Strange Famous Records

Suicide Squeeze

I first heard hip hop music back in 1980, I figure. I remember seeing a story on a news show about it or something. At that point, music hadn’t become an obsession yet. I don’t remember what other songs I may have liked at that point. I remember being into Kiss when I was a little kid. My cousin was into Black Sabbath and he kinda got me into it too. I loved “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. That came out in 1975. And I remember really liking a lot of truck driving songs, especially if they were talking blues style. I think that’s why I liked hip hop so much when I first heard it.

From 1980 to 1983 or so, I was into hip hop and bought whatever records I could find. But I was also into some other stuff. I took an interest in my cousin’s growing collection of metal records. I was also kinda secretly into Duran Duran and I think I bought “Business As Usual” by Men At Work when it came out.

But when I heard Run DMC it was all over. From that point on (after ’83) I was a hip hop totalitarian. I refused to listen to anything else. I think it’s safe to say that hip hop took over my life by the time I was 11 years old. It was an obsession.

I feel lucky that I was born when I was because my high school years (which is a crucial time for any music lover) coincided exactly with the golden era (1986 – 1989). Those days were glorious. It was an exciting time for hip hop. It was beginning to come into its own in many ways, but it was still an underground phenomenon. Almost all the records were on independent labels and the biggest stars in the game were really dope – Doug E. Fresh, UTFO, M.C. Shan, Just-Ice, Superlover Cee and Casanova Rud, J.V.C. FORCE, etc. I was a downright militant fascist hip hop junkie.

In 1989 I started volunteering at my local campus radio station and soon after I started hosting my own show, which eventually ran for eleven years. Looking back it seems pretty much inevitable that I would host a hip hop radio show. I HAD to!

Then… 1990. The wind changed. I felt a disturbance in the Force for the first time. Two records were released that year that changed hip hop forever – “To the Extreme” by Vanilla Ice and “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em” by M.C. Hammer. I honestly think that these two records were the first hip hop recordings I had ever heard that I hated. Before that, pretty much all hip hop was good! Not all of it great (although a crazy-high percentage was), but nothing ever terrible, really. But sweet jesus, these two records were not my cup of tea.

It angered and perplexed me that it was even possible for there to be any such thing as bad hip hop music. But what rubbed salt in my bleeding wounds was that both of these records were also hugely successful. In fact, I’m guessing that if they weren’t the two MOST successful hip hop records to that point, they must have been close – top 5, I’m sure.

I couldn’t stand it. I honestly couldn’t deal with it. My world was collapsing. Flood gates had been opened. All of a sudden there were all these corny people getting into “hip hop” (I refused to even recognize Hammer and Vanilla Ice as real hip hop). Parents liked these records! Hip hop was never music for parents! I took such huge offense to what was happening. I think I even took it personally in some perverse way! I felt that the world in which I lived was under threat of annihilation. I saw a no-good end coming and I felt strongly that I couldn’t just stand by as it happened.

In 1990, I went on a hunger strike. I was living on my own in my first crappy little apartment. I had no idea how to organize any sort of political demonstration. And of course, there was no internet yet, so I didn’t have a platform for a statement at my disposal. I just figured that word would get around, someone in the local media would catch wind and then it would get around from there. I vowed (to myself and a few stupid friends) that I would go without food until the mainstreaming and commercialization of hip hop music came to an end. I wanted Hammer to go back to the navy and Vanilla Ice to go back to riding motorbikes, or whatever.

I think I made it six days. Word might have gone around town a little bit, but the discussion was just about how much of a moron I was. The TV cameras never showed up. I just rolled around the filthy floor of my cat-piss apartment and moaned. I moaned all alone. Finally, my friend Rob (Sixtoo) kicked my door down and wrestled a granola bar into my mouth. He pleaded with me and bribed me with a few choice records from his collection. I had a good cry and finally relented. I was already skinny before I started, but still managed to lose a bunch of weight. I was very weak and wretched. Rob watched over me for a few days until I fully regained my strength. I was pretty much back to normal after three or four days, but it took months to get over the embarrassment.

Seven years later, Rob saw my mood darken again. But he was preemptive this time and talked me down in the heat of several horrible nights. If it wasn’t for Rob, who knows what sort of private rampage I may have enacted?

I was such an idiot. Sixtoo saved my life. Rob Van Winkle and Stanley Burrell come across as nice people on reality television. And as for hip hop music, well…

Buck

Mar 22

Sacrifice Fly

Hi.

I know a guy named Derek. He’s a rapper. His very first show was playing with the Sebutones a long time ago. A few months back he went to work on an album and reached out to me to ask if I would do a verse on a song. I said I would because I’m a romantic. He asked “how much do you charge?” I told him, “nothing”. I’ve never charged anyone for a verse ever. I guess I got no game that way. I don’t know…

Derek’s rap name is D-Sisive. The song we ended up making together is called “The Superbowl Is Over”. I was happy with how it turned out. It’s on his album “Let The Children Die”. When I heard it I was kinda dumbfounded by how brutally honest a lot of the material is. He really lays it all on the line. I find a lot of rappers don’t have the guts.

Anyway, recently Derek wrote to me and said, “we should start a group!” I said yes to the idea right away even though it’s a little bit crazy because I need a god damn break! I just finished recording enough songs for two albums (you’ll be seeing that stuff soon), a DVD (also coming very soon), scored a film (coming soon), did remixes for a handful of people, a bunch of other collaborations, plus did some recording for a Haiti relief album (coming super-soon). It’s nuts. But I said, “yeah, let’s go to work”.

I had been sitting on an idea for a long time (I’m always sitting on a lot of ideas) and it occurred to me that Derek would be a perfect guy to work with for it…

See, I’ve pretty much made a career out of telling stories from my life and those of the people I’ve known along the way and putting them to weird, dark, unpopular music. Derek has kinda done the exact same thing. So my idea is to invite people from all over the world to send me their stories and I’ll turn them into songs.

So Derek and I have formed a group called The Ricardo Christoff Apparatus and we’re calling the project “100 Story Building”.

I’m asking people to send stories about people they know. I have a feeling that it might be better to tell someone else’s story than your own in this case because things like humility or pride are less likely to get in the way. And I’m looking for all kinds of stories: funny ones, tragic ones, inspiring ones, sexy ones… all kinds. My plan is for the song titles to be the name of the person the song is about. Simple.

This may sound super-corny, but I was partly inspired to try this by watching the Olympics on tv. They always do these profiles on athletes and their amazing stories and even though I never heard of these people in most cases, I always find it really compelling. Know what I mean? So I just want to tell people’s stories. I expect I’ll read lot of amazing stuff. And I just think this idea is nice. Don’t you think it’s a nice idea?

So, all the info is at www.100storybuilding.tumblr.com (even though I just explained it all) and people can send their stories to 100storybuilding@gmail.com

Derek and I will work hard to do justice to people’s stories and get them heard by the whole world (or at least a good handful of people around the world. Let’s be honest, I’m no Katy Perry or whatever the hell).

That’s all. If you think it’s a nice idea, spread the word. I’d appreciate it.

Oh – and by the way – if I get 1,000 stories, I won’t be making 1,000 songs, obviously. I’ll pick a bunch of the best ones, which I’m sure won’t be easy. But this very well may be a project that goes on for the rest of my life if all goes well.

Buck

Mar 11

middle relief

Hi.

Back on January 13, a website called Slate ran an article about Jay-Z and his interest in art (http://www.slate.com/id/2241208/pagenum/all/#p2). I found this article and the response to it disturbing on many levels. Where to begin?

First of all, the basic thesis of the article seems to be, “isn’t it interesting that Jay-Z (of all people!) has taken an interest in Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst?!” What the hell is that supposed to mean? What’s being implied here? Lots of people are interested in modern art. Why is it particularly noteworthy if Jay-Z is interested? Considering the answer to that question gives me the creeps. Is it simply because he’s famous? I’m sure lots of famous people like art. Is it because he comes from the lowly world of hip hop where the expectation is that rappers are only supposed to be interested in… I don’t know… porn and guns? Or even more sinister, is it because he’s black?

Why Jay-Z? Would it be a story if it was George Clooney instead? “George Clooney likes art! Fascinating!” Would it be a story if it was a musician from another genre? “Surprise! Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips digs Jackson Pollock!” (I don’t know if that’s true. Just a made-up example). I’m a big fan of Manet. Is that a headline grabber?

Second… The article suggests that what motivates Jay-Z’s interest in art is simply the pursuit of another material status symbol. “I don’t really like art, but I pretend to because it makes me seem fancy…” (not a real quote either). I don’t know what’s worse – being accused of such a thing, or the thought of it actually being true!

I find the whole thing to be so condescending that it makes me want to barf. But it gets worse!

Many of us have our heads so far up our asses that our response is, “Oh, that Jay-Z is so pretentious!” There’s this tide of anti-intellectualism and low culture glorification that has brought us to the point where somehow it’s a bad thing to have sophisticated tastes!

So again I ask, “what’s worse? Making a big deal out of someone reading a book or dissing them for doing so?”

In the last few years I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a website or a magazine go out of its way to point it out when I rapper mentions he likes some indie band. I’m sure you’ve seen it too. “Kid Cudi likes Vampire Weekend!” Jesus! Who cares?! Remember how everyone freaked out when Jay-Z went to a Grizzly Bear show?

Sure Jay-Z’s fame plays into this kind of hype. But whenever I read/see/hear this kind of thing, it always has a whiff of condescension and subtle racism. And when people get up in arms about it because they think it’s a compromise to one’s authenticity, it runs a little deeper. To be super-blunt about it, white people have long fetishized black culture and so when a black person takes any interest in white culture, it upsets our expectations. So we either react positively with “pleasant surprise” or negatively because they’re not black enough for us anymore…

White people can be so retarded.

Just a thought,

Buck

ps – follow my ass on Twitter – @bucksixtyfive

Jan 24

Backwards K

Hey nerds.

First let me explain that I write a blog post about once a week, but then read it over, tell myself it’s stupid and then delete it. Here’s another attempt…

Over the holidays, I went out to my father’s house in the deep country to grab some records and baseball cards and connect with my roots. I also ate sugar until I got a migraine headache. During the day, lots of friends, neighbors and family members came and went. It made for great people watching and conversation over-hearing.

One visitor/family member that I either didn’t recognize or didn’t know had lots of satanic tattoos. I wanted to ask her about them but didn’t get the chance. But she did get me thinking. It brought me back to my old days, in the middle of nowhere and reminded me of the mindset I and a lot of my friends had when we were growing up (even if we never talked about it).

When you grow up in the country, the city becomes an intimidating place – it’s fast, it’s loud, it’s bright. You see it and feel overwhelmed by it when you visit. You’re bombarded by images of it on TV (used to be, lots of popular TV shows were set in the country, but you rarely see that anymore these days), which reminds you of how unsophisticated you and/or your hometown is. And when you’re confronted by it (when you meet people from the city), you usually end up feeling alienated and embarrassed.

No one likes to feel that way, so what often happens is that we reject it. We reject the things that make us feel bad about ourselves. We think to ourselves, “I’m not like people from the city and trying just makes me feel like shit, so screw it.”

When I was growing up, most of my friends began to come to these kinds of realizations in junior high school. The result was that people fell into one of three groups – let’s call them ‘the rejects’, ‘the try hards’ and ‘the nobodies’. ‘The rejects’ were the ones who turned their backs on the city and/or “proper” society at large and 99% of the time, this meant getting into heavy metal. ‘The try hards’ tried in vein to keep up with the city kids (and their music) and probably failed and suffered a lot of secret shame unless their family was super-rich (but where I grew up no one was super-rich). ‘The nobodies were the rarest breed. They were the ones who somehow never stopped to think about these things, were oblivious and probably lost themselves almost completely in their studies and hobbies. For the record, I was probably somewhere between a ‘reject’ and a ‘nobody’: I had no interest in girls, I made good grades and only cared about baseball – but my friends were all total rejects.

The point of all this is: heavy metal. Heavy metal is a shield. It allows you to turn your alienation into your own kingdom. It makes you immune to the harsh judgments of the pseudo-sophisticated city crawler and further, can be used as a weapon to administer a little intimidation of your own, if need be. Becoming part of a culture that accepts you gives you strength and confidence. Ultimately, your embarrassment turns into pride.

This isn’t to say that heavy metal is just for kids from the country, of course. Metal is the shield of rejects everywhere. And I haven’t made country music and culture part of this discussion at all. But obviously, that’s where a lot of country folk find their identity. Remember, this whole thing started with the girl with the satanic tattoos and I think it’s a safe guess that metal is part of her lifestyle (I’d love it if I was wrong though). And where I grew up, very few of the kids I went to school with were into country music. A few, for sure. But lots and lots of them got into metal and that’s interesting to me.

So then, this got me thinking about the way culture works and how we all create worlds for ourselves when we’re young, and about the need we all have to fit in somewhere. Then this got me thinking about my career and those of some of my friends. What’s interesting is that I have a lot in common with many of my weirdo hip hop peers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the artists on SFR and Anticon don’t come from big cities. And those that do don’t come from major hip hop cities like New York or LA. We probably all suffered some kind of inferiority complex when we were younger.

I can’t speak for my friends. But I can tell you that when I started out, back in the early 90′s, all I wanted to do was make songs that wouldn’t be out of place next to songs by groups like Black Moon, Brand Nubian or Wu-Tang. For real! And before I found an audience outside of my hometown, everything was fine because the hip hop heads there were all as backwards as I was.

Starting around ’93 or ’94 or so, I started to find a bit of an audience in other parts of the world. But what I found in a greater number than fans, was haters. The music I was making was definitely being criticized and torn apart, but to an equal or even greater extent, I was being made fun of on a personal level. Where I was from, how I looked and how I spoke was a joke to a lot of people. All of a sudden, right when I thought those days were behind me, I was right back in junior high school. What a nightmare.

At that point I probably should have given up and started a metal band, but I didn’t know how to play guitar. So instead, something strange happened: I stayed in the world of hip hop, but retreated into the woods and explored my alienation through the music. I became a full-fledged reject. I rejected the mainstream and any attempt to fit in anywhere. But the hard part was, I couldn’t find other rejects with whom I could build a community.

In ’96, my ultimate alienated-weirdo statement, “Vertex” came out. This album became a lightning rod for hip hop hatred, but now I was beginning to relish it. It was also a lightning rod for rap rejects worldwide. It was through this distress signal that I began to find allies like Sage and Sole and assorted other drifters.

The thought I’m left with is that it’s interesting/perverse that – in a way – I was created by the people who have hated and continue to hate me. Know what I’m saying? If I was never rejected by the city kids in the first place, I’d probably be making shiny fake hip hop songs right now. I would never have found myself. Weirdos are created simply by calling a person a weirdo. And knowing what I know now, a little alienation is good for you. It forces you into an empty room with mirrored walls. I was ashamed of myself and where I came from when I started out, so I pretended to be a lost member of Black Moon. It was an act. I was a fake. Then, essentially, I was called out on it (thank goodness). I had to choose to either give up in defeat and shame or embrace who I was. Voila. I kept going.

Now, I’m not exactly the girl with the satanic tattoos, but at least I can relate to her.

Another typically stupid blog post from your friend and fellow outcast,

Buck 65

Dec 31

R.I.P. Roc Raida

The first year I played South By Southwest, I was on an all-hip hop bill with The Beatnuts, Tha Alkaholiks and The X-Ecutioners, who were still known as the X-Men at the time. It was arranged that I would use the X-Men’s turntables. It was an honor and it made me nervous. The X-Men/X-Ecutioners are and always will be regarded as one of the greatest turntablist crews of all time. That night I ended my set with my big finishing move, which was to perform a beat-juggle (not just simply breaking doubles) while rhyming at the same time. I didn’t know it at the time (thank God), but the X-Men were watching from the side of the stage (they were probably worried about their gear). When I walked off stage, the members of the legendary group surrounded me and actually gave me props. I remember specifically that Roc Raida gave me a hug and said, “you just took hip hop to a level it’s never reached before. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. Congratulations. Respect.” I’ll never forget it. I consider it the greatest moment of my hip hop career. If I never sell another record or play another show, I’ll die happy because I got high praise from a Grandmaster.

Roc Raida – you made a difference in my life. May you rest in peace…

Humbly,

buck

Sep 19

Around The Horn

Check one-two…

This time last year I was working feverishly to complete Dirtbike 1. It was the first of a three-album project. I recorded and released an album a month for three months. It all came during the greatest tidal wave of inspiration of my life. I became a zombie-stranger to my girlfriend for many weeks, but it was worth it. She cried herself to sleep every night as I went insane, but she never left. In fact, half-way through the endeavor I asked her to marry me and she said yes. I wrote a song about it.

Normally after I finish an album, I avoid listening to it for a while. Then, one day – weeks, months or years later – I’ll go back and listen to it again with fresh ears. Sometimes I’m horrified by what I hear. Sometimes I’m thrilled.

Yesterday I listened to Dirtbike 2 for the first time in a very long time and today I have a declaration to make:

“She Said Yes” is the most beautiful hip hop song ever made. Ever. Most beautiful.

Perhaps it’s a small and unpopular category. But let it be my claim to fame from now on. Buck 65 is the man who made the most beautiful hip hop song in the history of the world.

But allow me to acknowledge Emily Wells – a musical genius from LA who I met while on tour with Sage a few years ago. She played the piano and violin parts which contribute greatly to the ineffable beauty of this masterpiece.

Sidenote: “Paper Airplane”, which is also on Dirtbike 2, is also easily in the top 10 of most beautiful hip hop songs ever. That’s two from one album! If fact, I might as well go all the way and say that the top 20 list of the most beautiful hip hop songs ever made is dominated by Buck 65.

Sidenote 2: While listening to Dirtbike 2 yesterday it dawned on me that two of the things that interest me most is trying to make the most beautiful hip hop songs possible and the ugliest hip hop songs possible. “LHOOQ”, for example, is an extremely ugly hip hop song. How exciting!

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, I just want to say that I’ve always found teenagers to be very annoying so I was so happy when Kanye West took that shit all over that blonde teenager at the “art”-trophy thing on TV recently. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Just joking. That was awesome.

Talk soon,

Buck 65 – the most beautiful rapper of all-time, friend of man and beast alike, including teenagers.

Sep 18

Runners Left In Scoring Position

People-people…

On Dirtbike (the three hour album available for free download on my website) there’s a quote from Kurt Cobain. He says, “Everyone seems to be striving for utopia in the underground scene but there are so many different factions. I mean, if you can’t get a fucking underground movement to band together and to stop bickering about unnecessary little things that they don’t agree on, then how the fuck do you expect to have an effect on a mass level?” Think about that.

Every successful and/or meaningful cultural movement I can think of was the result of people coming together, uniting their efforts and making noise that couldn’t be ignored. Look at every important movement in art history. Look at the Surrealists. The Dadaists. The Situationists. Look at punk. Look at post-punk. There’s Surrealist art and punk music, but it’s also hugely important that there were Surrealist movements, punk movements. Back in 20′s Salvador Dalí got together with Luis Buñuel and the poet, Lorca, started a movement in Paris and fucked shit up forever! And with punk, along side the group of musicians that came together, you had figures like Andy Warhol, Legs McNeil, Don Letts and countless others who weren’t musicians themselves, but got involved and worked to create a larger cultural force that was impossible to ignore – too much noise was being made, too many people were involved. Armies were built!

I really believe that back in the mid-nineties all the pieces were in place for significant hip hop history to be made. Scratch that – music history. The beginnings of a movement were in place. Seemingly at the same moment, out of nowhere you saw the emergence of the Live Poets, Dose, Atmosphere, Company Flow, the Sebutones, Sage, and a bunch of other guys who were to hip hop what post-punk (Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Devo, Wire, etc.) was to punk. Here were a bunch of hip hop heads who were doing things radically differently. It was exciting to watch from up close. And with the yearly pilgrimages to Scribble Jam and development of Anticon and the 1200 Hobos and Rhymesayers and whatnot, it began to feel like the makings of a new wave were afoot.

But you know what? As far as I’m concerned, we fucking blew it. I’m still not exactly sure where we went wrong. But can you imagine what might have happened if all the talent and resources had’ve been properly pooled? If we had’ve done more… If we could have come together under one banner… If we could have supported each other more… If we had’ve had more foot soldiers like Kevin Beacham – guys who weren’t in it for personal glory, but for the love and advancement of the culture that was germinating. Kevin was our Don Letts! We needed more like him. We needed our own Legs McNeil and Andy Warhol and Malcolm McLaren. What happened? Maybe being perceived as different made us insecure. Maybe we were afraid to really assert ourselves.

Sure, Slug’s a successful guy and has worked real hard. Sage too – no question. The indy labels are great contributions: SFR, Rhymesayers, Anticon, Def Jex, Mush, Lex, etc. I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m pissing on any of the success that we have seen. But I always wanted more. Lots more. And I’m not talking about money and fame. Money has been made. Minor fame has been attained.

Aug 30

Un-hip

I think my single favorite moment from the history of hip hop is when Afrika Bambaataa rocked “Trans-Europe Express” by Kraftwerk. The idea of playing a weird German experimental electronic record for hip hop kids in the Bronx still blows my mind. KRAFTWERK, for Christ’s sake! Of course, that song became the foundation for the seminal “Planet Rock”, which still gets my heart pumping every time I hear it. What thrills me so much about this event is that it was so un-hip hop. Remember that in those days the hip hop sound was still firmly rooted in funk and disco.

Having said that, it also came as a big thrill for me years later when I started discovering the sources of many of the classic breaks. To learn that hip hop’s greatest minds were messing with records by The Steve Miller Band or Billy Squire or Aerosmith or Tom Jones (to name just a few) was very surprising to me.

I’ll never forget when I heard Run D.M.C.’s album King of Rock for the first time. Songs like “Jam Master Jammin’” and the title track sounded more like the Black Sabbath records my cousin listened to than all the electro stuff that dominated hip hop at that time. Compared to the rest of the records I knew up to that point, again, it seemed so un-hip hop.

Bold steps like these are what separated people like Bam and the kings from Queens. They stood out. They were radicals. There was something kinda punk about it. It was exciting to see someone come along and smash all expectations and rip a page or two out of the rule book.

Having gotten such a thrill from moments like those, I always looked forward to the next time one would come along. It happened when I heard “M.P.E.” by Public Enemy. I FREAKED when I heard that song! It was the least funky thing I’d ever heard – impossible to dance to! Totally punishing. Brutal. I felt it again when I heard records like Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising with the crazy things that were being sampled: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Johnny Cash!

I think I started making deliberately un-hip hop creative decisions of my own around 1995. I had already stopped “dressing hip hop” out of embarrassment. Then, when I was getting ideas together for Psoriasis, the first Sebutones’ record, I decided I wanted to make the slowest hip hop beats ever made. Hip hop music had always been dance music in one way or another. It was music for the b-boys, roller rinks and clubs. I thought it would be interesting and something new (though partly inspired by anomalies like “M.P.E.”) to make music that was utterly un-dance-able. I remember Sixtoo and I giggling like school girls in the studio because the beat to the track “Review” was 65 beats per minute.

Shortly after that, I made the album Language Arts. To me, today, that record sounds like if Throbbing Gristle made a hip hop record. The centerpiece of Language Arts is a track called “Seventeen”. In the lyrics of that song I basically come out swinging, saying, “this is who I am, I’m here to fuck shit up and if you don’t like it, I don’t give a flying shit.” It was like a declaration of intent to tear down any wall I could find and throw the rule book in the fire. I had no reason to believe that anyone was listening to any of my threats, but I felt like I had to say it or I would die.

I think a big part of my motivation at that time came from taking a long, hard look in the mirror. I asked myself, “who am I kidding?” I’m white. I grew up in a small, rural town. I’m Canadian, for crying out loud. I don’t drink or do drugs. Before I even open my mouth, I’m already totally un-hip hop. I was something else altogether and I figured my only choice was to accept that and run with it. I figured it for a gamble, but if I did something radically different – if I really stood out from the pack – maybe I’d catch a little recognition.

Now that’s not to say that I started doing things strictly for the sake of being weird, exactly. Before this turning point, I was already a fan of Roxy Music, for example, but I kept this interest and many others separate from my hip hop life. But by the time I started working on Vertex, I had begun to adopt my full-on everything-on-limits attitude and decided to include a cover of “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” when a year or two before, I wouldn’t have dared. I could have continued to enjoy Roxy Music on my own free time and not try to inflict my weird tastes on anyone else, but the thought of doing things that were wildly un-hip hop had become too exciting for me to resist. I liked the idea of being the guy who would do the things that no one else would dare.

On Vertex I also began to explore some themes that were pretty un-hip hop in my estimation at the time: sympathy, insecurity, sadness, vulnerability… Un-hip hop.

“…each master to his own technique.”

I started working on music with my friend Charles right before Man Overboard. The first song we worked on together was “Pack Animal”, I think (it might have been “Pen Thief”). Shortly after we came together, he made a mixtape for me. I still have it. Off the top of my head, three songs stand out that blew my mind and re-instilled a sense of excitement about music right when my excitement about hip hop was beginning to wane:

- “Two Rivers” by the Meat Puppets
- “Kandy Korn” by Captain Beefheart
- “New Dawn Fades” by Joy Division

Each of these songs opened up exciting new worlds for me. But most importantly, that Joy Division song sparked an interest in – nay, obsession with – the world of post punk. Not only did I start buying up records by Wire and Gang Of Four and Devo, I started reading everything I could find about the movement. Learning about the radical philosophies that went into the making of this music – making rock and roll devoid of blues influence, for example – inspired me further and steeled my resolve.

Man Overboard included songs like “Lil’ Taste Of Poland” and “Sunday Driver”, both of which were driven by a spirit of hip hop perversion.

My next album was called Square partly in reference to it being part four of the Language Arts series, but also because the word “square” means the opposite of “hip” (hop).

“463″ from Talkin’ Honky Blues, by the way, was conceived as a tribute to those guitar heavy Run D.M.C. songs that excited me so much when I was a kid.

“We Three Kings” by The Sebutones on the 50/50 Where It Counts album is the most dance-impossible song ever. “Le 65isme” on Secret House Against The World was made with funk poison (you can hear the Beefheart influence on that one). And the re-recording of “The Centaur” on This Right Here Is Buck 65 is one of a very small handful of hip hop songs with no beat whatsoever. Hip hop was built on a foundation of drum breaks. At the time, I thought making a song with no drums at all was the most un-hip hop thing I could do. And there’s been a bit of fuss over the years about my affinity for the banjo.

In recent years I’ve written songs about long haul trucking, becoming an uncle, Fatty Arbuckle, Karl Wallenda, proposing marriage, the band Kiss, Vivienne Westwood’s Active Resistance manifesto… I wrote a whole album inspired by Situationism… Hell, if you want to insult someone, you tell ‘em to “go get your shinebox!” (I’ve had this insult thrown at me, actually). I’ve written a song about taking pride in shining shoes!! I think it’s safe to say that many people have ideas of what hip hop is “about” and I don’t think truckers and silent film stars usually come to mind.

It’s important to stress that I don’t consider any of these ideas as anti-hip hop. I love hip hop music and culture. I don’t think applying these concepts to what I’m doing would even be possible if it weren’t for a deep respect for hip hop history. “463″ would never have happened if I wasn’t losing my mind to “Jam Master Jammin’” back in ’85. I would never have had the inspiration in the first place if it wasn’t for my worship of Bambaataa. Making a song without drums would never have occurred to me as an interesting idea if I wasn’t aware of the pioneering work of Kool Herc or Flash. And to this day, it’s vitally important to me to build songs on a foundation of breaks (99.9% of the time), to rock turntables and to pay tribute to the founding fathers in a variety of ways. I see the unique contributions of Bam, Run D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, De La Soul and Public Enemy as invaluable gifts to the hip hop legacy. The thought I’ve put into my work is fueled by my desire to make a contribution of my own. To be honest, I think I’ve been mostly misunderstood in my efforts, but that’s another discussion.

Through the years I’ve been asked countless times what I call my music and I’ve never known what to say. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I think there’s one clear answer: it’s un-hip hop.

Buck

Aug 29

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