ABOVE: BuddieRoe and Bun B perform at the NCAA Men’s Final Four Halftime Show
All Photos by Quincy Green (Q Green Photography)
The walls of NRG Stadium bristled with energy as the baritone sound of a marching band horn section reverberated through the cavernous hall. The sound battled against the roar of the almost 75,000 fans that had descended on the building where Kirby meets the 610 freeway for the NCAA Division Men’s Final Four Tournament. The MC standing center court, donning a white basketball jersey surrounded by the TSU Ocean of Soul drumline, stepped back as the percussionists rocked back and forth, driving the crowd’s energy with each pound of their drums. Pushing the hair out of his face, the rapper directed his attention to the other MC standing alongside him at center court. As the music and the roar of the crowd combined into a wall of sound, BuddieRoe and Bun B continued to trade bars in the middle of the NRG Stadium.
Three years ago, BuddieRoe was using his lyrical skills to secure a win in the H-Town rap battle, a win which helped to continue to solidify his place in the Bayou City rap scene and catch the eye of Bernard Freeman, better known as Bun B. Now he has released a new album and has made recent appearances on NBC’s TODAY Show and at NCAA Men’s Final Four’s halftime show as the headliner, alongside Bun B, at NRG Stadium. Backed by Texas Southern University’s Ocean of Soul marching band, the halftime show was produced by EdENT (Educational Entertainment). EdENT is also the parent company to the wildly popular literacy initiative Reading With A Rapper, which served as the official partner for the NCAA’s Read to the Final Four program during its time in Houston.
BuddieRoe is the very first artist to sign to EdENT, an entertainment label with a mission to “Educate, Entertain and Evolve.” His latest offering, Lost & Found, is a collection of work that the Mo City MC crafted to appeal to fans of any age.
“I called the album Lost & Found because regardless of if you’re 15, 25, 35, or 55 there are always elements of yourself that you’re trying to find,” describes Buddie. “I just want to tell people that the person you see in the mirror right now doesn’t have to be the person you see tomorrow. I’m just trying to say what I wish someone had said to younger me.”
BuddieRoe has spent his career developing his sound and building his reputation for being a wordsmith in Houston cyphers. He’s worked with artists like Slim Thug, Lil Keke and Doughbeezy and released a string of albums including SunRise Over Briargate, 5 Days, and West Fuqua Kids: An Emotion Picture. And while he has been able to do this independently, an opportunity came a little over a year ago from an unlikely source: an educational company called EdENT.
“I didn’t have any expectations when I first started working with them,” says Buddie as he recalls the early days when EdENT was simply Reading with a Rapper, a program using musicians to help increase student involvement with literature. “I saw their Instagram page and liked what they were doing. They just had good intentions. They wanted to help kids. I didn’t know it was going to turn into this. I didn’t know everything we were going to do. I just thought we were teaching kids how to read through rap.”
Reading With A Rapper, the brainchild of Jarren Small and Douglas Johnson, began as a program to teach students how to read using music and morphed into a full-fledged educational/entertainment company. BuddieRoe is the first artist to release an album under the new EdENT imprint, giving Buddie the opportunity to teach a new generation of students through his music, while also monetizing his art by licensing it for curriculum usage.
“When Jarren and Doug approached me about creating an album, they made sure to let me know I wouldn’t have to compromise my art. They just wanted me to be authentic. The lyrics are, of course, clean but I was already transitioning in that direction. I wanted to focus on improving my lyricism and not cussing was already making me do that. I just wanted to create more in-depth songwriting.”
That in-depth writing produced Lost & Found, a 15-track album where Buddie takes a long look at himself. The album features singer/songwriter Lenora and legendary UGK MC Bun B who shared the stage with him at the NRG Stadium on Monday night.
BuddieRoe opened the NCAA Men’s Final Four halftime show with “Torch,” his latest single from Lost & Found. Before Buddie and the TSU Ocean of Soul band took the stage, a snippet of the music video for “Torch” played on the jumbotrons. In the music video, which seems eerily kismet, BuddieRoe talks to his fictional teammates (played by his childhood friends) in the locker room and expresses his nervousness for his upcoming performance – the biggest yet. “Just thinking about this performance… I ain’t never performed in front of this many people before. I’m kind of shook if I’m honest,” BuddieRoe admits in the music video.
Buddie’s teammate affirms him by saying, “No reason to be nervous, bro. I’ve seen you put the work in, seen you put the hours in. As long as you prepare like you did with the games, there’s nothing to worry about.” The other teammates chime in, “Yeah, man, you got this. Trust me, you got this.”
As the clip ended, the horns began blaring through the speakers as BuddieRoe and the TSU Ocean of Soul band stormed the stage to perform the energetic single which seemed to be created for a stadium performance. After he set the stage ablaze with “Torch,” the jumbotron displayed a purple sky with clouds as the “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” instrumental played over the speakers. Images of Bun B and the late Pimp C during their UGK days flashed as Bun B suddenly appeared center stage to a roaring crowd. Bun B and BuddieRoe then went into a bar-for-bar performance of “Induction” and the crowd went wild. The song, which is listed as an interlude on the Lost & Found album is only two and a half minutes long but speaks volumes for the relationship between established and up-and-coming MCs in Houston.
Bun B’s involvement with initiatives like Reading With A Rapper and promising young talent like BuddieRoe speaks volumes of his character and impact. In the midst of a jam-packed year filled with personal and professional successes, Bun still finds time to give his time and energy to greater causes. So much so that the Trill Burger co-owner was also honored with the NCAA Legends & Legacy Celebration award immediately following their halftime performance.
As the game ended and confetti filled the stadium in celebration of UConn’s national championship win, BuddieRoe smiled taking it all in. He remained calm prior to his performance and after. When asked how he could remain so calm with the gravity of the moment, he replied with assuredness, “I’ve performed in front of 5 people and gave it my all. So, it’s the same commitment with 75,000. I’m just grateful. It’s bigger than me.”