Bun B is an authority on all things hip-hop, a professor of its culture on both a national and local scale. In Houston, where he is from, Bun helped invent the sound of the city alongside Pimp C as part of UGK and in the process influenced Southern rap music in a larger sense. Beyoncé may have been born in Houston, but even the queen would have a hard time dethroning Bun B in a local popularity contest.
Bun B is also known for being one of the most genuine dudes in the industry, so genuine and authentic that he helped bring the term "trill" (a combination of "true" and "real") into the world's vocabulary. "Trill" is now used to describe, among other things, Bun B himself. So, just to recap, Bun B is so cool that he invented a word just to describe how cool he is, which the rest of the world now happily uses to describe him.
So it would stand to follow that Bun B is a good judge of character. Which is why, when he recently weighed in on his choice for this nation's next president, people listened.
"I understand that there's only so much that, even once you become president, you can do, but I do believe in intention," he says. "I believe that Bernie Sanders has the best intentions for this country."
Bun B sides with Sanders — who surprised the political world with a strong showing in yesterday's Iowa caucus — on a slew of issues, including the rescheduling of marijuana from a class A drug and holding Wall Street accountable for its role in the 2008 financial crisis. "Do I think he's going to be able to bust up the banking system? Probably not in the manner that he would like to, but at least he's willing to try to question these people. And up until this point, nobody really has."
And Bun is far from the only musical voice to speak up for the Vermont senator. Sanders recently sang "This Land Is Your Land" with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and Chris Tomson at a rally in Iowa. This list of artists who support Bernie include Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Zoë Kravitz, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis, and the list goes even longer on his website. But Sanders, more than any candidate in this election, has found a strong ally in the hip-hop community. Rappers Lil B and Scarface have both thrown support behind Sanders. And Run the Jewel's Killer Mike remains one of his biggest supporters. Sanders even sent Killer Mike into the spin room on his behalf after a recent debate.
"Bernie doesn't look or sound or feel like most of the faces that we see during elections. Bernie looks kind of like everybody else. I think that's something that's reassuring for people, especially in hip-hop," Bun says. "And I think that Bernie is very transparent. I don't think Bernie could hide who he is if he wanted to."
Bun B will perform at J Dilla Weekend with hip-hop acts Black Thought, Jay Electronica, Slum Village, and others. But these days, performing is only one slice of Bun B. He also taught a class at Rice University on the intersection between hip-hop and religion. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, he says, and helped him gain a better understanding of the way the younger generation digests information and then acts on it. "That's what my class was able to remind me," he says. "Young people out here not only want to change the world; they will change the world. But not by your terms. And not on your time."
Sanders has yet to choose a 2016 running mate, but he could do worse — much worse — than Bun B. Here's to making America trill again.
J Dilla Weekend with Bun B, Black Thought, Slum Village, and others. 7 p.m. Friday, February 5, through Sunday, February 7, at Soho Studios, 2136 NW First Ave., Miami; 305-600-4785; sohostudiosmiami.com. Tickets cost $75 to $105 via ticketfly.com.