What is Trill? Is it a noun? An adjective? A nebulous state of being? The Dirty South-inspired portmanteau of “True” and “Real” does not appear in the OED, but much like the Supreme Court’s view of pornography, you know Trill when you see it. After viewing Bun B and Kirko Bangz’s set Monday night at The Howard Theater, I can say reliably that The Trillest Tour is aptly named.
Solo D was one of several local rappers to open the show. The sparsely attended crowd helped themselves to the free t-shirts and keychains that his management handed out as the rapper and his hype men rolled through “Real Nigga Swag” and the lecherous “Double Tap That,” which has less to do with execution-style murder than double team supreme, to paraphrase Tenacious D. I admit my unfamiliarity with his music, but I enjoyed the brief set. Hey, he even got a girl twerkin’ in the crowd, so more power to him.
Kirko Bangz – say it out loud – immediately sent some mixed signals by rocking an Oakland Raiders hat yet hails from Houston. The young rapper, whose neck and arm tattoos make the rapper appear like a poor man’s Lil B, alternated through “new shit” (“Cup Up Top Down”) and “old shit” (“What Your Name Iz?”). As he performed, a semicircle of friends, management types, and, of course, girls with large posteriors gathered in a semicircle around the back of the stage, nodding endlessly.
The apex of Bangz’s set was “Hoe”, wherein the rapper intones, “Stop bringing them around a real nigga / Cause a ho gon’ be a ho, and a bitch gon’ be a bitch / Don’t put your dick up in a ho that make you money.” If you are willing to overlook the problematic gender politics, Bangz’s great disdain for hoes was a reoccurring theme. The Howard Theater audience showed mixed interest throughout his set. Suffice to say, the only time they seemed enthusiastic was when Bangz took a crowd shot for his Instagram.
No offense to Solo D or Kirko Bangz, but the audience – the Theater had notably filled out – were there to see one half of UGK. The Houston duo, most known for their incredible guest verses on Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’,” is no more due to Pimp C’s death due to an overdose on promethazine and codeine in late 2007. Pimp C may be no more, but his spirit was not forgotten, as Bun B and his hype man consistently gave praise to their fallen comrade, along with deceased Houston producer DJ Screw.
Bun B’s deep, heavy flow is unmistakable within the annals of hip-hop. On Monday night, the Houston rapper pummeled through greatest-hits set, touching on songs throughout his two decades rapping. In addition to several of his solo hits – “Draped Up,” “You’re Everything,” “Pushin’” – Bun B also submitted a few of his best guest verses: Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin on Some Syrup” and “Big Pimpin’,” a song that drips trillness.
But let’s not ignore the triumph that is Underground Kingz. Their third album, Ridin’ Dirty, is a monumental achievement in Southern hip-hop. In my humble opinion, it’s the third best rap album of all time behind Illmatic and Enter the Wu-Tang. If extraterrestrials were to come down to earth, and asked humans what this phenomenon called “hip-hop” is, the definition of the genre would be Bun B’s exemplary verse on “Murder,” which he thankfully blessed us with Monday night.
Bun B’s set was relatively short, under an hour. He kept his banter with the audience to a minimum, giving proper accolades to the DMV and its strains of marijuana. Both Bun B’s entourage and a majority of the audience puffed away on blunts unmolested by Howard Theater security. Furthermore, I’m not sure why several men on stage were listening to their iPhones (complete with white earbuds) while Bun B performed several feet from them.
Bun B ended his set with “Trillionaire,” a cover of Big KRIT’s “Country Shit”, and “That’s Gangsta.” He left the stage briefly to return to perform “Put It Down,” “Triller” with Kirko Bangz, and culminated the night with UGK’s biggest hit to date, “International Players Anthem.” As the audience rapped along with the Houston impresario, it brought to mind that UGK’s Southern contemporaries, Outkast, had reunited a few days prior. It would not surprise me to see Bun B pop up some night on one of their 40 festival dates to perform this song with the Atlanta duo. And while Outkast deserves all their accolades, for my money, I’m still saying UGK 4 Life.