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 Buck 65 Weirdo Magnet LP

Back in the mid ‘90s, somewhere between the battle rap onslaught Game Tight and the first episode in the more conceptual language arts series, a Halifax emcee and deejay-for-hire changed his name to “Buck65” and this newly rechristened emcee/producer/deejay/ raconteur released this slept on jumble of curiosities comprising 23 overlapping untitled tracks. Seven years and five solo albums down the road, subject matter and tone have changed considerably from one project to the next but it is here where the original Buck65 style was originally cast. Whereas his production involves shifting layers of spectral jazz swoops stabs and breaks crafted into a seamless backtrack packing a strong forward momentum, his idiosyncratic writing style sounds like he works backwards from the final word of every hookless one-verse rap. Unlike many others who have tried toying with the tension between rhyme and meaning, Buck65 manages to always get where he’s headed without ever compromising his route through each pantomime style verse because meaning continually runs on through each stanza. The album does commence with the same sequence of a raucous soundbite juggling piece followed by an introductory prose-poem strolling through “the greatest” manifestations of certain traits including “the greatest opportunity is the next one…” and “the greatest gamble is substituting hope for facts…” that sets off all his subsequent albums; suggesting an embryonic form of the Language arts format However given this introduction’s more boisterous tone and the ensuing bugged out braggadocio cut with its brazen upright bass driven beat, musically at least, this album is a very different beastie.

When the first rapped words on the album are “some certain emcees leave the stage to the sound of roaring laughter, but then I step on and the difference is like before and after.” It’s fair to say Weirdo magnet is the most egotistic of his albums to date. Nevertheless, as his Coarse, nasal voice switches between raspy Leonard Cohen growls and a sharp, high-pitched voice resembling Kool Keith’s Dr Octagon persona, this obvious divergence in delivery echoes the sentiment of many tracks where he’s talking about it’s like there’s always more than one of him. Subsequently, Buck’s Self-respecting egocentricity is projected through caricatured manifestations of certain aspects of his personality including an introduction to the playalistic Johnny Rockwell persona living the lavish life and a few words from the crate-digging hiphop fanatic DJ Critical in search of the perfect beat. Bridging that gap between braggadocio and conceptual rap, this album features both extremes of a reckless double-time sex-rap delivered by Uncle Climax riding a timpani driven instrumental and a track where a sombre sax or clarinet burst over a bumpy beat sets the scene for reminiscences about his childhood love of the great outdoors and all the times he got hurt as an accident prone yet indestructible child. The charismatic yet tormented weirdo magnet persona gradually emerges as Buck65 is found wistfully reminiscing on how he knew he was different even when “I used to hate it when my mother made me go to Sunday school, but I went along with it, knowing that I would one day rule, and teach myself to meditate, and read Islamic scriptures, when I was still into toys and drawing comic pictures!” When the self-proclaimed Weirdo magnet is fully realised and finally revealed through the mist of a brilliant yet short-lived teetering score with veering string swoop, beat, and other raining instrumental sounds, previous Brags like “fluent in five tongues including Arabic and Fahrenheit” are coloured by more maudlin statements like “I hope these black magic mushroom clouds are gone soon.” A doleful duet with Sixtoo reveals that the Weirdo Magnet crown is as much a personal curse as an artistic blessing.

The topical terrain covered is more abnormal than the way the raps are composed. Themes and subjects include: the decreeing of hiphop’s seven deadly sins, the bizarre reciting of a mathematical equation an even an explanation of the creative process via a mixture of mythology and evolution theory. Each track’s beat may dove-tail into the next like a sedate mixtape but the narrative or train of thought is always disrupted and so from track to track, buck drops the listener into random perspectives much like a dream. The raps’ hallucinatory vibe is complemented by the production aesthetic where by the 4-track mastering of low-sample-rate SP1200 beats influenced by Digable Planets lends these dislocated episodes a warm smudged vibrato feel. Given the project’s flowing musical continuity and pebble-dashing of these one-verse raps, nothing here qualifies as lead single material. That said, this album’s central conversation piece is a series of cuts drawing together eerie recollections of a summer spent at a kids camp in the wilderness. This series of cuts commences with an account of a treacherous bicycle race where the boy Terfry imagines himself leading the Tour de France and closes with a bittersweet realisation of the bitter irony that it takes the tearing down of the placid forest which surrounds the camp to afford him his first ever sight of the sublime mountain range. Memories of this summer camp are recalled and rendered as disturbing olifocal glimpses into a closed community where the tuxedo is the deceptively glamorous uniform of those children misfortunate to have been conscripted for dead animal searches if they refuse to both literally and figuratively speaking, play ball with the counsellors. A highlight of this narrative thread is provided by one track where Buck recalls how, even though his side win the basket ball game, his decision to show off instead of making an easy slam dunk earn him the sour taste of regret and one of the tuxedos. These surreal recollections of a childhood vacation at a summer camp in the Canadian wilderness where all must find their place in the hierarchy of basketball players and over-dressed road-kill disposers serves as a grim microcosm of society.

More so than any of his other albums, Weirdo magnet engages with hiphop through many criticisms and observations like “kids like gangsta rap because they desire violence others want to hook with the hoez like fire hydrants.” Indeed, proceedings draw to a close with a track where Buck65 ceases being the crate-digging observational rapper and speaks as a fan who has bought the follow up to a once great artist’s hit album, saying about the unnamed fallen idol to which the track is dedicated, “If there’s one thing that gets me perplexed it’s how you can be dope on one record and wack on the next.” Buck65 has never suffered second album syndrome
But that’s because he’s always recognised where the preceding work had room for improvement and that’s the direction in which he heads. While he would go onto create works of such impressive cohesion such as Vertex or Square here he doesn’t manage to weave the project’s three or so thematic threads through to the end and so it is only the summer camp sequence that appears complete. In the tradition of Roald Dahl, Buck65 says some profoundly dark and twisted stuff but in a very childlike way. His stylised kid speak is an acquired taste and when used for egotistic ends with lyrics like “hi I’m coco the clown / here to tell you kiddies that you’re going down / down hard, you’ll be in a neck brace / when I run up and wreck the place”
it gets sketchy. The Buck65 formula of reeling off one verse that’s as long as it takes whatever he wants to say for that track can get annoying when he refuses to follow through an idea or vibe for more than a couple minutes – especially the one where he simply recites an equation… Fortunately, living up to his boast “all I know how to do is take breaks and turn them into snake shapes.” Usually followed by scratches which add the matched and layered beats a new rhythm. It’s an album that’s over before you know it.

- Sumo Kaplunk | profile

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