BUCK 65 “Why can’t hip hop just leave me alone?”
Buck 65

Mon Jan 20

Berbati's

For years, Buck 65 (aka Rich Terfry) has been plagued with the same reoccurring dream of losing all his teeth.

This dream is not uncommon, though, as other musicians have admitted to having the same toothless nightmares. While it's impossible to give a scientific analysis of what's happening in a person's head from dreams alone, a very unscientific scan of internet sites reveals a loose connection between guys dreaming about losing their pearly whites and concerns about their ability to perform.

In a two-hour conversation with Buck 65 from his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it becomes clear as to why a cross-genre artist like himself would go through a dentured identity crisis. As a kid who grew up on hiphop, 65 originally came up as a rapper who started releasing records in the early '90s. He's had six albums under his Language Arts series--the latest, Square, is available in the U.S. on import. Although he constructs his music on the skeleton of hiphop--slow, steady beats, sampled loops, and scratching fits--like DJ Shadow, 65 weaves in elements from so many other genres (folk, classical, cathedral organs, piano medleys, and film snippets) that he no longer associates with mainstream hiphop.

"I find myself taking more and more steps away from hiphop," he says, "and it's a little sad sometimes because it's the music I grew up with. But I just feel less and less of a place for myself within it. So I kind of ran away from home and went to new places where I could find music that talks to me."

65 stays true to his original influences, though, in the way he crafts his beats. "I'm experimenting with producing my own sounds, but one thing I believe in is when it comes to the drums, the history of hiphop is centered around the break, and so those drums and that sound is key to me. I'm still very into that dusty drum sound. I'd rather hear those old garbage cans then some kind of robotic drum machine."

In general, though, he says he's "more like Sparklehorse than like Ludacris. I just want hiphop to leave me alone. If you like my record and like other hiphop records, that's fine, but I hope I can also bring people out to my shows who like Lambchop and Vic Chestnut."

Buck 65 is a very earnest performer, one who aims to create "intimacy" at his live shows. He delivers spoken-word narratives over his tracks about beautiful girls getting mocked on the playground and guys born with their hearts on the outside. He layers these stories with the gossamer lining of late-night jazzy loops.

"There's nothing tough about me," he says seriously. "I don't think I could even pretend to pull that off. I'm pretty gentle and easygoing, and a lot of my inspiration these days comes from folk music and blues. There's a whole other attitude that goes into a lot of that music. That attitude also has a lot to do with my background. I grew up in a rural setting, and the music here is folk music--that has a lot to do with telling it like it is without being too flowery."

The slow and steady path is paying off for Buck 65, though, who recently inked a deal with Warner Canada and has been name-dropped by Radiohead so often that he's now in talks with the übergroup about possible collaborations. All of this is having a direct effect on Buck 65's sleeping patterns, which don't involve naked gums anymore--possibly an effect of getting more comfortable about swimming upstream in his break from hiphop.

"Recently I had that dream again. My teeth were about to fall out and there was all this blood," he says, "and then it just hit me. Holy crap, I'm dreaming. I finally spit all my teeth out, whereas usually I'm panicked, and I don't want to lose them. I just let go and spit them all over the place, and I haven't had the dream since. It was like I kicked [that fear] in the ass."