Wrestling with words is never fun. We’re talking about finding the way to say what needs to be said without coming off as negative or, even worse, disrespectful. But Bun B’s Trill OG: The Epilogue didn’t leave me with many options.
We’re talking Bun B of the Underground Kingz, the trillest of the trill. The man who stands as an artist who has achieved legendary status as much through his music as his character. Being born Southern by the grace of God, I’ve had a listening relationship with UGK and Bun for over 20 years, dating back to when they first put Port Arthur, Texas on the map by riding around with a “Pocket Full Of Stones” and “Cocaine in the Back of the Ride” on 1992′s Too Hard To Swallow. As I’ve grown, so has Bun, and many of us watched him publicly deal with being separated from his longtime partner Pimp C, first by prison and then death. With that behind him, he moved on to embrace the role of Uncle Bun, the sage adviser to many young emcees.
So, how do you speak on The Epilogue without eulogizing the project as one devoid of any life?
Because, the fact of the matter is there are no vital signs here. No production worth cranking loud in the car, no verses truly worth rewinding for memorization purposes and, oddly enough, too much trill to the point that the ears begin to drown it out. Bun describes the project as leftovers from previous Trill entries that didn’t “fit the format of the last album or that we decided to save for another project.” Or, as he phrases it on “Triller,” the collection sounds like cutting room floor outtakes with which Bun “was trying to squeeze a little more milk up out the titty,” only to ultimately come up dry.
From the outset, the album starts off on the wrong foot on “The Best Is Back,” where he and the beat never seem to quite find each other. Things do perk up, however, as soon the guitar twang of “Cake” hits the eardrums, followed by Pimp C’s sanguine slick talk on the song’s intro. Bun receives the best support possible with guest vocals from Pimp, Lil Boosie and Big K.R.I.T. for a track that has the throwback feel of UGK’s finest moments paired alongside contributions from two younger emcees whom the PA duo has clearly influenced.
From “Cake” on, there’s not much else worthwhile to be heard. Nothing but filler for those who fashion themselves diehard fans thirsty for new material. For everyone else, the project flatlines. “On One” and “Legendary DJ Screw” lack the punch behind the boards to make them stand out. “Triller” sounds and feels forced as Bun and Kirko Bangz crash like opposing forces who should probably never be confined to the same space. The album ends on a decidedly sour note with “Bye!,” where Bun adopts the n-word to punctuate the end of each line.
Consistency is one thing; relying on the same few tired tropes is another and that’s one of the more abrasive characteristics of The Epilogue. The bulk of the songs rehash the concept of driving on the slab while being trill. We know he’s been trill and we’re all highly familiar with Texas’ car culture, yet there are only so many times listeners want to cruise the same streets before the scenery becomes a blur. For a vet who’s as wise and capable as Bun, showcasing a hint of growth or depth would be a welcome change.
Yet as soon as I suggest adopting change, along comes “Fire,” featuring Rick Ross and Serani, slapping me for even making the suggestion. The album reaches a critical low here as the two rappers adopt Jamaican accents…that simply do not work. At all. Not even slightly. It’s so discouraging that if I never hear it again, I owe God a favor.
Of the few songs worth highlighting, they all share one key trait: another artist to compliment Bun’s concrete flow and delivery. Whether it’s “Cake,” “Don’t Play With Me” with Pimp or Royce Da 5’9 showing up on “Stop Playin’,” the second voice works to either make the host’s go down more smoothly or highlight the precise nature of Bun’s delivery.
Prior to the project’s release, Bun framed The Epilogue as “a proper final chapter for the Trill-ogy.” Let’s hope that remains the case for all involved parties – the artist and listeners – so we can continue supporting Bun as one of the music’s leaders, rather than just another face in the crowd.