Watching the 2023 BET Hip-Hop Awards and seeing Port Arthur native Bun B bring some Texas heat to the coveted cyphers is a testament that his skills are just as sharp as when he and Pimp C released Super Tight in 1994. However, it’s no surprise that in the midst of his witty bars and effortless flow, he acknowledged his burgeoning enterprise, Trill Burgers, in his freestyle.
When the name Bun B comes to mind, most people venture to associate him with his role as one half of the Port Arthur rap duo Underground Kingz. Today, as the sole surviving member of the group and an esteemed elder statesman in the world of hip-hop, he continues to have a presence in music, but has also ventured into unexpected territory: the burger business. This respected figure in southern hip-hop and beyond has garnered recognition for his unexpected foray into the world of gourmet smash burgers.
“This was a very easy decision, for one, the food industry has always been something close to me. I’ve had a food blog for almost 10 years now, called yougottaeatthis.com,” Bun B says. “Andy Nguyen and Nick Scurfield approached me about being a partner with this company and I had a million reasons to say no, but I did have one good reason to say yes, because the burger was amazing. I would have to believe so much in this burger, that I would have to literally turn money away, right in order to help build this brand, and that’s what I did.”
He’s a very busy man these days—when he’s not onstage performing or making appearances, he’s giving his all to his burger business, Trill Burgers. The growth and success of the business with Bun B at the forefront has been palpable. In 2021, Trill Burgers took root in Houston, Texas. What began as a series of pop-up events within his home state soon evolved to complement his enduring rap career. The smash burgers earned the title of “Best Burgers in America” by Good Morning America. From there, he transformed these delectable burgers into a mobile sensation, making appearances at a wide array of hip-hop and cultural festivals, ranging from Coachella to Rolling Loud to Sneaker Summit, where rappers such as Curren$y, Westside Gunn, and Big Boi have tasted the coveted burger.
“We just had to take the burger to where people were, because we couldn’t tell people to come where we were, we had no brick and mortar,” Bun B says of the burger pop-ups and taking Trill Burger on the road. “So we had to put the burger in front of people at festivals. It was a really great business model for us, because it afforded us multiple days of service and built revenue. It also put us in close proximity to a lot of influential people. There’s a way to get to a lot of these artists and then just catching them at the right time, not trying to force it on them before the show and get a picture. No, they’re going to be hungry after the show. A lot of the time we were meeting artists right when they were coming off stage with a hot fresh hamburger,” he added.
Today, the restaurant stands in its own brick and mortar in Houston, Texas, a testament to two years of putting in immense effort.
“I mean it’s a sigh of relief and then a deep breath at the same time,” says Bun B, sitting inside his restaurant. “I believe this does represent a lot of hard work put in outside. The building of this company happened outside for two years. We earned this brick and mortar and we weren’t given anything. We built this thing with blood, sweat, and tears, literally. It’s a sigh of relief to actually be in this building, ready to serve people, but then, when those doors open, you take a deep breath because here goes nothing.”
“Expected the unexpected,” is the precise anecdote for a typical day in the life at Trill Burgers. Eager burger enthusiasts or fans of the UGK rapper can strike gold and see the rapper in the flesh at his restaurant on any given day, or simply be satisfied with an order of the OG burger combo. However, the burger joint is always full of surprises.
Trill Burgers has rather quickly and largely become hip-hop’s favorite burger, first on the road at music festivals around the country, and now, even more so with a storefront in Houston. Only having been open for a few months, celebrities such as Drake, Sexyy Red and E-40 have already stopped in and dined at the restaurant while in H-Town. “Oh, it’s easily hip-hop’s favorite burger,” he tells ESSENCE. But more than that, it’s become a space where musicians and celebrities from all walks of life seem to stop by whenever they’re in town, citing that the alt rock band Gym Class Heroes had visited the burger joint the same week we spoke. “It was their favorite as well. We had Ne-Yo and Pleasure P here within the week. It’s R&B’s favorite burger, too,” Bun B continued.
It’s quickly become a tourist attraction for locals and tourists alike, and musicians aren’t the only people stopping in to get a taste of the burger. His business partner, Nick Scurfield, also echoed the sentiment, sharing some of his favorite moments since opening. “Drake came in and said it’s the best burger he’s ever had. JJ Watt recently tried to burger at a Texans game during his Ring of Honor ceremony. It doesn’t get much bigger in Houston than that. I think it’s really just seeing the continued line in 100 degree heat. People are waiting and they keep coming back,” Scurfield adds.
Among the countless celebrity names that have graced the restaurant, Mike Tyson has undoubtedly been the one to make the most significant and lasting impression.
“Mike Tyson probably has been the most popular celebrity in the room, and when I say that, it doesn’t mean that he’s as famous as Drake, or Ludacris or people like that. But everybody sees Mike Tyson the same way. Drake has people that like his music, he has some that may be a bit indifferent to it, and some people don’t like it at all. Same with Ludacris, same with myself, DJ Khaled, but everybody likes Mike Tyson, and everybody sees Mike Tyson in the same way. And so Drake walked in, and people were ‘oh wow that’s Drake.’ Different celebrities walk and people get excited. But when Mike Tyson walked in, it was very unassuming. He kind of snuck up on us. And people were in here eating and then one lady was like, ‘oh my God, that’s Mike Tyson.’ Everybody just stopped. Yeah, we’ve never had that,” Bun B says emphatically.
As I entered Bun B’s recently launched Trill Burgers, I was immediately embraced by a warmth that sets it apart from your ordinary fast-food joint. Perhaps it’s the genuine Southern hospitality or the cozy, homey atmosphere of this small establishment that truly makes you feel delighted to be there. For a hip-hop enthusiast, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that the restaurant brings to life numerous aspects of UGK and Bun B’s lyrics. In a way, the establishment serves as a tangible representation of the Southern ingenuity and independence that has been a recurring theme in his music throughout the years.
Despite the considerable attention Trill Burgers receives, the team’s top priority is ensuring that the fanfare doesn’t overshadow the core business. Bun B and his team are dedicated to crafting high-quality burgers for all their patrons. This commitment is a significant reason why they consistently decline offers from networks like Food Network for various television programs.
“Quite frankly, that’s not something that we prioritize right now, and the reason why is because every single person involved with this company needs to be focused on what they need to do to help build this company,” Bun B explains. “I don’t want people to start focusing on how they look when they come to work because cameras are here. This is a hard job. People get dirty. I don’t want them to feel like they have to stand a certain way. Like the more that they have to focus on other things other than their job description, the less we get the best of who we hire. I want the best people to do these jobs so that people get the best product. A TV show for us does not help us build this brand. I’ll go out in the world and build his brand for us and bring everybody back to this building,” he adds.
Yet and still, this is still only the beginning for the rapper-turned-restaurateur. He tells ESSENCE, his plans are for Trill Burgers to not only be the best burger in the rap game, but he wants to be heralded for what he calls ‘America’s burger.’ While he held the title for ‘Best Burger in America’ from Good Morning America, Bun B still wants to expand his reach. “I want to be America’s burger. I want America’s burger to be a Houston-made burger. That’s what I want, and I know that’s going to take some time,” says Bun B.
And Trill Burgers is already making that expansion happen. Besides its brick-and-mortar location in Houston, you can now savor these burgers at NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans, and the Shell Energy Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo. Moreover, during the spring season, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, you can also find them there, with plenty more locations to come.