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Fredericton, NB - Tuesday, September 11th will forever be remembered as the day of the World Trade Center disaster. For Buck 65 and Q-Burns Abstract Message, it also marked the first day of their grueling 20-day cross-Canada FW Tour.
For the hundred or so people who were able to pull themselves away from their television to venture out to the Chestnut, they were treated to an impressive show. Buck 65 was the first to hit the stage, and as fans gathered around, it became clear as to why he's been so successful. Hailing from Small Town, Nova Scotia, Buck 65 (a.k.a. Stinkin' Rich) has been on the hip hop scene for nearly ten years. In fact, when asked how many albums he had released, he stated that he'd been "putting out records and selling them since 1992. All told, there's been something in the neighborhood of 15 releases, including singles." He also added, "I was rapping and b-boying sort of competitively, so long ago that it's embarrassing to say. I've been at it for a long, long time, so I've been watching the world of hip hop first hand almost since the beginning." His extensive experience definitely lent itself to the show...
I quickly found myself instantly mesmerized by his unique delivery and style of music. It's a musical style might be defined as spoken word that rhymes to a beat with a focus on content and meaningfulness. It's graceful and unique. Buck 65 reiterated this, stating that he focuses on "content over style." But, he also felt that "style is not irrelevant" and admittedly he puts "a lot of thought into that." "I have a lot of jazz background and have toured with a jazz band formed by drummer Jerry Bernelli. The band is classically trained, so I learned a lot about music. I love the idea of hip hop, and I have for most of my life. But these days, I'm into a wide diversity of music, which is reflected in my style and I now look to the great song writers for inspiration. So lately, I've been listening to Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams and Joni Mitchell. I just want to make music that stands by itself; music you can play for your parents; music that anyone can appreciate." And this was very true of the performance put on by Buck 65. Every song told a story, with well-paced, fluid-flowing lyrics. Buck 65 has definitely become a master at the art of rhyming.
Buck 65 proceeded to mix scratching, strong lyrical delivery, and some brief dance moves, into a low-energy hyped show. I say low-energy, because as Buck 65 admitted, "I don't make danceable stuff. In fact, making people dance is usually one of the last things on my mind. There are models on tour with us, who are modeling Donna Karan clothing. It's pretty funny because the models were trying to dance (to my music), but they couldn't. They gave up." And for the most part, this was true, with only a handful of upbeat, danceable tracks in his set. But, what prevents people from dancing is his focus on content and his amazing delivery. In his hour on the mic, I couldn't pull my ears away from what he was saying. I was afraid to miss a link in the story he was portraying with each song. And at the same time, Buck 65 admittedly, "tried to make eye contact with the people in the audience, to make it personal". This tactic worked like a charm on me, as the several times we made eye contact, I truly felt like his words were directed at me. He also capitalizes on his diverse knowledge of the world and his desire to "make material that's timeless", by performing tracks centered on a wide-range of topics. Including, the very serious topics of "Incest", his distaste for smoking, and rappers who just want girls for sex, as well as more comedic songs dealing with him 'being pretty' or 'being hung like a horse.' Buck 65's focus on content and his ability to be serious, comedic, and personal make his show very powerful. It was a captivating experience that I won't soon forget.
After the show, I got a chance to meet up with Buck 65 to delve a bit deeper into his mind. When asked what he thought of the size of the crowd, his response sounded very understanding, "To be honest with you, I really didn't know what to expect because there's probably a lot of people still watching TV." (The World Trade Center bombing occurred on the day of this show.) But he was pleased with the crowd's reaction: "My music is really the type that you can't dance to, so I just try to make eye contact and make a connection with the person. I saw some people smile or laugh at some of my lyrics, and that let me know that people were paying attention. So that was good."
I then proceeded to ask him about a wide range of topics including the changes in hip hop in the past 10 years, his next album, his latest music video, his involvement with Radiohead, his beat that Biz Markie claimed as his own, and plans for after the tour.
Brockway: "What's your philosophy in regard to the music you make?"
Buck 65: "The main thing, with everything I do, is to be myself. If people don't get it, or criticize me for it, then that's hardly anything for me to get upset about. So if I'm just doing my thing. I ain't frontin'. I ain't trying to pretend to be anything I'm not. I'm just good to go. Then generally people seem to respect that."
Brockway: "Having so much experience, how do you feel that the hip hop world has changed since you first came onto the scene? And what kind of response did you get when you were a white boy doing this back in 1992?"
Buck 65: "Man, it has changed so, so much. My perception has also changed a lot. In the late eighties and early nineties it was a tough place to be, because the climate was a lot more political in hip hop back then. Those were the days of Afrocentricity, political awareness in hip hop, black power and all that stuff. That was tough, but I found that in the mid to late-nineties there was an independent, underground revolution in hip hop music. And that busted the boundaries wide open. So the two things that I used to notice a lot before that I don't even see people thinking twice about anymore are: your race and the fact that I'm from Canada. That used to be a really weird thing, but people don't even seem to sweat that anymore."
Brockway: "When can we expect you to release your next album, 'Square'"?
Buck 65: "I'm debating it. I'm torn because I want to put it out soon, but I'm also shopping it. I do have a lot of interest, so now I'm not really rushing it. Because if I decide to go ahead and sign some sort of deal, then that's not something that you want to go ahead and rush into. You want to do that right. I was leaving for this tour and I wanted to have something with me to sell, so I just decided in a week to make a new record. So I got some material together and took a day to record it. The album is called Synistisia, it's Language Arts Part 5. So it's the follow-up to 'Square' but it's out before 'Square'. There's a new little label in Halifax that's just going to do hip hop called Endemic. So they're putting it out."
Brockway: "So you shot a video for 'Pants On Fire', is that your first video?"
Buck 65: "Nope. I have a side project/group called The Sebutones with my friend Sixtoo, who's in Halifax. He's originally from Truro, Nova Scotia. We did a video. We paid about $15 at most, to make it. It's really super-low budget, but someone at Much Music liked it and they actually played that video quite a bit. The difference with 'Pants on Fire' is that I got a grant. We did it by the book. We went through a production company and hired a director who hired everybody for the video. So, it's my first real video. It was a really cool experience and I'm looking forward to doing another one."
Brockway: "Were you surprised that 'Pants On Fire' was nominated for a Much Music video award (for "Best Independent Video")?"
Buck 65: "Well I was because it took a while for the video to catch on. We put the video together with funding from VideoFact and that's a body that comes from Much Music. So you would think that they would play the videos that they funded. But when it went into the meeting where they decide what they play, they didn't think that they could categorize it, so they..."
Brockway: "... put it on the shelf."
Buck 65: "Yeah. The second time we submitted it, they just sort of picked it up for optional rotation. But then they just ended up playing it a lot because a couple of their VJ's or programmers (at Much Music) really liked it. They got behind it. And then I also think that it got a lot of requests. So it started out slow, but eventually Much Music just started to really support the video. The bottom line is, and this is how I felt going into it, regardless of the song, it's a really good video. I can take no credit for this, because it was all the director. I just figured that Much Music would play it because it is a good video. But what I learned, and you learn this about a lot of things in general, is that it's not always about the quality. You'd like to think that whatever it is that you're looking at, it's evaluated on its quality. But, its..."
Brockway: "...it's a lot of politics..."
Buck 65: "... a LOT of politics."
Brockway: "Yeah. It must have been pretty rewarding when they started playing the video."
Buck 65: "It felt good. And it was a cool, cheap thrill to learn what types of videos they were playing it with. Turns out, they were playing me with Radiohead a lot..."
Brockway: "Oh really. I heard that you met them."
Buck 65: "Yeah, yeah. (nonchalantly) I've been hanging out with them a little bit."
Brockway: "That must be a pretty big thrill!"
Buck 65: "Yeah, it's pretty cool."
Brockway: "Are you and Radiohead working on anything together?"
Buck 65: "We're trying."
Brockway: "I heard that you got in a little bit of trouble for driving the cab in the video."
Buck 65: "Yeah, we did. I figured that since we were dealing with a big production company, that everything would be taken care of. What I found out was that we were in violation of lots and lots of stuff. So, we got stopped by the police and we got into a lot of trouble. We were facing very, very heavy fines. But in the long run, we just kind of got it worked out and didn't take too much of a kick in the ass for it. The cab wasn't road worthy and we didn't have insurance, stuff like that. It made for quite an adventure. We ended up shooting the whole time, while we were in police reprimand, so we got lots of really cool shots. But, we thought we'd better not use them, except for the very last shot in the video where you see me in the cab and I put my head down. That was right when we got stopped by the cops on the side of the road. If you look close, you might even see the police lights flashing in the windshield."
Brockway: "Did you get to keep the video footage from the incident?"
Buck 65: "Yeah, I have all the raw footage at home. All the footage from the cab being towed away and stuff. At the end of the night, after we were done talking to the cops, because we'd been with them for about two hours, one of the cops asked me for my autograph, so we even have that on tape..."
Brockway: "I was reading about a break that you did for Biz Markie with the John Travolta record, that Len took advantage of. What was the situation with that?"
Buck 65: "Basically, I produced a beat for Biz and it ended up on the Len record. It was kind of a weird thing. But, two unfortunate things happened for me: I wasn't credited as the producer on the album. And then I was saving a really special record for that, which was this John Travolta record. I'm totally old school and political about finding your own breaks and staking your claim to it. And you try to establish yourself as a digger and all that. So, I really had something that people didn't know about, before that. Then a while later, I was reading Ego Trip's book of rap lists, which is a really good hip hop handbook. And, there was this little part in it on Biz Markie and they were asking him about some of his favorite things. One of the things he said was, "my John Travolta record with the break on it." So he was basically claiming it as his. But, I was the one who turned him on to it. He didn't even know about it before I showed him. He was claiming it as his, and that just pissed me off. If I'm the first to rock something, then I want the props that go with that. I basically got fronted on, all cross the board, on that one."
Brockway: "I completely understand why you'd be frustrated. If you break it, and he's claiming it, especially in Ego Trip's book..."
Buck 65: "Yeah, it's pretty wack. It's a pretty high-profile thing. And now, he's probably getting props for that. The worst part is that Biz should know better. He's been around for so long and he's a digger. He knows how the politics go. It's disappointing. You'd think that someone that you look up to, and someone that's been around, wouldn't do something like that. Oh well."
Brockway: "After you're done this cross-country tour, what are you plans?"
Buck 65: "You can't ever really stop working it seems: I'm shopping the 'Square' album around. I'm always writing. And I've got few side-projects that I want to get finished off as well. For example, my roommate, Graham & I are working on an instrumental record. Then there's The Sebutones, my friend Sixtoo & I, were trying to do a new record. But, for the next little while, it's going to be short breaks in between tours. I'm supposed to go to Australia in October."
Brockway: "So where can people pick up the next album? Where will it be distributed?"
Buck 65: "I'll make it available on the internet. The label from Halifax, called Endemic, is putting it out. It will be distributed in Canada through No Distribution. So, by and large, it will be made available at your mom-and-pops hip hop record stores."
Brockway: "Alright. Thank You."
Buck 65: "No problem."
Brockway: "I appreciate it."www.brockwayent.com