Good evening. It’s hip-hop o clock and here are the headlines: It just so happens that for 20 odd years Canadian-born DJ and rapper Buck 65 has been “selling his psyche”. And, if you’ve been into alternative hip-hop at all during this time then you’ll have loved this… “most likely”.
That’s right, it’s party-time north of the States, as the old Buckster himself invites a smattering of Canadian guests to help ramp up his two decade celebrations. I’m almost compelled to say that these guest collaborations are the gifts Richard Terfry (aka Buck 65) has bestowed upon the loyal listeners who have torn through his decorative rapping but, really, it’s Buck’s rapping that is the true gift I’ll be compelled to cherish again and again once the party guests have gone home.
As always, Terfry tears through his rap attacks like a man possessed… quite literally on Zombie Delight in fact, as he morphs into a grooving, gutsy demon during a particularly hilarious interlude.
He’s such a tour-de-force when in full flow that there are few rappers who can match the dynamism of his gravelly dissemination of lyrics. Maybe not always the most pinpoint lyrics in the whole rappin’ world but, as Dominos Pizza will testify, it’s all in the delivery.
And Buck has cleaned up his act somewhat for 20 Odd Years. He’s brushed off the dust his clothes accumulated during his days roaming the desert whilst Talkin Honkin Blues, he’s washed his hands of the grimy, crimey 1950s noir that seeped into his skin whilst Shutter Buggin’ in Situation, and he’s opted for a more dapper and spotless persona than I was anticipating. Really, this is a dignified celebration as Buck 65 shindigs go.
And that is what makes it slightly disappointing. His best albums are the ones where he’s nailed one consistent theme throughout, as in the aforementioned Talkin Honky Blues and Situation. Here he’s a bit all over the place; but then I guess at the culmination of two decades you’re going to move through a mood or two. Unfortunately, I don’t quite sit with some of the new forays.
‘Stop’ probably grates most. With its shiny keyboards and the plush vocals of Jenn Grant, it could almost be a forgotten B-side off an album of electro-pop grooves put out by fellow Canadians Metric; if it weren’t for Terfry’s growly interjections that is. And BCC with John Southworth sounds like we’ve dropped in on a lesson at Rap College, where we learn by way of a bizarre backwards alphabet. Dubious.
But he hasn’t entirely ironed out those old creases. I get ripples of nostalgia from Whisper of the Waves, a classic Buck 65 throwback to American blues, that gives way to a splurging of disc scratches sprayed out like a series of sneezing fits. Also Superstars Don’t Love, Paper Airplane, Gee Whiz and even Zombie Delight find Buck’s turntabling and vocal indulgences as exhilarating as ever (the latter featuring a highly amusing scratch and sample apocalypse).
On the opening track Terfry sings that he “feels like a million bucks.” Well, that’s all well and good, so long as after 20 very odd but enormously engaging years he doesn’t forget to feel like Buck 65. And although he’s been better, on this evidence at least, there’s still plenty of Buck left in the bank.
Ch-Check It Out If You’re Partial To – Alternative hip-hop; Canadians; Buck 65’s croaky delivery; collaboration albums that end up uneven but nonetheless captivating, eg/ Plastic Beach – Gorillaz; pop with your hip-hop; blues with your hip-hop; Jenn Grant – she’s in like 3 songs; the name Michael Jackson repeated over and over; the 2nd greatest song about a zombie apocalypse there is… after Jeffrey Lewis’s ‘Shoot Head, Kill Ghoul’; artists that are worth $1.15 more than 50 Cent.
Fantastic Track – Whispers of the Waves