Busdriver’s 2007 album Roadkill Overcoat felt like a culmination to me, a coherent album from start to finish that flowed well, with Boom Bap and Nobody working closely with him to create what I consider to be a modern classic. How do you follow up an album like that?
In Busdriver’s case, you make a disjointed, challenging album that bites the hand that feeds it. How else do you explain an album that starts off with the artist claiming, “Be real. Conscious rap failed us.” It’s almost like Busdriver had a bad reaction to people enjoying Roadkill too much, and felt like it was too accessible, and in turn tried to challenge his listeners as much as he could.
Maybe I’m just saying this because the moment I heard the opening bars of “Casting Agents and Cowgirls,” I knew I loved Roadkill, but it took me much longer to digest and enjoy Jhelli Beam. I don’t know if either is better or worse. Just different. It may have taken me longer to warm up to Jhelli, but now that I have, I really appreciate just how strange and challenging this album is.
And there are some really strong points to this album. It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite tracks is the Nobody-produced “Handfuls of Sky,” which kind of sounds like Busdriver’s interpretation of TV on the Radio. “Least Favorite Rapper,” presents the novel idea of an anti-braggadocio rap, and indicts just about everything in hip hop culture. Even a song like “Me Time (With the Pulmonary Palimpsests),” built on a sample of Mozart’s “Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Minor,” which first felt like a novelty, has grown on me. It also features an amazing music video.
This is all to say that Busdriver has never been one to rest on his laurels or to let a listener off easy. This album might not click for you right away, but give it time. I did, and I feel like I was rewarded for my patience.
|Title:||Busdriver - Jhelli Beam|