WHO WANTS TO BE A PENNYAIRE?
Regan Farquar, aka Busdriver, rhymes like a syncopated giggle, sine-curve-scrambling words jockeying for position even as the foundation they springboard from disintegrates into nothingness. On most of the songs on the knowingly titled Temporary Forever, the center doesn't even try to hold. Passing thoughts, complex rhymes, oddball metaphors, and hella non sequiturs all buzz around some indeterminate point.
But with Busdriver - a man whose first group was called 4/29, after the date of the L.A. uprisings - there's always a point. Busdriver's technique is an anti-apathy strategy, a stylistically absurd response to politically absurd times. On "Gun Control," he spot-rushes the "white conservatives/ who form the oligarchy." On "Idle Chatter" he cautions, "Go ahead and spend/ but the dollar bill is nature's suicide notes." It's leftist rap, but not didactically so (a la the Coup or Public Enemy). Instead, call Busdriver a humanist, or at least humane, or at least aware. Stints living in Sedona and rapping in a bluegrass band called Popcorn Goddess will do that to a teen who never cared that he had stereotypes to live down to (empathy is so much part of his fiber that the adult Busdriver even samples CNN doughboy Aaron Brown). "When I improvise," he raps on "Along Came a Biter," "Showers rinse the skies from brainstorm rainclouds/ I'm Coltrane and Kurt Cobain's brainchild/ and you're soaking wet." Not all of Busdriver's routes are so Rorschach, though. "Unplanned Parenthood" is a short-short musing on the pleasant tribulations of seed nurturing, and "Opposable Thumbs" among the album's best moments, is a cruel skewering of fauxhemians. Slipping into the role, our man snickers, "I decorate my speech with Taoism and karma/ but I don't know Walt Whitman from Walt Disney." Wise stuff, but awfully unforgiving. What was once wide-eyed optimism begins to sting after too much exposure.
So Busdriver keeps hope alive in math-rap time. At the drive-thru window (on "Stylin' Under Pressure"), he needles the attendant with off-the-cuff Snagglepuss-style verse about the food that bears as much actual relationship to the matter at hand as the average Cockneyism does: "I'm a tall, lonely teddy bear/ who occupies empty air/ I'm not a millionaire/ I'm a pennyaire/ Yes!"
And when he's at his best, Busdriver all but leapfrogs the utility of words. Produced by O.D. (he of the sublime Beneath the Surface compilation). "Jazz Fingers" is a tangled jangle of snare rolls and horn inquiries, a thicket offering absolutely no point of entry for dissent. Or rhyme. But Busdriver doesn't whip out a machete. Instead, the man whose vocal hero is advanced-placement scatter Jon Hendricks (of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross) name-drops Horace Tapscott and Billy Higgins in a syllabic fusillade so intense, so everywhere, that he's left to muse to his jazzbo compadre, "white people can't find your coordinates on a laptop."
He can dream, can't he? Outside of the imagined community that is modern-day Project Blowed, computerland is probably where Busdriver is best known. But it's hard to rep for a cause when the audience is virtual, and so is its collective identity. That anger pops out on "The Truth of Spontaneous Human Combustion," as he shits on eager young fan of a lighter shade: "Sorry, I don't cater to the whim of every white college student/ who finds a little bit of truth in the movement/ but fails to acknowledge his or her bourgeois background/ and acts like they've been that down/ for that long/ just because they've been inspired by some tired-ass underground rap song." Busdriver say you a wanksta, and you need to stop fronting. Odds are you can't even understand him, though.