Bun B

II Trill (Rap-A-Lot)

The last few years have been a roller coaster for Bun B. After more than a decade of minor success, his first solo album, Trill, was at the crest of the wave of Houston hip-hop that peaked a couple of years ago. Then his longtime partner in UGK, Pimp C, was released from prison at the end of 2005. The pair reunited for the all-star-studded double album Underground Kingz.

Then, in February, Pimp C was found dead after an overdose of prescription-grade cough syrup. B memorializes his partner on "Angel in the Sky," a no-nonsense tribute on his new album II Trill. As emotional as the circumstances around the song are, it's a forgettable track. Much better is "You're Everything," another ballad that samples New Jack swingers Jodeci in honor of Houston itself.

II Trill is best when B's not hanging his head—the muscular, bumping "I Luv That," the aggressive Southern call-out "Pop It 4 Pimp," the dancehall-influenced "That's Gangsta," and one of Pimp C's last recorded appearances, "Underground Thang." Guest stars pop up all over the disc: Rick Ross, David Banner, Juvenile, Chamillionaire, Young Buck, and even Lupe Fiasco. Most of them fill out the tracks unobtrusively; only Lil Wayne's spot on "Damn I'm Cold" feels like the guest is taking over.