Sage Francis’s erratic, brilliant opener
Let’s talk about Buck 65’s identity crisis.
Here’s an alt-rapper — white, Nova Scotian — who earned a major-label record deal in the early ’00s after a series of early cassettes and underground releases established him as perhaps the most provocative artist on hip-hop’s most progressive label (Bay Area stalwart Anticon).
A dude who disowned what’s universally considered his best album (1999’s Vertex), calling it “experimental without a purpose. My voice is still annoying. Even when I’m trying to be sincere and heart-felt, I sound like a brat.”
Who shifted styles from manufactured beats and nasal youthfulness to live instrumentation (ranging from Tom Waits story-folk to early-Beck spazism) and a husky, sometimes asthmatic snarl with haste.
Who later disowned hip-hop as a genre, infamously stating in an interview with Kerrang! magazine: “I now hate hip hop, the more I’ve educated myself about music, the more I’ve grown to hate it. I don’t use that word lightly, either.” This earned the condemnation of tour-mate Sage Francis, though Buck has since apologized for his comments and the two made up.
And also: was drafted by the New York Yankees before he blew out his knee; danced with indie-pop goddess Feist in her cute, awkward video for “One Evening;” once voiced “rapping Elmo;” swore off using expletives in his music, but backpedaled on that too.
If Buck’s made himself difficult to devoutly admire, he’s never lacked for unpredictability, or raw talent. While the triumph of Vertex — an exercise in haunting minimalism and irreproachable samples — and Buck’s early releases seems bygone, his recent work is still singular. 2005’s Secret House Against the World, his last LP (follow-up The Situation will drop in September), merges his (compellingly) tone-deaf cadence with sex-soaked electro (“Kennedy Killed the Hat”), avant-punk drum-and-bass (“Le 65isme”), and piano-driven beat poetry (“The Floor”). On album highlight “Surrender to Strangeness,” Buck admits he “can’t tell the difference between real art and high kitsch,” and his erratic relationship to his genre (musically and lyrically) attests to that. He is, though, the rare rapper aiming for either.
: Live Reviews
, Entertainment, Hip-Hop and Rap, Music, More