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Bun B Says Heavy D Inspired Him to Start Rapping

Bun B Says Heavy D Inspired Him to Start Rapping

The first time Bun B heard rap music was on a Houston radio show called KTS Jam.

Originating at Texas Southern University, the show immediately captured the young Bun B’s attention and essentially jumpstarted his love affair with Hip-Hop. 

 

“I would go to Houston and spend time with my Dad and I could hear the show there,” he explains by phone. “I would try to record whenever they would do these Hip-Hop mixes on that station and then bring them back [to Port Arthur, Texas] and left friends hear some of the music.” 

 

While LL COOL J and Run-DMC were certainly artists he admired, it was Heavy D of Heavy D and the Boyz that really showed him maybe he could have a career as a rapper, too. 

“Heavy D was the one that really made a big difference for me, because Heavy D not only was a very talented rapper, but he was also a heavy dude,” he says. “He was the 'Overweight Lover,’ right?”

“And I’d always been a big kid all my life. But he took pride in it and he was very clean and very well-dressed. Heavy D was considered a ladies man, and I'm like, ‘OK, so you can be a fat dude, you can rap, you can still be cool and you can still get girls?’ I’m like, ‘OK, I’m here, let's do this.’” 

 

And he did. Born in Houston, Bun B (real name Bernard Freeman) moved to Port Arthur with his mother when his parents divorced. After meeting Chad Butler — better known as Pimp C — they formed the Southern Hip-Hop duo Underground Kingz (UGK) and produced five albums together, including the Billboard hit Underground Kingz. 

Tragedy struck in 2007 when Pimp C was discovered unresponsive in a Los Angeles hotel room, just four months after the album was released. The duo’s final album, UGK 4 Life, was released posthumously in 2011. 

 

That same year, Bun B was confronted with another tough loss. Heavy D, the man he’d idolized as a kid, collapsed outside of his home in Beverly Hills and was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where he died. The official cause of death was a pulmonary embolism, which doctors surmised originated from a blood clot formed in his leg while traveling on a plane. 

 

“I literally got an email from him about a month before he passed,” Bun B remembers. “He had sent me some music because he was also a producer, and he wanted to collaborate. But he passed away before we could even do anything.” 

 

Naturally, Bun B has become close to many of his musical heroes over the past two decades, but it wasn’t necessarily anything he expected. 

 

"A lot of the people that I looked up to and idolized ended up going from being just people in magazines and on television to actually being my peers,” he says. “I wouldn't dare call them my contemporaries obviously, but we were moving in the same circles.  Different artists that I'd looked up to, I met them and there was a mutual respect for each other. And so yeah, finally meeting people like him and Big Daddy Kane in person, and having them be like, ‘Oh yeah man, I know who you are. Dude, you can really rap’—for me, that was the real validation.” 

 

Although Bun acknowledges record sales, fans, and money are also validating, nothing mattered as much as getting respect from an MC he aspired to be. 

 

“You just want to be taken seriously and looked at seriously from the people that you looked up to,” he adds. “And so meeting Heavy and having Heavy know who I was, and not only being a fan but having that mutual respect and actually wanting to collaborate with music and, ‘Yo, give me your email’ and stuff—it was almost off-putting because you meet your heroes and you don't expect that.” 

But it didn’t come to Bun overnight. He admittedly worked tirelessly at being the best rapper out there and didn’t feel he was actually any good when he first picked up the mic. 

 

“I started very bad at it, but I really wanted to be good,” he says with a chuckle. “And so I worked at it very hard. In the early days of hip-hop battles, ciphers and freestyles, people did more of that than actual recording because everybody couldn't really afford to go and get studio time.  So MCs battled a lot more in the earlier years of hip-hop. And it didn't take long before nobody could beat me in the city. I decided to put the music out and started going out into the world. I started realizing, ‘I'm just as good as anybody else that's doing this.’” 

 

Bun says by the time he got to UGK’s sophomore album, 1994’s Super Tight, that’s when his goal to become a superior MC kicked into overdrive. 

 

“That's when I realized that people don't want to be who I want to be as much as I do, right?” he explains. “And I didn't mean a specific person but just wanting the most out of myself and trying to be one of the best to ever do this. I wanted to legitimately give that a shot. 

 

“I wasn't sure whether or not I could achieve that, but I did want to make the effort. You don't want to go into the NFL and hope to be a mid-range receiver. You want to get out there and prove maybe you're one of the best.” 

 

With a healthy dose of competition from fellow Houston MCs such as the Geto Boys’ Scarface, Big Mike, 3-2, Ric Royal, and K-Rino, Bun B pushed himself further until he was virtually untouchable. Now considered a bona fide Hip-Hop legend, Bun B is looking forward to taking his culinary talents to the inaugural Rock The Bells Festival in Queens on August 6 with the Trill Mealz Food Court, another passion of his. 

Bun B attends Summer Jam 2018 at MetLife Stadium on June 10, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic)

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 “The way you come into Hip-Hop doesn't necessarily have to be the way you leave Hip-Hop,” he says. “And that's fine. I really enjoy the ability to bring this food to people. I know that I built up a trust factor with people out here, and I know I'm going to try to give them the best possible product. I don't take that for granted. I didn't take it for granted with music, and I wouldn't take it for granted with food.”

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