Fear Of A Black Tangent
ip-hop’s "Chicken Little” is a well-worn analogy and I would hate to be the one to walk that path. Everyone from Chuck D to KRS-One to O.C to whoever the fuck has been pinned as the man with the glass ball and the hand to crush what’s inside, so you can see why I don’t want to fall into that trap. Then again, what can you do about fate? Busdriver is a megaphone under a constant barrage of cloud crashes. So why not say it? Working the show circuit in a fluid, difficult black stylistic movement on the west coast, our hero is disillusioned, exhausted, disseminated, but still a ‘style snob’. And this is his Starry Night. “I’ve never been so successful ‘til I died” proves that. Crooning “It’s a Fear Of A Black Tangent, idiot/ A Public Enemy spoof” in his “Yawning Zeitgeist Intro”, Busdriver lays out his cards immediately, as if he were scared about the ramifications this album could have for his cadre of mostly white fans. And he has the right to feel this way. Because this is his screamscape and Fear Of A Black Tangent is his way of protecting us from ourselves.
Racial tension is thick on this record, as can be assumed, but it points to a different facet than you’d expect. He tries to explain how this wasn’t his intention early on (“I told this one guy that the new record was called Fear Of A Black Tangent and he was like ‘What? I can’t be down because I’m not a black guy?’ No, it’s not really like that…”) but subconsciously he has a vendetta for and against the black listenership throughout. “It’s the resurgence of the happy black rappers/ But our African medallions are handicap placards” is a glaring indictment of Good Life café offshoots like Jurassic 5 that attempt an inauthentic nouveau Native Tongue movement. It’s not just monochrome on Busdriver’s mind either, he’s worried about a few things, actually:
“Wanna hear a live performance?” (NO!) “How about I promise a verse?” (NO!) “What if I made a television appearance?” (NO!) “Wanna hear some exclusive tracks?” (NO!) “Damn, tough crowd!”
On the record, Busdriver is stressed out about bills, going over budget making this record, overeagerness for friendship and, uhhh, the Sphinx’s Coonery, whatever that may be. Still, it all sounds pretty good. He recruits the expected Project Blowed homies: the consistently incredible Mikah 9, the ridiculously uninteresting 2Mex, the half-asleep Aceyalone. The guests contribute positive balance to our rapper’s frantic word salad, but it isn’t exactly necessary. His flow has calmed down exponentially when compared to older efforts, but that isn’t to say you’ll be hearing him on Hot 97 in between bomb drops and gatling guns.
The beats span the spectrum between Anticon-esque weirdo-hop (“Low Winged Flying Books”) to bread-and-butter breakbeats (Paris Zax’s “Note Boom”) and that is best for an artist with so many diverging styles and ideas. Production from Daedelus, Thavius Beck, Paris Zax and Omid and remixes from Prefuse 73 and D-Styles keep things varied and quite forward in arrangement. The standout is definitely Danger Mouse’s “Cool Band Buzz”, a frantic, jilted boom-bap assault over thick string orchestra that allows Bus to let loose about labels, industry parties and scene sluts in all the multisyllabic glory you might expect.
So why does any of this matter? While it is funny to hear a guy who got dissed on both Change Of Heart and Blind Date talk about ‘vaginal secretions’, his music makes up for this minor inconsistency. The album is one of the few anti-industry freakouts that have appealed to me on both a conceptual and musical level, so whether or not you are familiar with Busdriver’s skittering flow or innovative song structure, it’s worth the time to see why he’s so damn mad after all.
Reviewed by: Rollie Pemberton
Reviewed on: 2005-03-08