Bun B's Convention Dispatch Two: Getting It Done at the RNC
If this was my last opportunity to turn up in life, then I would happily die unturnt.
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.
It's a beautiful day in Ohio—sunny but not hot, or not Texas hot, at least. Which works, considering that you have to walk about 12 miles a day out to get anywhere at this convention—the way the streets are blocked off downtown, it's impossible to park within decent proximity to anything. To get it done at the Republican National Convention, it takes will, determination, and the most comfortable pair of shoes you can afford to be seen in. My shoe of choice: Yeezy Boost 350. Fashionable yet practical, if you get them box price.
I start my second day at the convention with an interview with Roger Stone, a political consultant and old friend of Donald Trump, who left the campaign last year after a feud with then-campaign manager Cory Lewandowski. The feud has apparently continued, even though Lewandowski himself has been fired from the campaign and is now a CNN contributor. Both of them are here in Cleveland, and last night, Stone claimed on Twitter that Lewandowski drunkenly tried to crash the Trump family box at the RNC on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, Stone walks into the interview with his suspenders and seersucker suit, looking the part of the consummate Southern gentleman. I hate that I don't have a glass of iced tea to offer him. And I have to say that as much as I expected to not like him, it's really hard not to. His presence immediately commands attention, and he easily takes over the room. There's simply no denying his charm. He is a master storyteller and eloquent conversationalist. I have a million questions, but I've only got 40 minutes, so we both make the best of it.
I have a little downtime after the interview, so I stop by the media center set up for the tens of thousands of journalists at the RNC. It's in a huge exhibit-hall space, and every major print, television, and online organization has a base here, including VICE. On all of the screens, I can see Trump landing in Cleveland, with his new vice president, Mike Pence.
As Trump takes a chopper into downtown, my Yeezys and I are back on the block again, heading to Public Square. The same "Allah is Satan" asshole is back again, but no one entertains him today, and before long he leaves. Random sign holders walk the square. A lady dressed as a butterfly carries one that says, "Let Democracy Fly Donald Trump!" Another guy dressed like a beachfront Jesus carries a sign that calls Trump the Antichrist. Rosie Palfy, representing the Forgotten Veterans, speaks from her podium about real issues facing not only veterans but lots of people, but her speech isn't abrasive or inflammatory, so most people pay her no mind. It's a shame.
We get word that a flag burning is taking place in front of the entrance to the Quicken Loans Arena. We arrive to see the police start to set up a bicycle perimeter outside of the gated area. Rumors start to fly that Trump is gonna be walking through here, but I find that highly unlikely. I find a spot in front of the Fort Worth Police Department's bicycle division and chat it up with the Texas boys.
Soon, an even larger contingency of officers starts coming through. I spot the Cleveland police chief and members of the fire department as well. I then see a guy with a flag in the midst of it all, but I'm too far away to tell if he's the potential flag burner or not. We hear the Bikers for Trump are waiting with fire extinguishers in Public Square. By the time we get there, we hear that the flag burner is back where we just came from. As 100-plus cameramen break north for the action, I decide against backtracking through the chaos and break south.
For lunch, I'm heading to a BBQ rib spot called Hot Sauce Williams, where I'm supposed to meet Henry Childs, a black Republican delegate from Texas. I had no idea what a black Republican would be like, but if I'd had any assumptions, this guy would have shattered them. There's a look in his eyes that lets you know he is here to live life in a real way. I can tell that if he puts his mind to something, there's no changing it.
Once I take away the political titles and terms, I realize we couldn't be more alike. We agree that we need to change the direction of the country, and the political discourse, and we agree on almost every issue we discuss. We just don't agree on what the best way is to bring these things to fruition. It's one of the best conversations I've had out here.
When lunch is done, I head back to Public Square and who do I see but Geraldo Rivera. He's a familiar face at scenes like this, and is flanked by a dozen or so police officers who look a bit like they'd rather be anywhere else. I would too.
I make my way to the Rock the Vote event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. The party is laid the fuck out—this is what I'm talking about. The music and the vibe is on point. I head downstairs to check out the hip-hop exhibit.
While walking around, I see my friend Luis Calderin. He was a part of the Bernie Sanders campaign before becoming vice president of marketing for Rock the Vote. We head to the political exhibits, and we talk about what Rock the Vote looks like in 2016 as opposed to the 1990s, and about how the organization plans to register half a million people online.
Outside the museum, the California delegation—at least the ones who aren't sick with norovirus—are hosting their party. It's an amazing buildout with a top notch band playing "Billie Jean"—but there's nobody in that bitch. Just then, though, a bus full of delegates pulls up, so the buffet and Mondavi wine will not go to waste. When I see the two guys walk in with suits made out of American flags, that's my cue. If this was my last opportunity to turn up in life, then I would happily die unturnt.
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