Hip-hop fans have different opinions on what to make of Buck 65.
Some people downright loathe him, saying his most recent creation, Talkin’ Honky Blues, is anything but hip-hop because it’s closer to spoken-word poetry over beats. Others worship the one-man army because he digresses from the formulaic mainstream drivel. And both sides are right.
With Talkin’ Honky Blues, Buck 65, a.k.a. Rich Terfry, a.k.a. Stinkin’ Rich, sets himself apart from the bling and the bling in hip-hop. And in a sense, this album — Buck’s seventh released on a host of labels, including Anticon, Metaforensics and WEA — is more cabaret than hip-hop. The video for single "Wicked and Weird" had our hero driving along a dirt road in a classic Buick sharing the wheel with maniacal puppets. And believe it or not, that sets the mood for the album.
Parts of Talkin’ Honky Blues combine the twangy electronic parts of Beck’s Mellow Gold with the off-beat insanity of Tom Waits. Hints of organs, jingle bells and spaghetti Westerns linger in the background, leaving an eerie mark.
Hailing from a small isolated community in Nova Scotia, Canada, Buck 65 reads a hell of a lot and it definitely comes off; his work is more literary than musical. Inspired by everything from poetry to prog rock, he doesn’t repeat the chorus. His album unfolds like a story and contains elements of gripe ("Protest"), romance ("Exes") and exhaustion ("Tired Out").
In a recent interview, Terfry said Talkin’ Honky Blues is his most accessible record to date. "A lot of my stuff in the past is pretty challenging and be regarded as esoteric even though I didn’t really mean to make it esoteric," he said. "A lot of people in hip-hop really endeavor to make the delivery of the words technical. If you’re not rapping 1,000 miles an hour and doing these crazy gymnastics things with your words then it’s valid somehow and that’s not mandate."
Although only 32, he’s been put in the caliber as hip-hop gurus Biz Markie and Peanut Butter Wolf in Mr. Dibbs’ 1200 Hobos collective. Perhaps he’s not quite up to their status yet, but Talkin’ Honky Blues is getting him there. It’s a smart album that not only has something to say but also isn’t afraid to experiment with sounds from all over — country, folk or rock.
And that’s rare to find on record shelves these days.