Question: What do a missing poncho, gourmet burgers, and a sold-out football stadium all have in common? Answer: Mr. Bernard “Bun B” Freeman, or as his friends, fans, and family call him, The Trill OG. The rapper, educator, and entrepreneur not only took center stage as a performer but truly served as the Master of Ceremonies for this cultural event and made history in the process.
For the second year in a row, one-half of the legendary Hip-Hop group from Port Arthur, Texas, UGK- Underground Kingz (rest in peace Pimp C), took over the Houston Rodeo and Livestock show which is arguably one of the largest “festival” style events in the world and a cornerstone of the local tourist ecosystem for the city of Houston.
Now in its 91st year, the “Houston Rodeo” spans almost three full weeks, with an attendance of over 2 million people in 2022. Outside of the main event of livestock shows and competitions, it has become known for its live concerts that take center stage at NRG stadium, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans.
As with most brands over the past decade, finding a home for Hip-Hop has been challenging for the rodeo and that’s where Bun B comes in. First in 2022 and again this past weekend, the rodeo turned over the entertainment duties of their annual “Black Heritage Night” (now known as Bun B Night) to a well-deserving outsider.
Known for bringing people together behind the scenes and a spokesperson for the Houston and Texas Hip-Hop community at large, Bun had a vision to not just make a statement but give the rodeo something they have never seen before.
Assembling an All-Star guest lineup for his one-hour set in 2022, Bun repeated the amazing feat but took the focus off of himself and made the 2023 event a “Southern Takeover” featuring some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop culture who hail from the south.
This cast of chart-topping, Grammy award-winning rappers, singers, and DJs from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and of course, Texas played to a sold-out crowd of over 74,000 enthusiastic and hardcore fans.
They were treated to 60 minutes of hit after hit from their favorite artist of the last 20+ years, and what makes the night more amazing is the fact that not one of these artists, including Houston’s own Scarface, Lil Flip, Yungstar and Big Mike as well as the rest of the power-packed line up from Eight Ball and MJG, Trinidad James, David Banner, Tela, Big Krit, Mannie Fresh, Juvenile, Cupid and the “Queen” Erykah Badu have a current “hit” project in the market.
There was even an impromptu “Swag Surf,” now a national pastime, led by local radio celebrity “Hard Body” Kiotti from iHeart Radio’s 93.7 The Beat. This level of success and fan engagement speaks to the viability of Hip-Hop as a “career artist” genre, but we will tackle that another time.
To sell out any show is a testament to an artist and would make any manager or agent happy. Still, for fans to sell out a football stadium to see a rap concert in the middle of a rodeo defies the imagination! Draped in his custom-made UGK Pancho (courtesy of Luke Cosby from Purple Brand), Bun nicknamed himself “Pancho Trilla” for the evening, and the rest as they say, is history!
Outside of the packed house is another story altogether. Bun is also CEO of the gourmet foods establishment known as Trill Burgers! This double patty, cheese, grilled onions, and “secret sauce” placed on a sweet and soft hamburger bun, excuse the pun, is sweeping the “pop up” nation and was voted “Best Burger In America” in the Good Morning America “United States of Burgers” contest last summer.
The Trill Burger is now so “infamous” that whenever there is a pop-up shop, the lines are around the corner, down the street, and full of eager burger aficionados who even camp out to get a taste of this flavor-filled goodness.
This also happened at the rodeo, and if you’ve ever been to a fair or festival, I’m sure you can understand how some vendors may feel when the hottest food on the menu is right next store.
Let’s just say the rodeo addresses the issue, and Trill Burgers will most definitely be a part of their anchor experience in the future. The traveling success of the Trill Burger has led to the first store location opening in Summer 2023 in where else, H-Town, where like other “cult food” options, the locals will be sure to support the Trill OG.
About that poncho, like a Tom Brady Jersey that also went missing in this very Stadium a few years back, the custom Purple UGK Pancho also found itself in the wrong hands for a few hours over the weekend. Still, as it should be, the garment, which is now part of Houston, Hip-Hop and Rodeo history, has been returned.