Jessica Miller

Busdriver really is a weird fucker. Historically, he has relatively few analogs in the world of rap. His staccato, free-association style, laced with seemingly random tonal variations, has about as much in common with contemporary hiphop as it does with the Knife. But, since the avant garde in hiphop's underground has become more and more celebrated, with artists like Aesop Rock and Awol One gaining popularity along with the rise of their abstract imitators, guys like Busdriver seem comparatively less odd. Busdriver's recent releases form a response to the question, "What does a weird rapper do when the general level of weirdness rises near enough to his style for him to spit at it?" The answer: He gets weirder.

Busdriver's most recent release, this year's RoadKillOvercoat, is an explosion of rampant creativity. Busdriver is like the physical embodiment of Bob Dylan's lament on "Maggie's Farm": "I've got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane." Each track on the album is equally ragged and packed, with Busdriver shouting pronouncements like an insane drifter. The surprising thing about the work is that despite each song being like a jigsaw piece with 100 wildly diverging points, the entire album fits together remarkably well, and is actually quite listenable. What makes this possible is Busdriver's talent. The man has a head full of insane ideas, yes, but most of them are pretty well executed when he gets up to the mic, because he has a good voice.

The high point of the album may be "Sun Shower," a catchy electronic tune that is as much sung as it is rapped by Busdriver, in which he voices the hilarious line, "I saw you in a passing glance/It was you and your DJ in magic pants." The album is expertly produced by Nobody and Boom Bip, avant provocateurs themselves. What is important to remember about RoadKillOvercoat, Busdriver's music, and "experimental" music at large is that it works best when it's listenable.

Many so-called "abstract" rappers are dismissed by fans of hiphop's harder or more accessible genres as being weird for weirdness' sake, and for saying a bunch of shit that doesn't really mean anything in their rhymes. Busdriver has been part of this ongoing debate as much as a guy like Aesop Rock has. What has to be understood about Busdriver is that his multi-tonal spray of strangeness erupted in response to what came before him in hiphop; he is a response to what hiphop was and, as a result, has become what hiphop is, in some way. Busdriver began rapping in the LA Project Blowed scene at age 15 in 1993. His style blossomed from atypical to the weirdness that it is today in the years between 1993 and 2000's Memoirs of the Elephant Man, Busdriver's first solo release. The moral of the story is that before you had even started listening to rap, Busdriver was in the thick of it and trying to find a way to push it in new directions. He continues to push boundaries and envelopes with each new release, and more power to him—he's the rare abstract artist who has the fundamental skills to make representational art but declines to do so for aesthetic reasons rather than a de facto lack of skill.