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The Legend of ‘Trill Brill’: Frederic Brillant, UGK, and the Quest for the Sapphire Do-rag

From Port Arthur, Texas, to the Ardennes region of France, one group of heroes forged an unbreakable bond.

Brillant and fellow UGK co-founder Bun B at a recent photoshoot
Hudson River Blue

As one of the original founding members of seminal Texas hip hop group UGK, a.k.a. Underground Kingz, conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that Frederic Brillant has always been trill.

This is not the case.

To tell the truth, the source of the New York City FC center back’s trillitude can be found in a series of painstakingly-devised clues scattered within the creed and cultus of UGK, revealing a spellbinding secret history unmatched in the annals of both hip hop music and soccer defending, the two things the Underground Kingz would come to symbolize above all.

First and foremost, keep in mind the chorus of the 2001 UGK track “Wood Wheel”:

Sedan de Ville
House on the hill
Countin' up my scrill
B****, I'm workin' wood wheel

Not a Coupe de Ville? Hmmmm.

We’ll come back to that.

“Pimp C and I met kinda random,” rap superstar Bun B told me over the phone of his introduction to the fellow UGK co-founder. “We both came up in Port Arthur, Texas, right? And in P.A., it’s every kid’s rite of passage to go on a quest to find the Sapphire Do-rag.”

Bun, real name Bernard Freeman, explained that this do-rag, or ‘Wisdom Wrap’ as they are more often called along America’s Gulf Coast, was a legendary artifact from local folklore. In 1985, when he and Pimp C (Chad Butler) each set out independently to prove their mettle and manhood by locating the mythic headwear, their paths converged.

“We bumped into each other back-to-back, like some “Spy vs. Spy” shit. It was the middle of the night in, like, the boonies, so we were both real surprised to see another person,” he said.

“I was startled, so I lost my balance and our feet got tangled up. We both hit the ground face-up, and suddenly there was this shooting star. Then, in the distance, a blue light shone down on this giant stone. We went over to it, thinking that probably the Wisdom Wrap would be there. But nah, it was just a big-ass rock. Then, Pimp, who said he had just won the geography bee at the middle school across town from mine, starts smiling. ‘Look at this rock, man. It’s shaped exactly like France.’ ”

That was June 26, 1985, the day Frederic Brillant’s ethereal essence first kissed our world.

The rock, of which a confidential source shared a cell phone photo with us, is now kept in sub-basement storage at the Smithsonian in Washington. We can verify that it indeed looks precisely like the nation of France— and that two words were etched into the edge representing the northeast of the country:


“That was a sign,” Bun told us. “Me and Pimp saw right away that the reason nobody in P.A. never found the Sapphire Do-rag and gained its magic is that it’s not in P.A. It was in France. And ‘SEDAN—DEVILLE’ had to be some kind of key, like a secret password.”

Magic is real.
Hudson River Blue

The next morning, after getting to know one another a bit and realizing a mutual interest in arcane mysticism, the boys resolved to make the trip across the ocean to Europe. Plane tickets being prohibitively expensive for the youths to afford (Pimp was 12 years old and Bun just 11 at the time), the duo resolved to boost a car.

Not fifteen minutes into their search, they found their ride, abandoned down a dead-end dirt road.

It was a 1977 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.

“SEDAN—DEVILLE, right there. That was it,” Bun recalls. “The glove box was locked or jammed shut, but it had this polished wood steering wheel. I had never seen one before. The wood wheel... that’s the trillest thing ever.”

Driving across the entire Atlantic Ocean took a few days, during which Bun and Pimp had plenty of time to explore their budding affection for rap. By the time the trip was nearly done at long last, however, the elder Pimp C, who was behind that shiny wood wheel, realized that they ought to have brushed up on their French before venturing so far from home: he came to the realization they had already made it into France, and then some, without realizing it.

Where the hell were they?

Brakes slammed. Tires squealed. Pimp C almost ran over a baby.

“I think he was close to falling asleep. We had been driving forever, man. And then suddenly there’s this little baby in the street, just babying,” Bun recalls.

He told me that the baby was completely naked, yet appeared surprisingly clean given the circumstances. They checked the trunk of the Cadillac for a blanket or a towel. Nothing there, nor under the seats.

Pimp C was the first to re-try the glove box, which Bun remembered to be locked when they first found the car.

Suddenly, it whipped right open. And what was inside changed the course of history.

“It was the Wisdom Wrap. Right there, the whole damn time,” Bun told us, still beaming after 32 years. “That’s just gangsta.”

The boys used it to wrap the baby to protect him from the elements, making especially sure that its thousands of exquisite sapphires wouldn’t scratch him. Exhausted after countless hours of driving, and with the child now safe and secure, the trio moved the car to the side of the road and decided to try to get some sleep.

Mere hours later, as the sun began to rise over the ridges of the Ardennes, Bun looked over to the back seat where the baby had been.

Something spectacular had happened.

“The baby had grown overnight to like six foot, six foot two,” he said. “It must have been the Sapphire Do-rag’s magic that granddad used to sing about. He wasn’t naked, though; he suddenly had clothes on. Shoes, too. And I gotta tell you, I had never seen anyone look better in a beater, Dickies, and Jordans.”

The boys were very careful about waking up the man-baby, entertaining the idea that the Wisdom Wrap had granted him powers more dangerous than a simple growth spurt. They prodded him carefully, and he quickly came to. They asked him for his name. Unable to speak English, he sized up the two Texans with a knowing glance and reached into his back pocket to produce a torn-out page from a notepad, which he extended to them.

It was a hand-drawn map, though not at all to scale. It depicted a route with three locations marked A, B, and C.

A was Sedan: The trio’s current location.

B was Deville, a commune just 25 miles away.

C was a more familiar locale: Port Arthur, Texas.

The key to everything.
Underground Kingz Museum Trust

“We couldn’t believe it. ‘SEDAN-DEVILLE,’ man! That’s was crazy. And then Port Arthur, like, full-circle. Damn,” Bun regaled.

On the ride to Deville, the boys couldn’t figure out what to call the man-baby, who didn’t appear to know his own name— he repeatedly pointed to himself and said “Sedan.” Given the thickness of his French accent (they first thought he meant “said uhh,” like Master P), Bun and Pimp decided to call him ‘A,’ the letter that noted the commune of Sedan on the map.

In turn, both of the Texans insisted on calling himself ‘C’ in honor of Port Arthur. After some squabbling, Pimp won that privilege on the grounds that he was the oldest.

That left Bun with B by default.

“We were A, B, and C after that,” Bun told us. “That’s when we became a group. It was official.”

The word “trill” was first used to denote the music and associated culture in Port Arthur, and eventually 90 miles away in Houston, where the syrup flows like a mighty river. Bun acknowledges that he and his friends first started hearing it from older siblings and began using it without knowing what it meant. But today, it’s inextricably linked with the southern hip hop nexus at which UGK still sits front and center, even after Pimp C’s death in 2007 at the age of 33.

Brillant posing in front of a mural in Port Arthur
Hudson River Blue

Bun himself has a trio of albums announcing his trillitude in no uncertain terms: Trill, 2 Trill, and Trill OG, the latter of which received an ultra-rare ‘5 Mics’ rating from The Source magazine.

“Trill talk is real talk,” Bun told us as we wrapped up our conversation. “And once the thee of us made it back to P.A., and A got adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Brillant down on the cul-de-sac, we started calling him Trill Brill. Some of our people would call him ‘Fred A,’ which they all said like “Freddayyy." But to me and Pimp, he was always Trill Brill in the Sedan de Ville.”

“And that’s a true motherfucking story.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a not a true story. It is only fleetingly inspired by actual trill facts. The events depicted did not actually occur, as far as we know.