The first time I saw Busdriver remains one of the best hip-hop shows I’ve seen. It was a benefit for Dax Pierson from the band Subtle. Subtle performed and it was fabulous—completely off the Richter. Subtle achieves a level of spectacle reserved for bands with much larger light and sound crews: costumes, theatrics, and songs that sound totally alien on record, then sound like alien arena-music live. Busdriver and the rapper Radioinactive opened the show, rounding out one of the abstract-ist nights ever.
Busdriver and Radioinactive can hold their own, as they are responsible for The Weather, an essential hip-hop album. The show with Subtle was a year (or more) after the release of The Weather, but seeing Bus and Radio rock a handful of Weather songs felt like an honor.
Since that show, Busdriver released three albums, the most recent of which came out on the seminal punk label, Epitaph. That label’s hip-hop (The Coup, Sage Francis) and non-punk (Tom Waits, Neko Case, The Locust) rosters trumped the Epitaph status quo (Motion City Soundtrack) bands a while ago. I can’t always tell what a label does for an artist, but after touring with Deerhoof and CSS this year, it seems like Epitaph lets Busdriver do whatever he wants.
I just saw Bus open for CSS and it was the first time (of three) I’d seen him without a dj. He looked naked in that way, all alone with only an elastic-strapped party hat, a skin-gripping CSS shirt and corduroy pants, starting his own beats on a laptop. He killed it harder than I expected, though, and the cuts from his new record RoadKillOvercoat were solid.
The record is good; it might not be weird enough, though. Busdriver is a weird guy. You can look him in the eye and tell his blank face is a callous hiding a busy brain. Which he reveals on stage and on record. This keeps him exciting: he sings and raps in all kinds of voices, moving through more topics in one song than most rappers do on full albums or mixtapes. This isn’t a requirement I demand from all rap music, but in the right hands it’s nice. Like the other rappers I never avoid—André 3000, Dose One, and most recently, Lil Wayne—Busdriver is a cipher for hip-hop’s grand potential. I look to him (and those other cats) to lead me to moments that I didn’t previously know were possible.
That’s what made The Weather so awesome: it’s a concept album about unpredictability, a mauve expansion on what Seinfeld would, after eight seasons of encyclopedic attention, call “yada-yada.” The Weather record is about everything else going on. It’s articulate and technical; both rappers rap, sing, read the newspaper, and appreciate the importance of comedy. The (exceptional) beats were made by Daedelus.
Busdriver is prolific in a good way; by nature he’s exciting and detached from whatever seems regular. I know he's not going to make the The Weather over and over again, but there’s something event-like that’s been missing from his last three albums. New Busdriver music is better than no Busdriver music, and all in all RoadKillOvercoat is totally fun. The raps are still whip tight, the melodies totally dada, and the production (from Boom-Bip and Nobody) gets fairly dance-y. The more I listen to RoadKill the more I care for it. For now, that's all that matters.
Busdriver performs with Deerhoof.
"Imaginary Places" video. This track is from the album Temporary Forever, yet another modern classic.
Right click-and-save to download an MP3 of “Kill Your Employer,” from the album RoadKillOvercoat by Busdriver.
Right click-and-save to download an MP3 of “Less Yes's, More No's,” from the album RoadKillOvercoat by Busdriver.
Right click-and-save to download an MP3 of “Styling Under Pressure,” from the album Temporary Forever by Busdriver.
Right click-and-save to download an MP3 of “Somethingness (featuring Radioinactive and Rhetoric),” from the album Temporary Forever by Busdriver.
Right click-and-save to download an MP3 of “Pen's Oil,” from the album The Weather by Busdriver and Radioinactive.
Right click-and-save to download an MP3 of “Glorified Hype Man,” from the album The Weather Busdriver and Radioinactive.
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