The iJamming! Weekly Download: Busdriver

You know how occasionally you hear a sample stops you dead in your tracks, leaves you asking, “Why did nobody ever think of using that song before?” That’s how I felt when listening to the latest Music That Matters Podcast from KEXP. The sample in question opens the track: “I get up, I get down” sung in a time-stretched high voice, which brought me straight back to dubious pre-pubescent years thinking I could be as serious a prog-rocker as all of the older long-haired kids in my neighborhood. In other words, if it’s not a sped-up sample of Jon Anderson fronting Yes on ‘Close To The Edge’ then it’s a damn good impersonation. Either way, it’s a genius use of a generally discredited song.

It would have been better – or at least more appropriate – had the high-pitched sample led into a typically hi-nrg techno track from the early 90s: the intro is reminiscent of ‘Out of Space’ by the Prodigy, or ‘I Need Your Loving’ by NRG. Instead, the Yes sample forms the basis for a new cut by west coast rapper Busdriver entitled ‘The Troglodyte Wins.’ As his name and song title suggest, Busdriver is a long-haul Greyhound route away from gansta chic or crunk; he’s a gravel-sounding, rapid-fire, LA-based word-player in the Busta Rhymes style, with a large sense of humor and a clear love of psychedelia. Roadkillovercoat, released in January, is his fifth album, and if the titles of its predecessors – Memoir of The Elephant Man, Temporary Forever, Cosmic Cleavage and Fear of a Black Tangent – don’t give you an idea of his politically poetic playfulness, then try some of the song titles: ‘Post Apocalyptic Rap Blues,’ ‘Kill Your Employer’ and ‘Pompous Posies! Your Party’s No Fun.’

Busdriver: come to take you on a journey to prog rock and back again.

After several years making his name in the rap underground, Roadkillovercoat marks Busdriver’s debut for the Anti-/Epitaph label, home to Tom Waits, Youth Group, The Aggrolites, The Coup and Neko Case to name just a few of its non-hardcore punk acts. But Anti-Epitaph has more than just good taste: it knows that in the modern music market, you gotta give to get. Hearing Busdriver on that KEXP podcast, I immediately Googled ‘The Troglodyte Wins’ and the first link that came up was for Epitaph’s free MP3 download of the track.

Over the last year and a half I’ve been working with a major label that has enacted a strict ‘No MP3’ policy across the board of its entire roster; that same label recently announced such a sharp drop in sales that it is in the process of laying off 20% of its 5,000 strong workforce, and just as high a percentage of its acts. You might know the company: the Sex Pistols wrote a song about them back in 1977.

A free MP3 here or there does not make or break a label, but it’s part of the bigger picture about how to entice people into a full album purchase, and it’s hard to believe that Epitaph’s free MP3 teaser for Busdriver is not paying instant dividends with my 500 words here. You can read more about Busdriver at the Epitaph website; you can hear four more of his tracks at his myspace page, where you can also view snippets of his many videos. His own website is a full year out of date, but it includes many free live MP3s if you still have a fear of commitment. Besides, he may have an excuse for not staying online: the guy is a touring fiend.

“I lament that I have become a serial-dater,” he states in his bio. “Even when I’m home and off tour, I find myself loading-in at random venuess at 6 o’clock sharp,(and) calling promoters that don’t exist.”

Busdriver: ‘The Troglodyte Wins’ MP3

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December 2021