Transcript: Into Bun B is Standing Up

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Into America

Into Bun B is Standing Up

Trymaine Lee: Legendary rapper Bun B has been making music out of Texas for more than three decades. He started out as one half of the duo UGK, Underground Kings, a group he formed in 1987 with Pimp C. in their hometown of Port Arthur, writing lyrics about the streets, inequality, and what it's like struggling to survive.

Archival Recording: (SUNG) One day you're here. The next day, you're gone. One day you're here, baby. And then you're gone. The next day, you're gone. One day, your here, baby. And then you're gone.

Lee: So when George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Houston (the city where Floyd spend most of his life) mourned.

Protesters: George Floyd.

Protester: Say his name.

Protesters: George Floyd.

Protester: Say his name.

Lee: And Bun B stepped up to lead the city he now calls home.

Bun B: Make no mistake, George Floyd was a Houstonian, born and raised in the Third Ward. And so this could have happened to any person of color in the city of Houston.

Lee: Bun B helped organize a march in Houston to honor Floyd on June 2nd, and tens of thousands of people came out to show their support.

Bun B: But I would like it if everybody can get on one knee for a moment of silence. Make sure you're on the right knee. Put your fist up in solidarity for a moment of silence.

Lee: But Bun's activism and work in the community began long before this moment.

Bun B: Once you're in a position to actually escape those circumstances, you feel compelled to reach back. You feel compelled to try to show people a way out.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee, and this is Into America. Today, a conversation with Bun B, recorded in partnership with the Texas Tribune Festival. Bun B has worn a lotta hats over the years: rapper, lecturer at Rice University, political correspondent for Vice News, and proud Texan. We talked politics, how his small hometown influenced his activism, and how he's approaching his art in this time. Bun B, it's an honor to talk with you, man.

Bun B: Likewise, man. Thank you for having me, Trymaine.

Lee: Yeah, I'll say this. When I first heard we were doin' this and they said, "It's gonna be Texas," and they said, "Who do you want to talk to?" when I said, "It's either Bun B or Scarface," so I'm winning--

Bun B: That's what's up.

Lee: So I'm winning right here. (LAUGHTER)

Bun B: I appreciate that.

Lee: Thank you. You know, on a serious note though, between COVID-19 killing Black people and killer cops killing Black people, you know, our communities are going through a lot. And--

Bun B: Right.

Lee: --I want to ask you, you know, how you're doin', but also how are your folks down in Houston doing with everything goin' on?

Bun B: I mean, we're maintaining. I guess that's the best way to put it. We're maintaining. You know, unfortunately these kind of things aren't new to Black people. So everyone has their respective coping mechanisms for when these kind of things happen. Obviously people are affected, people are emotional about it.

You know, some people are enraged. Others are concerned. And, you know, we're just monitoring the climate, you know, locally as well as nationally and trying to find places where we can engage and try to help effect change for these things. But, I mean, you know, being Black in America, these kind of concerns are not new.

Unfortunately, this is at this point for many of us, you know, a part of life, which that I feel it's starting to get unacceptable. I feel like Black people have hit the ceiling for these kind of injustices, and this oppression, and all of these different levels of racism. And I feel like we're realizing now how much we've actually been tolerating.

Lee: Yeah.

Bun B: And unfortunately, people just cannot sit on the sidelines anymore. People have to activate. They have to engage, inform, and educate those who want to know more. That's a big part of this, right? Because many people want to be a part of the movement. Many people want to be a part of effecting change. But everyone doesn't necessarily have an entry point.

So that's been a big thing, really, is about engaging people, educating them about the facts of these things, 'cause there's so much misinformation out there, right? And to me, I always feel like that's what really causes a difference, right?

Like, when people start to look for information and try to dissect this stuff, you read this from this side and it tells you this one thing, and you read this from the other side and it tells you another thing. And people get confused. They don't really know who to trust.

And when that kind of thing happens, indifference sets in and then people tend to disengage. So I'm trying to make sure that, you know, for the collective that trust me, right, I have a group of people who look up to me, who trust my opinion and trust that I won't lead them astray, I just try to give them the best information I can in the moment.

Lee: Yeah. When you think about that misinformation and disinformation and kind of the lack of information, how much of that do you think is intentional? How much you think that is just humans being humans and trying to figure this thing out, and how much of it do you think is like, you know, it's part of the systems that have been oppressin' folks for all this time anyway?

Bun B: I'm gonna say, well, the misinformation itself is intentional. The act of spreading disinformation in these public spaces is nothing new. It's always been there. Social media has unfortunately done a lot of the heavy lifting for people, right? Because many people can't discern who's a real person, who's not; who's actually Black, who's actually actually American.

You know, there's campaigns from China. There's campaigns from Russia. There's campaigns right here inside of America, you know, trying to infiltrate these conversations, right, and sway people to certain sides or with certain people. And, I mean, it's a concerted effort.

I mean, there are rooms of people in countries around the world that are actively, you know, creating fake profiles, creating memes. You know, they're on Facebook. They're on Twitter. They're on Instagram. They're on YouTube. And it's all to basically keep the current administration in office.

Lee: Which is so wild, the extent and lengths that they'll go to infiltrate, right? Pretending to be Black, infiltrating these Facebook groups. And I wonder how much of a responsibility do you think that the social media platforms themselves have in kind of filtering through some of this stuff?

Bun B: Well, I think they have a great deal, right? But the reality is that, you know, I don't think there's an algorithm that effectively meters out all of this stuff, right? So you've got real people in real time going through what has to be billions of post, right? Billions upon billions of posts.

Obviously, you know, tag words will help, right? Particular hashtags will help them find a lot of these things. But some of that stuff is still gonna seep through the cracks, you know? I do have concerns about Zuckerberg's indifference about really doing anything. I think it's a little telling, to be quite honest. That's my personal opinion. Because, I mean, he deals in information. It's not necessarily good or bad information. He just deals in information.

And right now, he has more collective information on more people on the planet than anyone else. And I don't think he wants to do anything to send people away from Facebook. So I think he allows both sides of every story to be told in order to maintain those relationships.

Because if they leave Facebook, they're gonna go to 4chan or QAnon and all this kinda stuff. And I think for them, I don't think Mark Zuckerberg really cares either way, right? I don't think he cares about the administration. I also don't think that he believes Black lives matter. I don't think he cares either way. I think for him it's all about data, data mining, information accumulation, and money.

Lee: You know, we're in the midst of this racial reckoning. And we've seen, you know, Black Lives Matter expanding, growing, and even pullin' in white folks and different coalitions. And there are so many tie-ins to the Civil Rights Movement of the past and different movements of the past.

And I know you had the opportunity to go to Washington for the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, which really, you know, it becomes this kind of black and white icon. But that was a big moment, right, when you think about what happened and the message being sent there. Why did you feel that you had to be there in person? Why did you feel you had to, you know, push through COVID-19 concerns and travel to D.C. and actually be there? And what did it feel like to be there?

Bun B: Well, I think, you know, I'm looked at, I guess, by many people as a leader in my community, whether it's the Black community, the community here locally in Houston, as well as the hip hop community. And it's very easy in this social media age to talk a good talk. I feel it very necessary for me to walk the walk as well.

So I think being in that space is important for people to see to take these kinda things seriously 'cause a lotta people follow my lead on these things. So when I say, "Hey, it was important for me to be there," people realize that there's an importance.

But personally (you know, and I think I said this on Instagram), you know, to be in that space, right, on that day not only allows me to recognize how I'm literally standing on the shoulders of greatness, right, of people who have put their lives on the line for change, to try to effect real change and put an end to oppression and racism.

But to be on the Lincoln Memorial steps looking out over the reflection pool towards the Washington Monument literally puts you in the footprints of those that came before you. Like, you're standing where they stood, right? You're demanding what they demanded. You're fighting for what they fought for. You're loving yourself and your people in the same way that they did. And for me, I mean, I don't see anywhere else I could have been on that day that would have been as important as where I was last Friday.

Lee: The killing of George Floyd, who died at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, changed everything, right? I think there is pre-George Floyd and post-George Floyd.

Bun B: Absolutely.

Lee: He spent a lot of his life in Houston. And I know that in early June you organized a protest on his behalf back home. What led you to that moment? And, again, it's one thing to lead on a national stage. But how important was it to lead at home, to lead locally?

Bun B: Well, I think it's very important. You know, a lotta people look to my example. They follow my lead for a lotta these things. And when this happened, you know, I had actually went immediately to Minneapolis, right, to stand where George had died and to stand with the people of Minneapolis and hear their concerns.

Because it seemed to me like all of the outrage and all the outpouring of emotion happening in that city couldn't have just been about this one incident. And so you get there and you realize that there's a chain of incidents between the police and the Black community that kind of led up to it.

And so George Floyd's death was for that community the straw that broke the camel's back, right? And you come back home, and as Houstonians, you know, we're upset because he's one of ours. Like, when people leave Houston to go to other places to better their lives, you wish them well and you want to see them grow and prosper.

And instead, this brother, this Houstonian was tortured and murdered. I always want to say "tortured" because dying slowly over eight minutes and 40-some-odd seconds is torture. And, you know, we were, you know, trying to figure out how can we speak for him here in Houston.

So there had been several different marches and different protests. And I had reached out to a good friend of mine, Marcus Davis. He's a local Black business owner, as well as an activist. And I asked him. I said, "Man, have you heard of anything, you know, any more marches or protests or rallies that we could get behind, and support, and be a part of?"

And he was like, "Brother, I'll be honest. If you say you're doin' one, that's where the people will be." You know, I wanted to be with the people. And he was like, "You know, if you do a rally or you do a protest, that's where the people will be." So I reached out to my brother Trae tha Truth, who's a recording artist as well but probably the one person in Houston that single-handedly tries to help everyone, right?

There's a lot of people that engage in different ways, but no one's really at the forefront of helping their fellow man here more than Trae tha Truth. And he and I partner on a lot of different initiatives all the time. We've been working together collectively pretty much nonstop since Harvey, you know?

And so he created an organization called Relief Gang during Harvey. And while it was initially created to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, it's extended into all concerns of the people. So Black people, Mexican people, white people. Anyone that's in need in any way, they try to fill that need.

And so I immediately, you know, talked to him 'cause we were together at the rally. I was like, "Look, Marcus just told me, man, you know, we should probably do something." He was like, "You know, if we want people to gather around this, then maybe I should do somethin'." I said, "I think maybe we should do something."

And he was in full agreement. We reached out to the mayor. The mayor of Houston is African American. He had concerns about the murder of George Floyd. He touched base with the police chief, Art Acevedo, as well as the deputy chief of police, Troy Finner.

And so they blocked off the route to make sure that instigators couldn't get inside the mix and hurt people. The mayor allowed us to gather in the center of downtown. And we really had no idea what the response would be. We knew it would be, you know, fairly sizable. We were estimating maybe 4,000 or 5,000 people. And we arrived into Discovery Green, which was the gathering spot, and there were tens of thousands of people there.

Lee: Wow.

Bun B: And, you know, we were just really awestruck about it. And I think the main thing that we took from it was that there were people of all races, all religions, all identities of gender standing for this. And we realized that it's no longer simply a Black problem, dealing with racism, dealing with police brutality.

Other people are concerned about it. People don't feel comfortable living in a world where that happens. And once we got to city hall and really got a better scope of what was goin' on, we realized that we're at the podium standing in front of 60,000 people in downtown Houston screaming, "Black lives matter," raising fists in the air, calling for an end for police brutality.

And, you know, when I took the stand, I felt obligated to not only speak about what's happening in Minneapolis and around the country but also to acknowledge that we in Houston, in front of the mayor and the police chief, have incidents that we need answers for, right? We don't want to be hypocritical in this moment, pointing at Minneapolis when we can point right here in Houston with concerns that we have about police brutality in particular.

But, you know, there was no violence. There were a few people who came down and started climbing on buses. You know, and so those people got arrested. And a couple of other people who were there peacefully got swept up in that whole collective of being arrested. But we were able to get those people out fairly quick.

And otherwise, you know, it was an amazing success. And I think it set a precedent because up until that moment no one had really done anything that big anywhere concerning George Floyd. And then Paris sort of, you know, took after that. London took after it. L.A. did an amazing--

Lee: Amazing.

Bun B: --march and rally. And we were just happy to be a part of the cry for justice.

Lee: You know, you mentioned that one thing about the cases that happened back home, right? There are a whole bunch of names of people who had been gunned down and killed and other ways by police, and we never know their names. And I ask this question a lot, but I want to get it from you. What was it about George Floyd's death that penetrated, you know, not just our community? 'Cause of course we ache for a brother who was killed like that. But then you have white folks. You have people in the international community. What was it?

Bun B: Well, I think it's a combination of things, right? I think COVID played a big part, right? Because people who would normally be otherwise distracted, right, people who would be at work, right, so they wouldn't necessarily be sitting in front of a television watching it happen. I think the fact that children were not at school, right? So they were sitting in front of the television, watching it happen. And I think it's such an unnatural way to die.

Lee: Yeah.

Bun B: Right? In America, we see gun violence daily, if not hourly in some communities, right? So people can get a bit numb to that, right? But to watch a man being choked out for over eight minutes, it was extremely unnatural. It was very graphic, right? And I think everyone got the same vision and the same message at the same time.

It was unavoidable. It was on every network. It was on every social media outlet. So there was no way to avoid seeing it. And I told someone. I said, you know, you have to be like a very specific type of racist, right? You have to pretty much be inhuman to see something like that and, one, not feel compassion for another human being, not be in touch with your humanity as well as your mortality.

But to even, like, find joy in something like that, right? You have to be a very specific and special type of inhuman racist to not have been affected by that. And, you know, for many years there was always the excuse available for people when it came to police brutalities and police encounters where the escalation goes very quickly and happens very quickly and people end up severely injured or dead in the midst of that interaction that, "Well, we don't know what happened." Right? "We didn't see what happened." You know, the police are always given the benefit of a doubt--

Lee: Yep.

Bun B: --right? When it comes to public court of opinion outside of Black people. Because Black people have been privy to these acts for unfortunately tens, if not hundreds of years now, right? And this is something that we've been talking about for a very long time, about how the police treat Black people, right, in general when it comes to these interactions, with these arrests, and the way these situations escalate so quickly and become very violent and sometimes turn deadly.

And now, people were able to look at it and see, "Wow, this really happened." And, you know, we got a bit of a taste of it during the Rodney King situation. But I feel like California was a little bit more enraged about it, right? The streets of Los Angeles, you know, were on fire literally during the L.A. riots.

But I think now, you know, and Minneapolis is not, like, one of the major cities in America, right? So I think it just put a brand new light on something that's already been happening for some people for many years. And I think people who wanted to engage and wanted to say something about it now have the entry point, right? They have the point of reference.

And I think because of the fact that many families were home watching this all in real time at the same time, you know, now we have to have these conversations. I feel like a lot of white families had to have a conversation that they've easily avoided, right, for, you know, generations.

They found ways to not even have these conversations about why does this happen to Black people, right? And white children, I believe, this is just my belief. I can't say it's fact. But I believe that white children saw what happened to George Floyd and started to ask their parents, "Do I have to worry about this?" Right? "Why is the police killing him? Are the police gonna kill me?"

And some parents found it necessary to be very honest with their children and tell them, "Probably not." You know? "Unless you're doing something very, very wrong, you've hurt someone or even killed someone." And even under those circumstances, we have examples of where, you know, people have murdered 12, 15, 16 people and still not been treated in this way by the police.

So I think we all collectively realized that this world is not as nice and as fair as we would all like to believe. And if we want it to be fair, we have to act. Black people can't end racism alone. If that was the fact, we would have done it, you know, hundreds of years ago.

But it definitely takes the help of white people being upset, concerned, and angry about anti-Black racism and not being indifferent, and being vocal, and being active, and saying literally that Black lives matter. And not just saying it, right? Because I feel like that's a common rallying point, right? And it's very easy to say that to not present yourself in a certain way or to not be presumed as a racist.

But I think they have to actually believe it, too. Right? Because if they don't believe it, they're not gonna put themselves on those front lines. It's very easy to get online and say, "Black lives matter." It's a much different situation when you're marching through a city street, right, with opposition on both sides of you as a white person saying, "Black lives matter." It's a much different thing.

And so I'm confident that, you know, due to the vast numbers of people who do not look like me standing with me, and feeling like I feel, and screaming what I scream, it encourages me that we can get a lot closer and a lot further now than we may have gotten in the past.

Lee: (MUSIC) We've gotta take a quick break. When we come back, I talk with Bun B about his experience covering the 2016 election for Vice News and how that influences the way he views this moment. We'll be right back.

Lee: (MUSIC) There is great fervor and energy on both sides now, right, especially Black and white folks coming together and saying, "Black lives matter," and demanding some change.

Bun B: Right.

Lee: But on the other side, you've seen what happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin with Kyle Rittenhouse. A young white teenager shoots three people, kills two of them. We see President Trump defending Rittenhouse and condemning Black Lives Matter protesters. And I know in 2016 you operated as a journalist for Vice.

Bun B: Yes.

Lee: And you were at Trump rallies, and you've seen this stuff up close and personal and the supporters. How do you think all that we've seen might affect 2020?

Bun B: Well, I think that it lends itself more to the left than the right. I do believe that everyone who voted for Trump before will mostly likely vote for him again, right?

Lee: No question in your mind. You're like, "You know, if you supported him then, you're probably doublin' down now"?

Bun B: Yeah, for the most part. I would say maybe 95, 96% of those people have not been dissuaded by anything, right? Because the reality is as I followed the trail everyone didn't necessarily agree with him ideologically, right? A lot of people didn't agree with his policies. They didn't agree with the wall and all of that.

But somewhere, somehow in the words that were spoken, there was something said to them that they felt would benefit them, right? So they disregarded the racism. They disregarded the sexism. They disregarded the xenophobia, right? They threw all that stuff to the side because there was something there that would benefit them.

Now, for rich people obviously it would have been the tax incentives, right? But for other people, I can't really say exactly what it was. But there was something that they heard and they were like, "Well, yeah, I do think, you know, Mexicans are stealing our jobs," right? You know, "I do think Black communities are violent."

You know, there are different things that they heard that was like, "Okay, well, I agree with that." And I'll tell you another thing that concerned me. A lot of the places where I went, specifically the conservative convention that was held in South Carolina in 2016, I talked to a lot of different people, particularly like tea party people, right, people who are a lot further on the right so to speak.

And a lot of them referred to the Democratic Party as a godless party, right? That was their stance, that the Democrats don't believe in God. And many people in this country, and I don't think people really realize that. There are a large contingency of people in this country who vote their morals as opposed to policy and ideology.

And for them, you know, a guy can say, "Yeah, I want to build a wall and keep all Mexicans out. I want to ban Muslims." You know what I'm sayin'? "I want to do this. I want to do that." And their only question is: "How do you feel about abortion?" Right?

And once, you know, someone designates themself as a pro-lifer, that's it. That's why I said a lot of these people put everything else that they know they don't really agree with to the side to gain that one thing. So for Christian conservatives in this country, that's all they needed to hear. "We're not gonna worry about the racism."

You know, the dynamic between the white church and Black America has been pretty shaky for a long time now. So I can see there still being hesitancy on that side. I talk about this with my wife all the time, is that, you know, you look at white women in America and I think a lot of them put their feminism to the side because they care more about having a racist point of view than a feminine point of view, right?

And this is something that women, you know, not to shame anyone or anything, but we consistently see women in our society put their own respective beliefs to the side to support and stand by their men, right? We talk about this with Black women in terms of calling the police on Black men and, you know, trying to hold Black men accountable because Black women are hesitant to do that because they know what happens to a Black man once he gets in custody of the police.

Once the police is in a Black man's life, things will tend to go very, very wrong. And so they put their own concerns to the side to support their men. And I feel like right now white women are doin' the same thing for different reasons, right? I think it's more for comfort for them, right?

They don't want their husbands to lose jobs. They don't want their husbands to not be able to prosper in this world. And if we need to hold Black people, people of color, gay people, Muslims, whatever, if we need to hold them back so our white men can succeed, that's what we're gonna do. And so we're just living in a very, very strange time where the lines in the sand, they haven't been drawn this deeply in a while.

Lee: Right.

Bun B: Like, in I would say maybe 50, 60 years. And so we're all comin' to terms with the fact of what America really, truly looks like.

Lee: Not what it says it looks like. Not what it says it is. What it actually looks like.

Bun B: Yeah, absolutely.

Lee: You know, I want to ask you this. So you're so associated with Texas and Houston in particular, but you're originally from Port Arthur, 90 minutes away from Houston.

Bun B: Yes.

Lee: And I wonder how growin' up in that much smaller city shaped not just your music but your politics and your world view and how you arrived at this moment, right? You're not just an artist, but you're also an activist.

Bun B: Growing up in Port Arthur, there was this proximity to racism, right, that is never really deeply discussed but it's always understood. So you take Port Arthur and let's say that I want to go from Port Arthur, Texas to the state of Louisiana. In order to get from Port Arthur to the state line, which is really only about 20, 30 minutes away from Port Arthur, I have to go through two towns that have absolutely no minorities.

Lee: Zero.

Bun B: Zero minorities. This is today, right now, in 2020.

Lee: That doesn't happen by accident, right? That doesn't just (LAUGH) grow like that.

Bun B: No, no. No. And so the very first town you encounter leaving Port Arthur on the short route, right? There's a longer route through Beaumont, but you still end up going through one of these towns. But the quickest way, right, is to go over a bridge into a town called Bridge City. And growing up, you've always been told, "Before you leave Port Arthur, make sure you have gas. Make sure you have food, snacks, whatever you need. But under no circumstances should you stop in Bridge City."

Lee: "Don't do it."

Bun B: "Don't do it." And it would be frustrating because Bridge City actually had cheaper gas (LAUGH) consistently.

Lee: Its appeal is like, "Should I do it? Nah, man. Keep goin'." (LAUGH)

Bun B: Right. And then the other town is Vidor, Texas, which, you know, many people learn about Vidor from Oprah, James Byrd and these type of things. So it was always present, right? Also, economic opportunities for people of color in the town I grew up in were very small, right?

'Cause it's basically a refinery town. The world's largest oil refinery is in Port Arthur, Texas. And so if you don't work for the refineries or work for companies that sustain the refinery, you don't really have good employment, right? I mean, obviously there's doctors, there's lawyers, things like that, accountants or whatnot.

But for the average working class person, right, if you live in Port Arthur, that's your thing, is to try to get a job in the refineries or to become an athlete. Like, being a musician prior to me becoming a recording artist wasn't an option. Like, there is no music scene in Port Arthur, right?

And so coming from this small town teaches you how to deal with adversity. That's the first thing, right? How to deal with adversity in terms of your everyday condition in the city, right? Many people in that town are probably slightly above the poverty level.

And so dealing with adversity, making ends meet, learning how to survive, not backing down from people, all of that comes from growing up in that small town. But once you're in a position to actually escape those circumstances, right, you feel compelled to reach back. You feel compelled to try to show people a way out, right?

Now, everyone from Port Arthur has a very, very strong sense of pride. So if you look at, you know, a Stephen Jackson, NBA player, he's from Port Arthur and has a very strong sense of pride about being from that city. And that comes with that city because you have to be tough to exist in that city, right?

And our mentality is that if we made it out of Port Arthur, there's nothing any other city could do to break us. And so that in itself kind of informs your world view in terms of moving away, trying to succeed, finding employment, all of that stuff. Look, if you can make it out of this town. They say about New York, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." That's pretty much the point of view that we all take comin' from that town.

And then I know that this town doesn't necessarily have many opportunities to be spoken for in the world, right? And so that's been a big part of not just my music career but also with my activism. I think it's important for people to see, because I get lumped in with Houston all the time. I've lived in Houston almost 30 years now. I was actually born in Houston and spent my very young years in Houston.

But all of my formidable years and my growth years occurred in the city of Port Arthur. So I claim Port Arthur as my hometown. But it's important for me to not turn my back on this city, to let them know that, you know, I represent you, I stand for you, and, like, I'm always gonna be here for you. You know, I've always felt that's important.

If you look at our albums, our music, whatever, saying that we're from Port Arthur is prevalent. It's a prevalent message. It's consistent in almost every song. And, you know, there's a lotta young kids growing up out there who may never live anywhere else, right?

They may not get the opportunity to go anywhere, do something. So I try to encourage those people to achieve on any level to be the best that they can be, to get out, be a part of society, be an active part of society, and to be able to provide for themselves and their families in whatever way possible.

Lee: You know, as we wrap up today, I do want to ask you, you know, as an artist your weapon of choice is your music. And I know you have a new single comin' out called This World. And it touches on this moment. What were you tryin' to say with your new single?

Bun B: I just wanted to tell people that I recognize what we're going through. I also recognize that this is not a new thing. 'Cause there's a lotta young people that maybe don't know the deeper history and don't know how long this fight for Black people in terms of civil rights, in terms of equality, in terms of oppression, in terms of dealing with, you know, systemic racism, institutional racism, educational, financial oppression, all of these different things.

Archival Recording: (SUNG) This world. This world. This world. Man, it's 2020. Who woulda thought that the fight for basic civil rights would still have to be fought even after we lost Huey, Hampton, Martin, and Malcolm to racist elite power structures whiter than talcum? See, they've been treatin' my people like they ain't equal.

Bun B: It's not a new fight. Unfortunately, my grandparents died fighting it. My parents are still alive now thankfully. They're still here, standing up against it. I'm actively standing up against it. My children are now here. My grandchildren are here, right?

And I know that my grandparents fought so that my parents could have a better life than they did, right? My parents did the same thing for me. I did it for my children. And now, my children have their own children. So I want to consistently give the right message and lead by example in the right way to make sure that, if nothing else, if no one else really gets it and receives it in that way, that the people I love and the people that look up to me for guidance know where I stand.

But then also to be able to vocalize it, right? I have my platform, and that's really what it's about. And many people feel a certain way but don't really have the opportunity to let their voice, their opinions, and their concerns be heard. And so that's kind of what we do. And that's what we've always done in the hip hop community, is speak about the conditions of our community for those that are voiceless, right?

You know, we stand up to be seen for those that can't be seen. We stand up and speak for those that can't be heard. We stand up and engage for those who can't engage, right? Everyone right now, especially dealing with the economy, can't go to Washington, D.C. for a rally, right?

Some people physically could not put themselves in a possible line of danger, right, being around all these different people and whatnot. And don't get me wrong. They did a very good job at trying to social distance there. Every so often, they would ask everyone to stretch out their arms, right. And if you're touching someone, you're too close.

Lee: Right. (LAUGH)

Bun B: You know?

Lee: Try that with 300,000 people, right?

Bun B: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, they did the best they could, right? But everyone was wearing masks. I will say that. Everyone I saw out there was wearing a mask. But, you know, and then I wanted to put people on the song with me that felt the same way. That's why you see Trae tha Truth on the song, who has been active alongside me.

He was in Kentucky for I want to say 10-12 days with everyone from Until Freedom and different people, actively basically staging a live-in, right? Not a sit-in or a stand-in but a live-in in Louisville, Kentucky to fight for justice for Breonna Taylor.

He's now currently been going back and forth to the city of Lake Charles, who had substantial damage from Hurricane Laura last week. I'll be joining him tomorrow in that effort. And then also Big Krit, who has always been a very conscious brother. You know what I'm sayin'? He's always been a stand-up guy, and he's always tried to lead by example as well.

He comes from a small town, the same that I do. And he knows that he's the voice of that community. He's the face and the voice of that community. So he always wants to be on the right side of history, you know? So that's why I have those brothers on the song with me, 'cause they feel like I feel, they move like I move, they act like I act, and they care like I care.

And, you know, this one is not about commercial success. You know, it's not about topping the charts. It's really just about letting people know that we share their concerns, we hear their cries. And not only will we stand for them, we'll stand with them in this moment. And, you know, like I said, we want to be able to look back, you know, ten years from now.

Like, my youngest grandchild is barely three months old, right? So she has no frame of reference for this. But 20 years from now, right, there'll be, you know, a retrospective on CNN or one of these shows and talk about the George Floyd murder and what's changed in America, like they always do, right? What's changed in America in these 20 years.

And she looks up to me asks me, you know, "Papa, what were you doing?" I want to be able to look at some of that footage and be like, "That was my march. I was there. I was with those people," right? That kind of a thing. 'Cause I can talk a good talk. We all can talk a good talk. But I feel like action is key, action is necessary.

Lee: Brother, first, I would be remiss if I didn't say rest in peace, Pimp C.

Bun B: Thank you. Thank you.

Lee: And, brother, Bun B, rapper, activist, Texan to the core, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

Bun B: Trymaine, thank you so much, man. Please keep up the good work, brother. We are proud of you, we stand with you, and we appreciate you representin' us in the way that you do.

Lee: That means a lot, man. Thank you. That was Houston rapper and activist Bun B. Into America is produced by Isabel Angel, Allison Bailey, Aaron Dalton, Max Jacobs, Barbara Raab, Claire Tighe, Aisha Turner, and Preeti Varathan. Original music by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Ellen Frankman. Steve Lickteig is executive producer of audio. This episode was produced in partnership with the Texas Tribune Festival. You can find the video of my conversation with Bun B at TribFest.org. I'm Trymaine Lee. We'll be back on Monday.