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by Jack Goodson
4 June, 2008@6:41 am
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Bun B has one of the most powerful voices in hip hop. Fluid, precise and measured; It demands attention. Too often, though, he’s not saying much. For much of his career, moments of introspective genius have been sprinkled amongst syrupy dirty south cliché. For II Trill, follow-up to 2005′s Trill, Bun takes a substantially more reflective stance than on any of his prior works. And while it’s still blanketed with the customary street-corner machismo, there’s real artist growth on II Trill — even if it’s sporadic.

“Get Cha Issue” combines everything we’ve come to love about Port Arthur, Texas’ favorite son, in one, tight package. Addressing a trio of issues, social and political, Bun snaps “Ya’ll some liars, stealers, philanderers, and all / Got Senators sucking dick inside of bathroom stalls.” No punches to be held here.

Class inequality, as well as cultural responsibility, highlight “If It Was Up II Me” and the DJ Khalil-helmed “Another Soldier.” Emotion reaches an entirely different level on “Angel in the Sky,” Bun’s posthumous tribute to one-half of UGK, the late Pimp C.

For those seeking the drip of candy paint and a garish pair of gold fronts, have no fear. The album’s opening two tracks, “II Trill” and “That’s Gangsta” are table setters. Produced by Clinton Sparks and J.R. Rotem, respectively, these two are like downing three red bull and vodkas — in 10 minutes. “Swang On ‘Em” slides in with a swanky set of horns and an album-stealing verse from Lupe Fiasco: “I’m Rick James / And this game is a wide-leather coach for me to plant my feet on.” Shut it down.

That’s not to say this album is a home run, though. Much like it’s predecessor, II Trill succumbs to inconsistency. “My Block,” laced by milk carton status nominee Jazze Pha, is a unnecessary rehash. Scott Storch underwhelms with “I Luv That,” and “You’re Everything” suffers greatly, not from the Jodeci sample but from the mundane production surrounding it. “Pop It 4 Pimp” may be the worst of the lot, reinterpreting Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” to almost egregious effect (complete with tacked on Juvie verse). It’s unfortunate to see the likes of Bun and Juvenile sloshing through what could’ve served as a nice contrast to “Angel in the Sky.”

Still, these are only wobbles on an otherwise fairly stable effort. Though production takes a noticeable U-turn when compared to Trill, Bun’s versatility and ever-expanding content on II Trill make for an enjoyable experience overall. He’s yet to unleash a solo classic. However, there’s certainly evidence here to suggest Bun may yet have one up his sleeve. – Jack Goodson

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