Texas Nexus: Bun B balancess country rap with his own emerging sound.

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“Am I hard enough? Am I real enough? Am I ready, bro?,” Bun B raps on the first track of Trill O.G., his third solo album. These questions seem strange coming from a man who’s made a career out of telling us exactly how indestructible and streetwise he is. But Bun is an oddly insecure guy: The Port Arthur, Texas, native helped define the sound and vocabulary of Southern rap with his duo UGK, but always felt that his partner, Pimp C, was the brains of the operation. He never particularly wanted to be a solo artist, but after Pimp went to prison on a probation violation, Bun released his debut Trill in 2005, and followed it with II Trill in 2008. Both albums drew from the UGK’s “country rap” template, with instrument-heavy beats, slang-filled lyrics, and slowed textures developed by DJ Screw, the late Houston producer they admired. II Trill came out soon after Pimp’s death—due to complications from drinking cough syrup—in late 2007, and tracks like “You’re Everything” offered proper respect by referencing Pimp’s favorite Southern and Texan tropes. (Those guys really like their wood steering wheels.) As proud as Pimp was of his music, he was even more proud of his region; in fact, he’d become downright paranoid about its detractors, as UGK tunes like “Quit Hatin’ The South” demonstrate. But while that type of song was compelling, it wasn’t necessarily Bun, who, though he loves the South, is more comfortable playing uniter than divider. For years he’s been collaborating with hipster MCs from the East Coast and Midwest (Wale, Kidz in the Hall) to pop-rap sensations from Canada (Drake). Trill O.G. contains a pair of duets with the latter, which shows how hard Bun is pushing for mainstream success, and how far he’s willing to stray from the UGK game plan. Sure, there are predictable drop-top cruisers like “Chuuch!!!” and “Ridin’ Slow,” but for the most part, Bun plays to his strengths by rhyming fast and hard. Pimp was funkier, but Bun was the better pure lyricist, and Trill O.G. features track after track of him crushing verses. “Let’s get this shit crackilatin’, no more procrastinatin’,” he raps on “Trillionaire.” “They told me, ‘Bun don’t hesitate, don’t keep these bastards waitin’’/I’m puttin’ egos in check, I’m so emasculatin’/People stop this dance, say ‘Damn this nigga’s fascinatin’.’” Many of the tracks come from the South’s usual suspects (Drumma Boy, Play-N-Skillz, Steve Below), but one from New York-canonized (but Texas-bred) beatmaker DJ Premier called “Let ‘Em Know” gives Bun the best opportunity to strut his stuff over an up-tempo track. Perhaps the album’s biggest disappointment is “Right Now,” the much-anticipated posthumous collaboration with Pimp and Tupac Shakur that also features Bun and Trey Songz. Quickly devolving into a sex romp, it might have worked on a UGK album, but amid Trill O.G.’s great, faster tunes, it drags. The record works best when Bun stops trying to be Pimp and is simply himself. “Ain’t no need to slow down,” he correctly notes on “Trillionaire.” “It’s about to go down.”