Back in 1987, when Pimp C and Bun B were first writing the rhymes that would become their debut cassette, The Southern Way, neither one of them would ever have dreamed that their music could grow into a national phenomenon. Their ascent to Southern hip-hop's upper echelon was gradual, depending upon what part of the country you lived in. But some 20 years later, UGK, the group they created as a duo, finally seemed poised to take over rap when permanent tragedy struck. Pimp C, the charismatic and colorful MC who seemed to flirt with danger every time he picked up a microphone, was found dead in a Hollywood hotel room at age 33. Plenty of drama ensued, but what it meant most to fans of UGK was that, from here on out, Bun B would have to go it alone.
On II Trill, his first solo album since the passing of his former partner, Bun B takes listeners through a wealth of emotions, some good, some painful. The overall verdict: Put the best nine tracks from this record together with both mixes of "Draped Up," "Trill Recognize Trill," "The Story," and "Get Throwed" from 2005's Trill and you'd have something as good as Super Tight and Ridin' Dirty. What that means is that there are almost twice as many keepers on II Trill as there were on Trill.
As usual, the stuff I like best is church-organ-drenched and full of funky, bluesy guitars. One such is the Chops-produced "Damn I'm Cold," which opens with some skittering, trademark, crazy-cat rhymes from Lil' Wayne, whose gravelly rasp is a good counterpoint to Bun's wood-grain thunder.
"Get Cha Issue" sports a similar old-school, UGK gumbo-funk groove and, better still, opens with an eerie descending banshee wail from none other than Port Arthur wild child Janis Joplin. Bun shines here lyrically too; he opens by smacking around corrupt preachers and moves on to dirty cops and Larry Craig ("Got senators suckin' dick in airport bathroom stalls").
There's more than a little bit of a Jamaican tinge to the record. Sean Kingston sings the hook on lead single "That's Gangsta." On UGK track "Underground Thang," producer Cory Mo whips up a Steel Pulse stew for Bun and Pimp to trade verses between sung hooks by Chamillionaire. Pimp's verse will make you laugh and cry at the same time; just something about the way his simultaneously elastic and metallic voice and praline accent delivers "bold-faced liar tryin' to call me a snee-yutch, I did four in population with a bold-faced beeeaatch" cracks me up until I remember, again, that the Pimp is no longer with us.
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But II Trill is not all jerk chicken jams and social laments. And you get the impression that the next record won't be a falloff, because for people like Bun B, in this world of desire, plenty is never enough.