Album Reviews

Busdriver – Fear Of A Black Tangent

(Big Dada) UK release date: 28 February 2005

Truly fresh for 2005, Fear Of A Black Tangent is an astral travelthrough the gabbling mind of Busdriver. A native of the same hip-hopunderground scene that brought forth The Pharcyde and Jurassic5, this LA native’s third album makes light work of kaleidoscopicraps and a barmy army of rhythms and high-pitched samples.

Not all his own work of course. Fear Of A Black Tangent may featureBusdriver’s name out on front, but this record is a teamster’s effort.As part of the Freestyle Fellowship, Busdriver is able to call on thesoundscaping skills of other hip-hop mentalists including ParisZax, Omid, Danger Mouse, Thavius Back, and MushRecords collaborator Daedalus. Its possible to prise apart the flix’n’ trix of each producer, but all are in simpatico with Busdriver’srhymestyle that is just a tongue-tie away from free association.

And what may that be, you may ask? FOABT isn’t a moon-eyed answerrecord to Public Enemy‘s Fear Of A Black Planet, more of aderanged, but deceptively focused, postscript – Busdriver is on record assaying this record would be “loosely playing with racial politics”.

And you can discern a little history from: “I am the world’sfirst black astronaut / To walk the moon / From my air balloon,”(Unemployed Black Astronaut). In place of breathless confrontation, Busdriveropts for the space cadet button, a vintage utility of afro-Americanmusic for social commentary at-one-remove. Still, there are barbs hiddenamong the verbal undergrowth – witness: “My course hair means I’m intopetty theft / Right?” (from Lefty’s Lament).

Busdriver’s last extended set (Cosmic Cleavage) was one that graspedfor the big time, and Fear Of A Black Tangent is preoccupied with thefallout from his brush with the star-making machinery of the biz – “Wemapped your psyche / We know what you do before you do / Packaged itnicely/ And sold it to you”.

Despite the glut of subject content, Fear Of A Black Tangent reallyflies when the rapidity of Busdriver’s lyrical flow matches the virtualimprovisation of the loops, or kicks back on the thrill of pure sound.As hip-hop psychedelics go, there’s little better than Low FlyingWinged Books, where Thavius Back soundtracks a tick-tock drum lick wrapped up in good old tape reverse and Busdriver’s multi-tracked, disorientatedvocals.

Hip-hop’s improv ambitions have been obvious ever sinceStetsasonic were talkin’ all that jazz since – ahem – back in the day. Busdriver is happy to credit free-jazzer Jon Hendricks with prime inspiration. More surprisingly, Busdriver lists unlikely Alt types such asBlonde Redhead and Belle & Sebastian as part of hislistening pleasures. The rich sound palette is indicative of thiseclecticism too, from the astral travelling of Omid’s Reheated Pop, through tothe Tex Avery capery of the Paris Zax assisted Avantcore.

Defiantly indie and selectively subversive, Fear Of A BlackTangent’s frisky loops reveal a maverick rap talent. All in all a littleself-consciously kooky to fight the power with. And despite the range of hisraps, Busdriver is just a little too boys’ own to form part of agenuine revolutionary generation. Still, for those looking for to get theirkicks on hip-hop’s margins, Fear Of A Black Tangent will doubtlesssuffice.

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Busdriver – Fear Of A Black Tangent