For the more than 1 million people displaced along the Texas Gulf Coast by Hurricane Harvey, life may be forever altered in towns including Houston, Port Arthur and Rockport. One of Houston's brightest rappers, Bun B, and one of its best-known stars, Beyonce, are making a Texas-sized impact on their home state.
Bun B (real name Bernard Freeman) is as synonymous with Houston as Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are with Los Angeles. For more than 25 years, Houston has been a hotbed for a distinctive style of southern hip-hop that's helped catapult a number of artists into the national spotlight, Port Arthur-born Bun B included.
As a member of rap duo UGK, short for Underground Kingz, Bun B crashed the mainstream by being featured on smash hits including Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'" and Three 6 Mafia's "Sippin on Some Syrup," before its 2007 UGK (Underground Kingz) LP topped the charts and became widely regarded as a classic example of Dirty South hip-hop. Following the 2007 death of UGK mate Pimp C, Bun B has soldiered on, releasing his own music and continuing to be the kind of real-world ambassador that forever ties an artist to his community.
Although Bun B's property wasn't terribly affected by the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, many of his friends, fans and family suffered catastrophic losses. With the help of Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, Bun B spearheaded the organization of the A-lister-studded Hand in Hand benefit that featured George Strait, Blake Shelton, Barbra Streisand and another Bayou City icon, Beyonce.
The incredible event raised more than $44 million.
Along with her own fundraising relief efforts, Beyonce has been assisting Trae tha Truth, yet another trailblazing Houston rapper, get food, water and supplies to many who have been shaken by Harvey's wrath. Trae tha Truth, born Frazier Othel Thompson, is more of an underground artist than Bun B, but his influence is anything but, as every year on July 22, Houston celebrates Trae Day, awarded for the rapper's community service endeavors.
Aside from a crowdfunding campaign that's raised over $150,000, Beyonce personally delivered meals during Harvey relief efforts.
As much as country music and punk rock often tell the stories of working class people with colorful stories, hip-hop does the same by digging into the corners of the community the artists are from and showing the truth, regardless of whether it's joyous or tragic, beautiful or grimy. Bun B and fellow Houston artists are using their names, influence, music and service to prove that beauty can rise from one of the most horrific natural disasters in American history.
Bun B performs Sept. 22, doors open at 8 p.m., at Trees, 2709 Elm St., Dallas. Details here.