Hey, there are rappers in Nova Scotia. Who knew? There's a couple, actually. Like Sixtoo, Josh Martinez (a frequent collaborator of Portland's Sleep), and Buck 65. Buck started making rap records in the early 1990s and he rapped a lot about baseball and wack emcees in a funny fake voice. Eventually Buck hooked up with the burgeoning Anticon "experimental" hiphop clique and his 1999 album Man Overboard proved to be a keystone in the group's signature style.
As time went by he got sick of rap and started singing. Then in 2004, he said, "I now hate hiphop" in an interview with Kerrang! magazine. In response, Sage Francis said Buck "has had his head up his arse for a long time now." Then Buck 65 apologized and said he actually really, really likes hiphop, and this year he made another rap record, Situation.
Jumping around from song to song and album to album in the Buck 65 discography is a bit like vicariously experiencing an identity crisis. You feel the angst, you feel the confusion, and you can almost smell the desperation. Sleuthing through tracks you can see that at some point in the late '90s, after rapping conventionally for a decade, Buck 65 decided he wanted to be Tom Waits. He even put a cover of a Waits song on Man Overboard. Talkin' Honky Blues (2003) in particular sounds like one long Waits homage, with more rhymes and less believability.
It's almost sad listening to bits of Buck's records back to back—you want to just give him a hug, hoping it'll make him stop, but then you realize he actually gets paid to do this stuff. Well, conceivably. He's experienced a fair bit of C-level celebrity in Canada for a while now. He even appeared on a Canadian music awards show in 2006 alongside what is left of Pamela Anderson! Now there's something for your fucking resume. It all kind of makes me shake my head. Maybe it's because he's from Canada. Secondhand probably sounds more original up there.
Perhaps the oddest thing about my feelings for Buck 65's music is that—despite sensing that he's a pompous prick and thinking that most of his more recent catalog is derivative and self-indulgent crap—I kind of like some of his work in spite of myself. 2005's Secret House Against the World is probably Buck's most melodic work to date and features some actual catchy songs. And his newest record, Situation, his semi-triumphant return to rap or whatever, isn't that bad either.
When you get down to it, Buck 65 does have some pretty interesting lyrics and even when he was spitting rhymes in a pseudo-1920s gangster voice at the beginning of his career he could still flip a decent punch line. And I could never fault the guy for a lack of effort. I mean, Buck 65's discography plays out before your eyes like a desperate prop-comedian's bag of gags: He's trying really hard to please us. Give him a hand and tell him you appreciate his style—otherwise he might get miffed and decide his true artistic voice is best spoken through klezmer or some shit.