Related Articles: Music, All

Busdriver Q&A

Rap with Cream and Sugar

With a vocal style that can shift from staccato, rapid-fire rhymes to gloomy croons over spooky electro beats, L.A. rapper Busdriverís style is unparallel. He stands out even among his peers in Project Plowed, the seminal collective that spawned noted lyrical stylist Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Mikah 9, and several others. Busdriver performs in support of his latest LP RoadKillOvercoat on January 30th at the Great American Music Hall. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from L.A.

SF Station (SFS): How do you drink your coffee?

Busdriver (BD): With cream and sugar. I put stuff in it.

SFS: Do you drink it often?

BD: I go through periods. Right now Iím not drinking a lot of it. The ritual of getting coffee at a cafe and sitting and reading and watching people, I got accustomed to it but Iím not doing that too much right now.

SFS: Does that help your writing process?

BD: I do write a lot at cafes, so it does help.

SFS: Your lyrical approach is significantly different from other rappers. What influenced you early on and how did you develop your style?

BD: Iím from a collective called Project Blowed and we are made of members of groups like Freestyle Fellowship and all kinds of other groups. So, I was already accustomed to a slightly skewed approach to hip-hop. With that base already there, I sought after other stuff that I thought was cool. I got into a lot of vocalized jazz, like John Hendricks, Jeff Curry and Curt Elling. I like random stuff, like beat poets.

SFS: Youíve been described as having a Dadaist narrative. Is that true?

BD: It could be Dadaist at times. The stuff that I write does not always have a clear, linear path. It kind of bounces around and eventually gets somewhere.

SFS: Musically, the beats that you use are sometimes quite different, too.

BD: It mainly has to do with the time I spent in Europe. In France the club music scene had mellow techno, crunk rap stuff that was more mainstream, and electronica. They were all seamlessly woven into each other and mixed into DJ sets. I kind of got used to hearing that and fell in love with it.

That combined with the talents of producers Boom Bip and Nobody -- who I used on this record -- made the beats kind of a natural choice.

SFS: Your web site says you are ďfrom the ashes of a now somewhat barren L.A. scene.Ē Has the scene where you started died off?

BD: No, it hasnít died off, but it has changed. We are no longer in the heyday of the early and mid 90s, when there were so many prolific and important independent rap groups coming out of L.A. There is just a different musical landscape for hip hop right now. I donít think L.A. can be a breeding ground like it was in the 90s or the late 80s.

SFS: Mainstream West Coast rap also has witnessed a decline and groups in other areas are popular now. Do think that is also the case with underground hip hop?

BD: Yeah, the Midwest took over for a little bit. A lot of important underground rap acts came out of California, but that kind of changed around 2000. A lot groups from the Midwest and East Coast came out, and the whole emo rap thing -- if you want to acknowledge that as an actual movement.

SFS: Has that affected your market at all?

BD: There are now other parts of the country that are now more important to hit up that are kind of little hip hop hotspots. The Midwest is important now. Itís making a certain kind of background and experience not as important any more for hip hop acts and it is making other backgrounds and experiences more likely. Itís interesting times.

SFS: What kind of backgrounds are you talking about?

BD: Itís people from upper middle class homes that went to school. Itís different from the typical hip hop background, which could be from the ghetto or some less flattering social-economical background. Itís just different.

Busdriver performs with Deerhoof and Blackblack on January 30th at Great American Music Hall. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm.