Return of Buck 65: reliving the past

Folksy hip-hop artist Buck 65 releases his first States-side album since 2005.

Megan Kadrmas

What we’re gonna do right here is take it back. Way back.

We’re taking it all the way back to 1957, a pivotal year for the United States. Artsy Canadian rapper Buck 65 builds a time machine on his new album, “Situation.”

Buck 65, Cecil Otter (of Doomtree), Bernard Dolan

WHEN: 8 p.m., Nov. 23
WHERE: 7th Street Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis
TICKETS: 18+, $10 advance, $12 at door, www.first-avenue.com

Although presented as a concept album, anchoring the theme of the album to a year gives Buck 65 enough room to roam to varied subjects and sounds while still fencing off his boundaries. And with a mind that bounces from one idea to another as quickly as Buck’s does, having those boundaries is necessary.

But why did he choose 1957? That was the year tensions and fears between the States and USSR peaked with the successful launch of Sputnik by the Russians. The government advised families to build fallout shelters and stock up on canned goods.

Racial tensions within the country were also at a breaking point. The National Guard was deployed by Arkansas’s governor to block nine black students from enrolling at Central High School, an all-white public school in Little Rock.

Culturally, the underground scene of the Beat generation, pornography and rock ‘n’ roll spilled into the mainstream. Customs officials confiscated Allen Ginsberg’s poem, “Howl,” when it arrived from England under charges of obscenity. Jack Kerouac published “On the Road.” Elvis Presley released “Jailhouse Rock.”

“Situation” dissects this year, the breaking point for so many aspects of innocent, wholesome American life. But “Situation” does not sound like a history paper or a news report.

His gravelly, smokey, folksy voice blends modern life with events from a half century ago. The music itself is modern, with amazing scratch sessions by Skratch Bastid, but features samples of sounds from an earlier era.

On the deliciously dirty “Shutter Buggin,’ ” Buck becomes a soft-core porn photographer. The vintage references abound in this track, from the repeated sound of an old-school camera clicking to lines like, “Plus I made millimeter films of some strip teases.”

Throughout “Situation,” Buck embraces a more classic hip-hop sound, in contrast to his folk-rock country twang on other recent projects.

“Way Back When” could pass for a late ’50s song – especially the melodic hook – except for its hip-hop corruption. Skratch Bastid, who Buck has worked with on previous albums, skillfully destroys the sampling by ripping and tearing up the record with scratches. The music also contains a party-style drum and clap line, further perverting the solid-gold sample.

“Situation” is only Buck 65’s second release in the States, although he has an extensive list of international releases. The album is more concentrated and contained than his 2005 U.S. debut, “This Right here is Buck 65,” but plays with the same blend of folk and hip-hop in a style music-heads have labeled “avant-garde hip-hop.”

on the web

Check out Megan’s exclusive interview with Buck 65 on the A&E blog

Although “Situation” isn’t a time machine in the sense of some other time-themed concept albums, like Deltron’s “3030,” the concept give Buck the creative freedom he needs to weave his intricate and impressive lyrical stories.

But the concept also limits him to certain general topics, which is vital to the success of artists like Buck 65, who try to squeeze so many thoughts into each song that they run the risk of losing the audience during the lyrical journey.