Bun B is an icon in the South and, as part of UGK, made history as one of the most successful Southern rap groups of all time. Alongside Pimp C, Bun B (real name Bernard Freeman) made several hits and gained a thorough understanding of the music industry. That said, in an interview with B High ATL, the Texan explained why most mainstream rappers are in debt at the moment.
Prior to signing with Jive Records at the turn of the millennium, UGK were releasing music through the Houston-based record label Rap-A-Lot, a subsidiary of Sony. During his interview with Brian’ B High’ Hightower, the Trill lyricist opened up about his experience with major labels.
Freeman told Hightower, “So, UGK was signed before, we were right there, but we took an advance on the last two albums, so we had to wait. Because we took the advance in ’07, I think, we have to wait seven years after we hit that. There was a seven-year period when we took money after 2000, so once we hit 2027, I believe our balance is clear.”
He continued, “UGK has never made one dollar in royalties from the selling of our music, and we didn’t have our own publishing for about 17 years.” Freeman revealed that it’s possible to find the exact sums you owe, but you need to have a high-calibre attorney, which is an expensive investment.
Furthermore, he candidly admitted that he and his legal team are still working on clearing up the mess of UGK’s debt to Sony. That said, Freeman asserted that this is not uncommon. In fact, he revealed that it is the norm in the industry.
Giving Hightower a numerical example of major label tactics, Freeman explained, “So with us having a 15% deal, that 15% has never gotten close to paying back the debt. Whereas their 85%, they profit very easily. If you sign from 10% and your album sells a million records, your 10% is $100,000, and theirs is $900,000. That’s on the low side.”
Freeman disclosed that with the types of deals artists are taking today, such as the 360° deal, where labels profit from every element of the artist, from merchandise to touring, MCs today will owe tens of millions of dollars to their masters going forward. Shattering the “baller” lifestyle, Freeman described new-school musicians as “balling in debt.” You can watch Bun B speak about the industry in the video below.