By Jeremy Kaplan
Bun B's latest album Trill O.G., which dropped this week, has become the latest recipient of the vaunted five mics from The Source, the first LP to grab the honor since Lil' Kim's 2005 release, The Naked Truth. Although a number of rap albums were eventually bumped up from an initial less-than-five or non-existent rating (either because they were re-considered or because their release dates preceded the magazine's founding), Bun's solo record is one of only 14 albums to get the Source's five mics immediately upon release, marking it superior from the get-go.
And although he's nearly 20 years into the game, Bun still considers himself a late prodigy, as he told our Mixtape Daily recently. Since the tragic death of his UGK brother in 2007, Pimp C, Bun has turned his attention to his solo career. Now, with the release of Trill O.G., Bun can bask in the moment, which places his latest record alongside Biggie’s Life After Death and Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, classics that also received the maximum rating when they first came out. (A total of 43 albums have earned five mics to date.)
In the elite five-mic club, Bun joins fellow Texas rappers Scarface (who has two five-mic albums of his own) and the Geto Boys; the only other Southerners in the group are Outkast.
If we take a look back at some of the five-mic recipients, it becomes clear why they’re so essential to a rap record collection. During the golden age of hip-hop, the lyrical wordplay of acts like Eric B. and Rakim came to represent the East Coast scene. The duo's debut, Paid in Full, helped cement the use of complex lyricism by MCs. Meanwhile, the West Coast’s N.W.A dropped the controversial Straight Outta Compton and set the bar for generations of explicit, raw, hard-core gangsta rap.
As rap music gradually crossed over into the mainstream in the early '90s, the game saw five-mic material such as Nas' debut, Illmatic, on which the Queens MC showcased his unique storytelling. By the first decade of the new millennium, however, the rappers who did come through with five-mic records were typically the already established veterans like Nas, Jay-Z, Scarface and Lil' Kim.
There is no question that Bun has earned his revered status in hip-hop. And on Trill O.G., Bun B sums up his career thus far on tracks like “It’s Been a Pleasure,” while shining light on future MCs on “All a Dream,” in which he puts it plain and simple that “the next generation is the future.”
Although the legendary UGK never earned a 5-mic rating, Pimp C is surely smiling down on Bun with pride.
What is your favorite album in the five-mic club? Let us know in the comments!