The social media rush to judgment on a newly released album can be exhausting. It feels like every album either must be an “instant classic” or “straight garbage” based on a first listen, with no room given to just sit and live with a record for a bit. So on August 31, 2018, music circles were filled with chatter about the merits of a new Eminem album, whether it was a proper return to form or just another bad look from a dude bad at growing up. But in the middle of that maelstrom, there was one thing that both sides could agree on: The new Bun B album is awesome.
If you like Bun even just a little, even if all you know is his verse on the greatest hip hop song of all time, it would be hard to imagine you not enjoying his new release, Return of the Trill. His first release since 2013’s Trill OG: The Epilogue, Return feels like a record that isn’t about “creating a vibe” or “starting a movement” or any of the other buzzwords that PR firms attach to make an album feel bigger than it is. Instead, it feels like a record that exists to remind you that Bun B is a living legend still capable of gold on the mic when the mood suits him. It’s a record that sees Bun doing what he does best, rapping hard over tough beats—around half the tracks on the record are produced by Big K.R.I.T.—and proving he can match anyone bar for bar, which is no easy feat when your record has guest verses from 8Ball & MJG, Lil Wayne, T.I., and Run the Jewels.
Still, while it’s always nice to hear those tough verses from Bun, Return of the Trill shines brightest when Bun’s emotional depth comes through. “Blood on the Dash” might be one of the most radical tracks of the year, featuring Bun telling the story of a late night run-in between someone just trying to enjoy some weed on their drive home and a cop on patrol, told from both perspectives; it’s an interesting reminder that life is more complex than “Fuck Tha Police” or “99 Problems.”
But it’s album closer “Gone Away” that proves to be the real highlight of the record, one that’ll make you wish we had an entire record of Bun B and Leon Bridges team-ups. Treading in the throwback sound that put Bridges on the map, Bun’s verse about Pimp C isn’t flashy, but it’s heartfelt, the kind of realness that comes when you lose someone who helped you conquer the world. It’s a masterful way to close an album that takes some serious looks at what growing up means.
In these turbulent times, it’s good to know that there are certain constants in life. The sun keeps rising. Houston gets rain on the holidays. And when the mood hits him, Bun B will show up to give you the gift of another damn good album. Underground or not, with his brother at his side or on his own, he’s a king, and no one is knocking him off the throne.