When it comes to cross-genre independent hip hop, few are able to come near Busdriver. This is probably because there are few – if any – who can even lay claim to dabbling in the areas of multi-layered independent hip hop, let alone revolutionizing it.
At 29, Regan Farquhar — better known to his fans as Busdriver — is as likely a candidate as the world may ever see for someone possibly destined, yet fully determined to revolutionize hip hop. Growing up in LA, Farquhar started off on his musical path with hip hop staple acts such as N.W.A., Brand Nubian and Native Tongues. But for the past decade or so, he said his favorites have included indie rock acts like Built to Spill and Blonde Redhead.
In a way, Busdriver’s musical tastes are a fitting first-glimpse at his most recent works. His last three albums, and his recent collaborations, have seen a steady move into the more abstract – a move which solidified him as one of the most forward-thinking contemporary hip hop artists.
RoadKillOvercoat finds the young hip hop star at his best. Part psychedelic rock inspired, partially club beat driven, the album seems to radiate in a thousand musical directions, like Aesop Rock and Subtitle wrapped in a Rolling Stone and thrown with great fury through the library of a college radio station. Curiously, this lyrically poignant classic blend of hip hop, jazz, psychedelia and rock and roll is just a byproduct of Busdriver writing for the moment.
“I was going for the kind of immediacy that requires people to listen to it,” Farquhar said. “I judge a song on whether it’s effective or not. Whether the message is weighty or not doesn’t really matter, it’s just about making an effective song.”
If you take that as the checklist for a successful album, RoadKillOvercoat, succeeds in excess. The album’s second track, “Casting Agents and Cowgirls” achieves classic status through its overwhelming immediacy. It’s the type of song that nearly ruins the listening experience because you find yourself going back to the beginning of the song as soon as it ends. Amid its myriad of hooks and excellent production is something close to perfection. On it, Busdriver delivers his lyrical wit with the speed of a Shakespearean work fired from a cannon. It’s cutting delivery for some socially relevant material.
And though he may extol the benefits of immediacy, Busdriver is well aware of how he’s perceived. As a part of the independent hip hop revival of recent years, Busdriver has come to be identified with the loosely defined genre of socially conscious underground hip hop called backpack rap. But the problem with labeling Busdriver as such is that… Well. It’s a label and he’s Busdriver: the two never seem to fit.
“I kind of wanted to make an album that could break out of the backpack thing,” Farquhar said. “Not that I’m really backpacky, but [an album] that could be appreciated in other forms aside from that.”
Appreciated seems a bit of an understatement, as accolades for RoadKillOvercoat have poured in from every angle. In a way, it’s a refreshing counter to the disposable nature of the past ten years of mainstream rap. It took a polarizing artist like Busdriver to bring the best elements of hip hop together under one umbrella again.