The 20 Best Five-year Runs In Rap Image via Getty Images/Ray Tamarra

Bun B: 1992-1996

Solo Albums: n/a
Group Albums: The Southern Way (1992), Banned (1992), Too Hard to Swallow (1992), Super Tight (1994), Ridin' Dirty (1996)
Biggest Hits: "Something Good" (1992), "Front, Back & Side to Side" (1994), "One Day" (1996), "Murder" (1996), "Diamonds of Wood" (1996)

Between 30 and 40 songs as a member of UGK between the years 1992-1996, Bun released some of the best music of the period, the basis for a reputation he's since earned as one of hip-hop's elder statesmen. It's also tough to remember how different his reputation was at the time; his highest profile appearance in that period was likely on the soundtrack to Menace II Society, which included the group's unrepentant drug dealer anthem "Pocket Full of Stones (Port Arthur Remix)." The song told the rise and fall of local drug dealers from a first person perspective with a forceful, hard-headed, confrontational attitude handed down from N.W.A.

Of course, it's impossible to talk about Bun B without mentioning his counterpart, the balance and musical mastermind behind UGK, Pimp C. Pimp was the group's Id, the unvarnished truth-teller whose rap style was all about directness. From a rapping perspective, he was Eazy E: high-pitched and nasal, his verses were unadorned with lyrical flourishes. (He was also largely responsible for crafting the group's unique sound, a country funk style that had a more organic sound than the synthesizers popular on the West Coast at the time.) In contrast, Bun was a rapper's rapper. When the duo linked up in the late 1980s, they were no doubt seen by onlookers as little more than another regional gangster rap group, albeit one with a distinct sound. But it would soon become clear that Bun's distinct baritone was much more than a booming clearing house for gangster rap cliches.

One of the things that stood out about the duo from the beginning was Bun's rap style. Rigid and blocky, his delivery had a barreling muscularity, which contrasted directly with his precise, intricate writing style. His turns of phrase had a sticky, unforgettable quality, with memorable imagery put together with an effortless writerly panache: "Livin' real smooth like aloe vera lotion," goes "Pocket Full of Stones (Port Arthur Remix)," "I'm sellin' crack rock, the devil's love potion." Or on 1996's "Break Em Off Somethin'" with Master P, which adds the pugnacious confrontationalism: "My nigga, that's how these G's be/We three, me, C, and Master P/Sippin' on Gin and Kiwi, fuck popping in your CD/We popping them clips."

Pimp and Bun both played the bad guy, embodying gangster rap's core contradictions. Violence and snarled threats were the lingua franca. They reached a creative apex during this five-year run on 1996's Ridin' Dirty, when Bun's infamous verse on "Murder" packed bars together so tightly they seemed to interlock and unfold with morbid grace. You could smell the red jelly leaking from the belly of the Pelle Pelle-clad target of Bun's wrath, and in that moment, it was clear that this was more than just your typical gangster rap, but was the most artful possible way to make an impact felt.  David Drake

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