, with a beat that would have felt at home on the double disc UGK album courtesy of Steve Below.
“Let ‘Em Know”, Bun’s collaboration with DJ Premier, epitomizes most of the problems with the album. Both artists do what’s expected of them without stepping out of their comfort zones or pushing each other to their best, providing a nice slice of brand principals but nothing in the way of truly stimulating music. When Bun does stretch out, it’s only to associate with family friend Drake, who makes sure the songs feel more like Thank Me Later outcasts than Trill O.G. album tracks: “Put It Down” for its stupefyingly thin Boi-1da production and a pair of coasting MCs, and “It’s Been a Pleasure” for being as dull as their first collaboration, “Uptown” (a Drake fan favorite, however). Ultimately, Bun ends up feeling like a bit of a guest on his own LP, similar to Rick Ross’ Teflon Don effort, and though Trill O.G. is full of quality-sounding music it simply fails to make any argument for its necessity to anyone but the most strident fans of Bun B’s monolithic presence.
// Notes from the Road
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