Exclusive interview With Bun BBy Benjamin Shapiro
With everyone at South By SouthWest raving about a certain pack of fresh-faced hip-hop newbies, it was a relief to have a vet like Bun B at the Noisey launch. Bun built his career in the early nineties with U.G.K., the immensely influential rap duo that’s largely credited with singlehandedly bringing attention to Southern hip-hop. The night of our showcase was his birthday, and halfway through his commanding set he brought out Erykah Badu to help celebrate; it was one of the best moments of my weekend. When I met him I wanted to talk about the Underground Kingz, but I got sidetracked when I learned that he’s a distinguished lecturer at Rice University. Noisey: How’s your South By been? Bun: This is probably my eighth year at South By, so I’m pretty much a regular here by now. When I first started coming, hip-hop didn’t have as strong a presence at the festival as it does now. Most of the people who come to South By Southwest are just people who love music in general. Noisey: Have you had a chance to see anything good this week? Bun: I haven’t had a chance to see anything. We got in last night and there were four different shows that we wanted to catch. By the time we got to the hotel we just had to lie down. I teach class at Rice University on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I had to literally come here straight from class. Noisey: Wait, what do you teach? Bun: I teach a course on Religion and Hip-Hop. Noisey: Whoa, I didn’t know that! How long have you been teaching? Bun: This is my first semester. The class has been there for three years now. I first spoke at the college last year, but this is my first time teaching the course. It’s been an incredible experience. Noisey: How has it been? Bun: Teaching is something that I have a newfound respect for. I’m teaching in a college course where people spend money to learn, but even still you have to work to keep their attention. I couldn’t even imagine being a public school teacher. There are so many different programs being cut right now, both during and after school. We’re losing so many opportunities to reach kids that want to be taught. Noisey: So wait, is there a set syllabus? Bun: Well, we’ve got eight books on our lesson plan. I’m spending a lot of time with that. We’re reading a great book by Efram Smith and Phil Jackson called the Hip Hop Church, and we actually put Jay-Z’s Decoded on the list. I was glad to finally have a chance to go through it, its pretty interesting! Noisey: Has teaching changed your music at all? Bun: I haven’t been recording lately, but I’ve done a few guest features in the last few months. But yeah, I know now that I have my young students keeping up with what I’m doing. I have to stay sharp and on my toes. They’ve become my audience in a way. Also, teaching has gotten me back into the habit of reading on a regular basis. I’m taking in so much information for the class, and that in turn will definitely improve the quality of my music.