The sentiment behind II Trill, the first solo release from Bun B after his partner Pimp C tragically died late last year, can be summed up on the epic “Damn I’m Cold”: “We about to do this for Pimp C, so pass me a bottle / I’m about to pop the top on it, like a slab or a model / Turn it upside down and pour it out for my lil’ bro / And pass me another one so i can pour out a lil’ more.” While it seems like typical rap fare, these lines color nearly every aspect of the now-sole Underground King’s latest disc: abounding reverence for a lifelong partner while maintaining the same flash, swagger, and undeniable brilliance of a legendary career.
Lesser artists wouldn’t and haven’t (see: Eminem post-Proof’s death) handled a similar loss as eloquently or courageously. Even after spending nearly 20 years together, making certified classics and assuring their spot in hip-hop lore under the UGK moniker, Bun B has sidestepped a public meltdown and continued to make the same music that garnered him and Pimp C so much fame. II Trill stands as a testament to the unbelievable skill and resiliency of Bun B, and as an ode to an artist that belongs among hip-hop’s other fallen legends.
Taken out of the Pimp C context though, II Trill is the second solo release from Bun B, and the latest chapter in his Trill-O-G. Moreover, II Trill is essentially the archetype of a contemporary Southern rap album—golden sheen beats, syrupy flows, and tattering hi-hats. But what else could you expect from one of the men that helped put the South on the map?
This record hits the gas pedal at the outset and never lets up. “II Trill” opens the disc with waves of pulsating strings hovering over random cymbal splashes and the bass drum’s heartbeat, before J. Prince’s smooth baritone comes like a shot of Robitussin and brings the song back to earth. What follows is a near endless stream of A-list beats (“You’re Everything”, “Swang on ‘Em”, “Good II Me”, etc.), top-notch guest appearances (Lil Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, Rick Ross), and flamethrower rhymes. But for those that despise the typical mainstream power jams, these come as more of a plague than anything else. Because, frankly, the production and flows on II Trill are essentially the very best of cookie-cutting mainstream tracks—the Westminster Dog Show of radio hip-hop.
And Bun B does nothing if not parade hip-hop’s finest throughout II Trill. Lil Wayne’s verse on the aforementioned “Damn I’m Cold” is a return to form for an MC that has recently gone stagnant, showing us the very best of his free association, I’ll-say-anything-because-I’m-the-best-and-very-very-high style: “So we call them bitches cheeseheads / Lambo Leaping that pussy like in Green Bay / Lambo sweet, look like sugar on the freeway”. Bun B even takes perennial good-boy backpacker Lupe Fiasco and turns him into a legitimate rapper on “Swang on ‘Em”. The Chicago native sheds his altar boy persona to flow on the screwed-up Southern banger (“I know about them Northside Blues and them Southside Reds” and “Speak on, how you on a song Bun B on? / Complete 180, how crazy has he gone?”).
The only break from II Trill‘s million dollar beats and high-intensity rhymes is the comfortingly humanist “Angel in the Sky”. A seemingly obligatory track dedicated to Pimp C, Bun B proves he is markedly above sentimental, cliché dedications to his former partner. In a genre that blatantly avoids and criticizes even the most remote signs of male emotion (constant cries of “no homo” litter recent hip-hop releases), Bun B openly talks about his love for Pimp C.
But for as much as II Trill pays homage to Pimp C, it’s ultimately all about Bun B. If there was ever any doubt that the prolific MC could make it on his own, this disc stands as a firm “fuck you.” Bun B is a legend, and will continue to be one even without his storied other half.
// Notes from the Road
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