Bun B has revealed that he doesn’t feel it’s necessarily a bad thing that more fans don’t know that JAY-Z‘s “99 Problems” features lines from one of his verses.
While appearing as a guest on the People’s Party With Talib Kweli, the Houston OG was asked whether he felt like a lot of fans don’t know the origins of the first four lines of Hov’s third verse on the hit single, which appeared on 2003’s The Black Album.
The verse hears JAY-Z quoting Bun directly, rapping “Now, once upon a time not too long ago/ A n-gga like myself had to strong-arm a ho/ Now, this was not a ho in the sense of having a pussy/ But a pussy having no goddamn sense, tryna push me.” The lines first appeared on the song “Touched,” from UGK’s seminal album Ridin’ Dirty.
“I feel like enough people know,” Bun B responded. “But I don’t feel like it’s that big of a deal. I would call it mutual respect. We do this a lot in Hip Hop, right? Where we have artists who have said, ‘Fuck that was dope, the way he said that.’ And sometimes you wanna pay homage to that wordplay. How many songs, Kweli, have you listened to and been like, ‘I woulda rhymed that last part like this.'”
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“And I think that’s what happens,” Bun B continued. “I think you feel like, ‘This is a dope rhyme, I don’t think enough people heard this shit. I’m finna drop this shit in here.’ Sometimes you take a dope rhyme and make it a hook, and then people gotta go back and figure it out. But nah, I don’t think a lot of people know that. I don’t think it’s a big deal that they don’t know. Or a big deal if they do.”
Fans first learned of the connection between JAY-Z and Bun B via UGK’s famous appearance on the Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter single “Big Pimpin'” in 1999. In the year since Pimp C‘s death, Bun has shared a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the hit single, including the fact that the collaboration came close to not happening at all.
During a 2022 appearance on The Steven Sulley Study podcast, Bun B shared that his late rhyme partner was initially against the idea of UGK appearing on the 2000 single out of respect for 2Pac.
“So, 2Pac was not a JAY-Z fan, this is very well-known,” the Trill Burgers founder said. “JAY-Z had been introduced to UGK by a big DJ in New York named Clark Kent. And he’s like, ‘I like these guys, I wanna work with them. And Pimp C did not want to fuck with people that 2Pac did not fuck with, because he thought 2Pac was the best judge of character.”
The late Port Arthur legend weighed all of this up when JAY-Z reached out to request UGK’s involvement on what would be the best performing single from his fourth studio album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter.
“When that first call came from JAY-Z, we were at the house in Atlanta, and [Pimp C] looked up at the wall. And he just stared at the picture. And I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m thinking what would 2Pac do right now? And 2Pac wouldn’t want me to fuck with him. That’s why I said, I’m not coming to New York.”
The song would end up becoming a huge success, peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart and topping the Rhythmic Top 40 chart, thus helping propel JAY-Z’s fourth studio album to triple platinum status.
Ironically, “Big Pimpin’” remains UGK’s best performing single – both as lead and featured artists – and the only song of theirs to crack the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.