The problem with being the hip hop reviewer for a white, middle class indie rock website is that you don't tend to get much work. Sure, I get paid the same as the other chimps, but you can often find me in the canteen here at Chimp Towers sippin' on a 40' with my feet up - waiting for a beep on my pager from CSF to tell me he's got something for me. Long days amble by and the odd thugged-out dick rap record comes and goes but in the words of Ice T " I don't play that shit." I took this job for the cause. Hip Hop has the potential to be the most exciting and creatively diverse genres of them all - it doesn't have the boundaries that others suffer from, it goes where it pleases or at least it should.
So one lazy afternoon after finishing my fourth brewski, I was thinking of popping out for some more cigar papers to escape the accusing glares of the dinner ladies (I had just been crunking furiously while shouting " Errr' body in the club gettin' tipsy,") when my pager goes buck-wild. "Busdriver, WTF?" was all it said. At first I thought it was my editor wanting me to drive the Chimpmobile on another day trip - but then remembered the new album RoadKillOvercoat by the LA tongue twisting lyricist. Finally a real job. Busdriver's previous albums for Big Dada were like no other. He's the gatling gun of the hip hop world, delivering intricately constructed raps with rapid-fire dexterity. This was gonna be good - something proper to get my teeth into, but damn, I was hella' drunk.
From the outset the signs were all there that this was going to be a treat. Casting Agents And Cowgirls sees Busdriver fit his rhymes expertly round a a tight beat which prepares us well for the machine gun onslaught of Less Yes's, More No's. Rhyming "Soccer Moms" with " Carpet Bombs," this track is about lyrical muscle flexing, as is the next installment where we're told, "Recreational paranoia is the sport of now so kill your employer." You can almost imagine the speed of the little ball bouncing over these words at the bottom of a Karaoke screen.
And so it continues, but once you reach mid point you are thrilled but starting to map out the rest of the record. This is where this album becomes a great hip hop record. With Sun Shower, Busdriver plays his hip hop ace card - he reaches into his inside pocket and pulls out a fully credible license to do what the fuck he wants. All hip hop cats have this license, but few know it. After dazzling us with lyrical acrobatics the dude starts singing. Yes singing. His floaty vocals drift effortlessly over a minimal, deep techno beat and if you thought this was just an interlude, the next track sees Busdriver duet with Coco Rosie's Bianca Cassidy. My editors pager words echoed in my head "Busdriver, What The Fuck?" indeed. The Troglodyte Wins restores the hip hop factory settings but they sound fresher now. The beats are gloriously tight, the rhymes even more thrilling and they see us through to the end where we get yet more of that singing stuff, and there's even an acoustic guitar on blissful closer Dream Catcher's Mitt.
This kind of thing makes my days in the canteen gettin' tipsy worthwhile. It's clever, but not anally so and Busdriver has cultivated a refreshing blend of fiercely intelligent poetry with the playful humour of his earlier work. Since the demise of Blackalicious the cause needs rhymes of this agility - and Busdriver carries the torch to new heights, skillfully avoiding the pitfall of cliche with a style such as his. RoadKillOvercoat is an album that delights the same way anything by Buck 65 or Dose One would and it does what hip hop set out to do. What ever the fuck it wants.