Busdriver – Temporary Forever (1/24/2011)

Solidifying my backpacker status.

Jesus, did you catch that?

If there’s only one thing you can say about Busdriver, hate him or not, it’s that he is fast.  Unbelievably so.  Now, this is obviously a detriment to plenty of people, but there’s no denying that all of his lyrics are easily heard quite easily–he pronounces well and is articulate enough to avoid sounding like he’s just floundering around like a drunken scat singer binging on cocaine.   So, that’s all I can leave with you before we begin.

Motherfucker’s fast.

Lyrically speaking, there’s an overlying sense of quirkiness and eclecticism, without delving into self-indulgent nerdisms–the lyrical content is rife with word play, colorful and vibrant metaphors and absurd humor, all delivered with rapid-fire, machine gun rapping that can fly past the ears of unfamiliar or un-attentive listeners.  That’s not to say that there’s no break in the onslaught–of course not.  There’s a great deal of melodic rapping, a lot that is hummable and easily followed.

Under the bizarre humor and unusual imagery, there’s a point to everything.  Part of his charm is the ability to be pretty Left leaning in his intentions and song-meaning, without it being didactic.  It’s social-conscious rap (from a man who said “conscious rap failed us”)that doesn’t dive into pseudo-misanthropic, “I like Nietzche but didn’t read any of his work” tangents.  More humanist and leftist, but there’s an intelligent and sly man behind these lyrics, and a dissection reveals some interesting ideas and so forth.  His use of humor immediately sets himself apart from a lot of more famous “socially conscious” rappers, making his message slightly more effective.  The lyrics can be pretty funny, but there’s a little bit (or lotta bit) of darker sarcasm and irony.  There’s plenty of music to be had that is just funny, though.  A welcome respite from conspiracy theories and ultra-serious pseudo-intellectuals.  A dash of humor behind the intelligent lyrics is wonderful, and it’s obvious there’s a lack of apathy within the lyrics–anti-apathy, even, instead focusing on armchair activists, and the ilk, calling them out and their inability to anything.  There’s a lot going on in the album, so to point all of it out would take much too long, and let’s be honest, you’re probably not even reading this, but suffice it to say there’s much to be gleaned from not glazing over the many lyrics on the album.

Production is fan-fucking-tastic.  Colorful, teeming with samples and creative beats, full of engaging hooks and unusual styles–tempos and beat styles vary, along with the song lyrics.  Very applicable to the music.  There are plenty of jazz and soul samples, lots of nice scratching (and, for those geeky enough to care: a flute piece based on Bach’s Suite for Orchestra No. 2 in B Minor–and yes, I had to look up that last part–with a nice turntablism to follow) as well plenty of electronic infusion.  Horns and wailing women, flutes and guitars, it’s quite vibrant, and certainly not low-key, much in relation to the rapper on the album.   Busdriver has a habit of including extended samples, like on Temporary Forever or Jazz Fingers, and match the instruments note for note with fast, melodic rapping. Quite a feat.

Obviously, this got slapped with terms like backpacker rap or hipster rap. Whether those are pejoratives or not will probably tell whether you’ll like the album or not–it’s not straightforward, production or lyric-wise; the lyrics are nebulous, non-sequitr and generally bizarre, as well as coming with a message from an intelligent man; the production is very a-typical, and definitely not suited for clubs.  It’s not really party music; but it never really intended to be.  Busdriver himself acknowledges all of his hipster fans.  That choice is yours.

If you’re looking for fun music, I can’t say no.  But if you’re looking for more simple, more-easily glazed over music, I’d have to say no.  Play it a club or a party and people will break your DJ equipment–there’s a time and place for it, but it’s not for everyone.

I can recommend it for all hip hop fans, as well as others who are at the “I want rap that’s not about girls and drugs” stage; any open minded listener should give it a shot, as it’s a unique and well crafted album that at least deserves a listen.  Backpacker, hipster, whatever you want to call it, Busdriver is taking hip hop in different directions, with every aspect of the music, and I’m perfectly fine with it.

It’s funny, intelligent and bizarre.

Good enough for me.


One Response to Busdriver – Temporary Forever (1/24/2011)

  1. Chris says:

    Busdriver is easily one of the most intensely under-rated emcees of our time. His quirky patter leaves even Aesop Rock sounding a little prosaic, and his unique voice is unmistakably catchy.

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