File under Hip-Hop You Haven’t Heard. Cobbling together songs from nine of his previously released Canada-only albums and EPs, the This Right Here Is Buck 65 compilation serves as a dandy U.S. primer to the lyrics, music, persona and morality of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Richard Terfry, a.k.a Buck 65, a.k.a. a major fucking musical talent.
Oh, and voice, too. Did I mention his voice? Bluesy, scratchy, gravelly, gruff: Think of a rapping Bob Dylan — the now Dylan, the Love and Theft Dylan — and you’re probably not too far off. That voice stakes its claim atop stark trip-hop rhythms, typically accentuated by floating keyboard textures, square-dance banjo, baleful whorls of slide guitar, and subtle electronics (DJ Shadow couldn’t have done the bridge of "Wicked and Weird" any better). The give-and-take interplay between voice and music makes for a striking sound.
And within that striking sound are some mesmerizing lyrics. Buck, who also goes by Stinkin’ Rich and is a member of Mr. Dibbs’s 1200 Hobos crew, is so subtle with his compound rhymes sometimes they might just pass you by — "dumb, in fact/ coming back," for example, or "Feast your eyes upon my nudity/ I am beauty and the beast" (note the palindromic structure, plus the eyes/I rhyme that anchors the couplet). You’ll still find new rhymes on the eighth, ninth, tenth listen; I know I have.
Elsewhere, you’ll suss out a sharp eye for detail and a well-tuned ear for folksy colloquialisms and laugh lines. But most crucially, Buck — a straight-edger and self-professed loner — infuses his lyrics with the moral clarity of Lyrics Born or Chuck D and the empathic heart-wrench of I can’t even think of an apt comparison. The quietly seething "Pants on Fire" describes a former friend (lover?) who "spoke my gospel like an apostle/ but on the other side of town you got that stuff up in your nostril." Meanwhile, the tender "Cries a Girl" describes a "dirt-poor" (rhymes with "hurt more") family torn asunder by rumors of inbreeding. Heavy stuff, for real. But, lest you think Buck is all indignation and sadness, This Right Here also includes "Centaur," a song about being well hung.
This right here is a great album. But what makes it most exciting is that Buck is clearly bursting with great ideas. "Out of Focus" is musically out of focus, and completely engrossing; the Woody Guthrie cover is inspired; and the incredible "Craftsmanship" deals explicitly with shining shoes and implicitly with toiling and toiling until you’ve found your niche, only to have that niche abruptly snatched from you (there’s that morality and empathy thing again). Great ideas like that can’t help but bump into each other on a mere U.S. primer; that is, the individual pieces of This Right Here don’t quite fit together into a single whole. I’d bet my checking account, however, that the album he’s currently finishing up coheres masterfully.