Sounds Like

Dan Willis

Busdriver, the Los Angeles-based indie rapper with such a singular voice and diverse bullpen of influences that he cites vocalese artist Jon Hendricks as his biggest influence, recently released his fifth full-length album. The album “Roadkill Overcoat” is his first for the indie punk label Epitaph.
Busdriver forged his uber-literate style and prodigious rhythmic ability in the influential Good Life Caf, an L.A. nook that groomed such progressive outfits as the Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone and Self Jupiter, to name a few. So it is no wonder why Busdriver is so utterly unique and exciting.
There are times where Busdriver truly lives up to the self-proclaimed niche “nonsense rap.” Like a line out of “Casting Agents and Cowgirls” where he castigates a phony girlfriend: “You thought, ‘He’s just an uber-dred for the federal fiscal cap’ / But after brunch, you’ll need two Sudafeds and a disco nap.”
First of all, cool. Secondly, a listener skeptical of Busdriver’s brand of nonsense might charge that he’s trying to pull off what I like to call a “lyrical thunderclap.” That is, he feigns (or so the unfaithful allege) a sophisticated poetic air by mashing together two basically non sequitur lines to the effect that you, the listener are left in meek befuddlement, paralyzed by the fact that the current nonsense sits in the middle of, well, a masterpiece.
Maybe he got lazy, maybe it’s a super-hip commentary on the art of listening to music, or maybe the gaps of meaning in B-driver’s lyrics beg the listener to personally fill in the space. I like to think of Busdriver’s wordplay as a sort of interactive, choose-your-own sardonic, bitter, indie vocalese rap adventure.
But The Driver is in control. He’s at his best when he reigns in his hugely impressive ability to spin a train of thought into an accelerating vortex of spitfire allusions; retaining a semblance of coherence that allow the listener some traction in their project of deciphering the insanity before them.
Busdriver’s decision to polish his production and inject a cushy pop center with its hooks and simple verse chorus verse structures helps to provide gravity to keep the man in orbit around planet Intelligible.
And it works. You can totally hear the influence of John Hendricks in Busdriver’s near-jazz delivery. His delivery floats and stabs in sarcastic, melodizing torrents as he taunts and berates the hands that feed him. He takes shots at a delightful cross section of pretty much easy targets. Here’s a sampling: neo-cons, art school kids, indie hipsters, himself, hippies, really annoying hippies, red states, beatniks, Viacom’s white honkies and hippies.
He’s either wary of becoming pigeonholed in a scene or is a bit shy about accepting praise from fans, as he is constantly critical of the pretentious hipsters and left-leaning indie-pop scenesters who pay his rent. Or, in an act of purification, he attempts to offend the posers so as to retain those fans who really appreciate his eccentric work.
Regardless of the complicated relationship Busdriver has with his odd fan base, his newest release challenges the listener to really engage in the material. He doesn’t want stardom, and he most certainly won’t get it with music as difficult as this, but the committed listener will reap the benefits of his immense talent.

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