Bun B's Final Convention Dispatch: Taking It to the Streets
Now that the conventions are over, VICE's political correspondent calls for people to take their fight to the ballot box this November.
Photo by Jason Bergman
Editor's Note: You might know Bun B as the Texas-based rapper, professor, and activist who's one half of the legendary Houston duo UGK. He's also VICE's political correspondent, reporting on the ground from the campaign trail of the strangest presidential election in recent memory.
Thursday was my last day out on the campaign trail for a while, so I had to make it count. I'd been invited to a breakfast hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus's political action committee, so I make my way downtown to the hotel where the black congresspeople are dining with their donors.
The lobby was on full tilt—it was the hub for the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention, so there were all kinds of motherfuckers in there. Tons of different groups were holding court on several floors, so it took me a quick minute to figure out where I was going. But after two false starts, I finally found the spot. Now super late, I walked in as Lisa Blunt Rochester, a candidate running for Congress in Delaware, was giving her closing remarks.
She was the last speaker on the program, so when finished, they shut down the stage and started eating. I found Benjamin Branch, executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, to thank him for the invite, and he introduced me to a few of his guests, including New York congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who spoke at the convention last night. Branch told me there was a luncheon later, and I said I was down to attend.
As I headed out, trying to organize my thoughts and check the convention schedule, it started to rain. I definitely wasn't ready for that, so I head back to VICE's convention headquarters to regroup. Hashim Nzingha, with the New Black Panther Party (NBP), had told me that the group was on its way to Philadelphia; a longstanding member of the NBP and a politically controversial figure, Nzingha was actually the head of security and road manager for UGK for many years. He now does that job part-time for Trill Entertainment, a record company based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that's home to Lil Boosie and Webbie. I missed Nzingha in Cleveland, and I didn't want to miss him in Philadelphia, so I waited for him to touch down and make contact.
In the meantime, I headed back downtown for my second meal with the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. This event was on the rooftop of the Hotel Monaco. I caught up with Branch, who looked completely exhausted at this point, but he told me he was hanging in there. He informed me that this event was for young black lobbyists; I looked around and saw that the drinks were flowing and the DJ was killing it, so I ordered a vodka and cranberry and settled in to enjoy the vibe.
I'm introduced to a lobbyist for Viacom, who tells me he represents MTV, BET, and VH1. On the stage, I heard a speaker thank T-Mobile and other sponsors for their support of the PAC and for the drinks. The speaker then thanked me for my contribution to hip-hop and played "Get Throwed," from my first album. It's lit now! For one of the first times since I started this gig, I was on the inside, received with love and admiration by these young, black professional progressives, and I won't lie: It did my heart some good. The children of the trill movement are active. I looked on the TV screen overhead and saw former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers speaking onstage inside the Wells Fargo Center. Well played, player.
Someone at the luncheon had told me that the cutoff time to get inside the arena for was 7 PM, so I made my way to the Secret Service line one last time. The audience didn't seem as big as it had been the previous night, during Barack Obama's speech, but it was much more difficult to maneuver my way around the convention center. All of the entrances were getting shut down early, and media passes that had worked for me all week didn't seem to be doing the trick tonight. My editor at VICE described it as Kafkaesque, and I agree. It was a clusterfuck inside of a shitstorm surrounded by a giant hot mess. DNC workers in the concourse told me go to the basement; the people in the basement told me to go back to the concourse; no one seemed to know where anything was, or where anyone should be. I tried to keep it together, but my patience was wearing thin.
At that point, I spotted Somali Canadian rapper K'Naan—I've always known this brother to be an intelligent and compassionate human being, and it had been a while since we'd last seen each other, so I took a break from the DNC nightmare to catch up. We spent the next 30 minutes talking about current affairs, having a heartfelt conversation about what's at stake for humanity in the 2016 presidential election. When we'd finished, we embraced and wished each other the best.
Still thwarted by the DNC workers in their neon vests, I headed to the press tent to look over my notes and decide my next move. That was when my phone rang, and I saw that I was getting a call from my boy Freeway, an incredible hip-hop artist and a long-practicing Muslim from Philadelphia whose been on the floor at the DNC for the past few nights. I was interested to know what he'd thought about the convention proceedings and about all the anti-Muslim rhetoric that Donald Trump and the GOP have been pushing into the national discourse this year. We'd been trying to catch up all week, but he's a popular man in this city, and there had been lots of people angling for his attention. Seeing as things weren't working out for me in the arena, I decided to head out and link up with him. I told him to meet me at the Ritz-Carlton downtown.
The Ritz Carlton shut me down, and as I tried to think of an alternative, Freeway pulled up in a black Maybach—I see you Freezer. He suggested that we head to South Street and get me a cheesesteak: Eating a cheesesteak with Freeway on South Street is about as Philly as you can fucking get. I'd have to get a dirt bike and ride through the city with Meek Mill to get more local than this. We hopped in the back of the 'Bach and rolled out.
As I sat back and enjoyed the luxury, I heard the sound of the infamous MMG audio tag—this ain't Uber, baby. Finally, we pulled up to hit up Ishkabibble's, a cheesesteak spot that was about to close for night. But they let us in anyway and told us to stay as long as we liked—they even give me a free soda. So Freeway and I settled in and started talking. By the time we'd wrapped up our conversation, Hillary Clinton was done. And so was I.
Over the last few months, VICE has given me access and a platform to report on the 2016 presidential election that to this point hasn't really been afforded to someone who does what I do. I've had the opportunity to travel around this great nation and get an insider's view of how the political process works, talking to some of the people who will decide the 2016 election. And for that, I am sincerely grateful.
But recently, it has become increasingly clear that the objectivity required to be involved in the 2016 election as a journalist is at odds with the natural fighter in me. I believe my voice and energy are needed in the streets: I need to help people get registered and to help them get to the polls and cast their ballots; I need to find the candidates who are truly going to support their constituents best interest and help them get into office. But while I'm not sure how I will continue in politics going forward, I know I will continue—because we are far from done. So I'll see you all soon in these streets. Keep it trill.
Follow Bun B on Twitter.