Release Date: Jun 9, 2009
Record label: Anti
Before I get started, I have to confess that Regan Farquhar (a.k.a. Busdriver) is one of my favorite emcees kickin’ it today. He could scat fart sounds for an hour and I would still buy it. As such, this review is bound to be a little biased. So, with objectivity as my aim, I will do my best to ….
I doubt there will be a record I hear this year that's topping the sheer word count of Jhelli Beam, and yet the line that feels the most revelatory comes courtesy of someone who isn't Busdriver. On "Least Favorite Rapper", guest Nocando spits, "The suburban kids say I'm not street enough/ But compared to them, I'm street as fuck. " It's that combination of self-awareness, self-deprecation, and, ultimately, self-defense that's played a large role in defining the Busdriver Experience over nearly a decade of way-left-of-the-dial hip-hop.
A little Busdriver goes a long way, which was clear on his excellent Temporary Forever LP and remains just as clear on Jhelli Beam, his ninth album overall and second for Anti-. Unfortunately, there's a lot of Busdriver on Jhelli Beam, while his themes and lyrics have become even more dense, which makes for a challenging listen that only fitfully rewards the scrutiny. Simply try to scan his opening lines: "The top-hatted Abrahams are shoveling the raisin brand/In eyeballs their bi-laws [sic] are leaping off the laser scan/Into your genotype telling you to deep throat pipe/If you don't do it, well these hoes might.
The expression “spit a rhyme” may as well have been coined for Busdriver, who seethes more contempt per square pentameter than any other rapper I know of. Unlike, say, Chuck D or El-P, who keep it pretty targeted, or Eminem, who’s playacting at least some of the time, Busdriver holds in pitifully low esteem not just the usual scapegoats (politicians, personal and institutional racism, wack rappers) but also himself, and you, and the general enterprise of trying to make a living by entertaining other people. He’s not that direct about it – one’s never quite sure just where his fight is – but for an artist whose technical skill is basically irreproachable, he sure seems to despise what he does.