Mic Drop is a recurring series featuring the thoughts and opinions of some of the biggest voices in classic Hip-Hop. Raw, uncut — and in their own words — these are the gems you've always wanted.
There are some profound moments in my career.
One in particular was getting ready to record the third UGK album Ridin' Dirty. We had gone through significant sampling issues with the first album, as well as the second album. With the first album, we had songs that were actually reproduced by people at the record company. It was something in our contract that we didn't even know they could do.
When it came to the third album, we wanted to be able to have creative control of the music and the content, like fully. "We want full creative control. We want to turn in an album, fully recorded, mixed and mastered and you guys just put it out." There were conditions to it: we basically forfeited an advance. Instead of taking money, we just asked for recording equipment. Not renting; because we'd been renting equipment. Jive Records owned a recording studio called Battery Studios and they also owned a music equipment rental situation. So they had convinced us previously to come to New York and come to their studio. Basically spending our money with their studio, billed back to them, but we still had to recoup the studio money that we spent. We were like, we don't have to deal with all of that. We can do everything we need to do right here at home. We just needed the equipment to do it ourselves.
So we forfeited any financial advance in favor of getting music equipment so that we could not only record the album Ridin' Dirty the way that we wanted to, but to become more of a self-sufficient unit.
We could record feature work and any kind of music that we wanted, right there at home. They agreed to it, and Ridin' Dirty is our most highly-regarded album.
It still stands the test of time. It's considered a Hip-Hop classic. And it's only because we were willing to sacrifice certain things for creative freedom.
At first, freedom was really just about speech: being able to say everything I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it. Once I figured that out, then I wanted financial freedom; which was me being able to be fully sustained through my craft without being dependent on a record company as a conduit to the money. That took a little bit longer—to get out of that system and to be free of that system.
And then once I got that, as I became a lot older, became a husband, father, grandfather—I just started to want more personal freedom. Time to myself, time to be able to separate from the industry and the business side and be able to go detach, detox, recharge and spend quality time with my family. So now that I'm not as young and I don't need to work as hard as I did—as they say: we're not working harder, we're working smarter—I'm able to get things done in a more timely fashion and not exercise unnecessary energy. And I can reserve more family time for family moments.
When I was a younger artist, I used to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas because they would pay you more. And I didn't have a family, so it was cool. But as I got older, I was like "Nah, we can't be working on the holidays." I got grandchildren now, I want to be there to watch them open their Christmas presents. As you get older, you adjust.
But all of those things I have to sacrifice. In order to be able to spend more time with family, I have to sacrifice wanting to be the shit in the club and wanting to be in the mix and around everybody all the time. When I was younger, I had no problem with it—I wanted to be seen in the spot as the shit. But now, I don't need that for my ego. I'm good now.
Everything felt right at that time. When you're 18, 19 years old and you walk in the club and the DJ says "Oh shit, Bun B is in the house!" and you walk to your section, that's a great feeling. You work hard for that feeling.
It's not necessarily just given to you. There has to be some level of effort put into it. And that feels good.
But also being able to sit in a home—not just a house, because a house can have furniture and shit on the walls and all that and still not necessarily feel like a home. But I have a home. I used to like to be away from home, when I was younger, more than at home. Because it was just me by myself in a little apartment, no light to it, no one to share it with, no animals, no plants—just me and furniture and digital equipment.
Now my life is different, my home is different. It's very relaxing. It's very calming. I can go sit out on the back porch and breathe some fresh air. This feels great now, but I do know when I was younger, my life was great then, too!
But there's a difference between living for yourself and living for others. And when I lived for myself, I enjoyed it. Now I live for others, and I enjoy that, too.