March 1, 2013

Busdriver is too often overlooked when people reference the LA underground rap and beat scenes of the last decade. He and Daedelus set things off around 2002, the former interpreting the helicopter chop style of Freestyle Fellowship and CVE with his own warped mind full of “undigested idioms.” While his frequent collaborator Deadelus liberated beats from the constraints of genre, removing all orthodoxy that surrounded hip-hop instrumentalism, merging it with IDM, musique concrete, and house. At heart, they’re both experimental artists — the type where you might not love everything they release, but you need to listen to see how they push things forward. Busdriver has never repeated himself and probably never will. He is an artist whose albums take about six listens to click, which makes him incongruously aligned to the blog world that slaps six adjectives on each entry and calls it an “article.”

Last year’s Beaus$Eros was a challenging album. It scanned like the closest rap has ever gotten to indie rock, without watering itself down in some Lupe Fiasco-like fugue state. I admired it more than I loved it, but as someone who prizes musical innovation, smart lyrics, and weltering raps above almost all else, it was a welcome addition to an already estimable catalog. It also was largely ignored by most media outlets who would prefer Joey Bada$$ 90s necrophilia over painful attempts at progression. But this is expected and credit due to everyone for jumping on the latest Busdriver track, even if I suspect partial allegiance stems from the Lapalux/Brainfeeder connect. To be fair, “Forlorn” might be one of my favorite Bus tracks since 2007’s “Sun Shower.” The British producer channels the emotions elicited from the song title and Busdriver does what Busdriver does better than everyone else.

Listen enough and you’ll decrypt an imagistic blur about misery and mixing colors, swelling glands, needle-nosed pliers, and aching sadness. It is like a cloud of radioactive dust that blows past you at hurricane speed, without warning. It’s over before you know what happened and there are glowing particles stuck to your clothes that may or may not be carcinogens.  This is a weird, arguably overwrought analogy, but that’s how Busdriver songs go and this is one of the best of them. The despondency of the production connects with the alienation and punctured illusions of the raps. It  It’s a reminder that he is one of the best rappers still breathing — the only one who will diss you by saying “you’re listening to Birdy Nam Nam acting like a girly man.”  Or maybe that was directed at himself. Or maybe not everything is supposed to be clear.

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