For the third installment of his Trill series, Trill O.G., Bun B is welcoming change. One half of UGK is now on Rap-A-Lot. As such, he is entitled to a J. Prince introduction. And on “Chuuch!!!”, the CEO certainly delivers in his usual fashion – which may not be a good thing given his braggadocio. But all is forgiven once the hard hitting drums and organ keys kick in and Bun B rips H-Town like Phi Slamma Jamma. Indeed.
One look at the track listing for the album reveals a list of artists that have, for the most part, enjoyed a fair amount of commercial success. Will these pairings work for the southern underground king? Yes and no.
Let’s start with the good. “Right Now”, Bun’s collaboration with 2Pac, deceased partner-in-rhyme Pimp C and Trey Songz, is a success – on a number of levels. The smooth, slightly more up tempo track doesn’t feature the hard-hitting drums, rolling bass percussion and synth that is present for the majority of the album, but actually utilizes horns to great success. And both 2Pac and Pimp C’s verses fit nicely with the production. As always, the host sounds at ease and in command.
Chicago’s own Twista offers the perfect compliment to Bun B’s drawn out delivery on “Speakeasy”. His rapid-fire delivery works over the bluesy production from Big E and Joshua Moore, which also fits Bun like a glove. Longtime UGK producer Steve Below delivers the aforementioned synth and bass on “I Git Down 4 Mine” and Bun B doesn’t disappoint. While the lyrics are not groundbreaking by any means (the South is on my back/I tote it like Atlas), Bun’s delivery and the beat make it an unforgettable track – and a highlight of the album.
Of Drake’s two collabos with Bun B (“Put it Down” and “It’s Been a Pleasure”), it’s the latter that is the greater success, with Boi-1da, Jordan Evans and Matthew Burnett cooking up a track that suits both MCs. Of the bonus tracks available on the Deluxe Edition, “Gladiator” with Truck Buck makes the most noise. Utilizing the UGK formula, Bun absolutely goes off. It’s definitely a great track for your car, but be prepared for high impact to your speakers.
The undisputed highlight of the album, however, is the DJ Premier-produced banger “Let ‘Em Know”. Primo hooks up a string loop, keys and his trademarked scratches (featuring Pimp C) to create a song that should be on every hip hop fan’s year end Top 10 list. Bun B seems to know that he’s got a classic on his hands as he delivers four minutes of quotables.
Unfortunately, the other collaborations don’t work – for a variety of reasons. On “Just Like That”, “Countin’ Money” and “Ridin’ Slow”, Bun sounds at ease over vintage UGK-style production, but his guests (Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, Slim Thug and Play-N-Skillz) just can’t hang with the host. And since the success of these tracks depends, somewhat, on the performance of the guests, it leaves Bun in a tough spot.
T-Pain makes an Auto-Tune appearance on “Trillionaire” and it turns out exactly as you would expect. Those who still enjoy the Auto-Tune vocals will enjoy the track. Most will not. On other tracks, Bun himself suffers from a bit of lyrical repetition. He always sounds great, his delivery is always on point, but this album seems to lack the range of his previous efforts – both as a solo artist and as a guest. The notable exception is “All a Dream,” where Bun reflects on his childhood and his quest to make it.
In the end, this is an album from a bona-fide star, so it is enjoyable. Bun B has always had a presence, regardless of who he performed with. Unfortunately, that star power is both a gift and a curse for Trill O.G. On the tracks where the guests were up the task of rhyming alongside a southern legend, the results are fantastic. And on the solo Bun tracks with that traditional UGK sounds, the results are pleasing. The listener is left to wonder what this album could have been.