LA mainstay Busdriver returns with his 8th full-length album Perfect Hair which also marks his return to Big Dada after a string of releases for Anti/Epitaph, Mush and most recently Fake Four.
Known for his acerbic wit and facetious pop culture references, Driver has always been at odds with hip hop, preferring the company of more eclectic artists such as CocoRosie, Nick Thornburn (Islands/The Unicorns), Daedelus and Deerhoof all of whom he has collaborated with at various points throughout his career. That being said it would be hard to classify his music as anything other than hip hop even though it draws heavily from a wide range of eclectic genres and styles.
On early albums Memoirs of the Elephant Man and Temporary Forever we were introduced to Driver’s unique vocal style but it wasn’t until 2004’s Cosmic Cleavage that he really made his mark. Produced entirely by Alpha Pup label boss and founder of Low End Theory, Daddy Kev, the album is largely composed of jazz samples that meld perfectly with Driver’s loose, flamboyant flow.
Where Cosmic Cleavage had a consistent, thematic approach, the 2005 follow up Fear of a Black Tangent was the first real taste of the artist we know today. Stylistically varied yet cohesive it became apparent that Driver’s influences lay outside the typical realm of hip hop.
The album’s that followed continued to showcase this restless flair jumping from the indie, psychedelic feel of 2009’s Roadkill Overcoat, the LA beat scene tapping 10 Haters through his side project Flash Bang Grenada, to the singsong electronica of his 2012 album Beaus$Eros produced by Belgian artist Loden.
This brings us to 2014 and Busdriver’s latest effort Perfect Hair. Over the last few years Driver seems to have found a home within Hellfyre Club amongst like-minded rappers Nocando, Open Mike Eagle, Milo and others; And in a way this collective has helped to clarify Driver’s connection with hip hop, providing a musical mission statement which is easier to consume and may ultimately appeal to a wider audience.
Driver takes on production duties for roughly half the tracks on the album (more than any previous album), showing how his confidence has grown in this field over the years and providing some of the album’s most memorable moments with irrepressible album opener ‘Retirement Ode’ and the Fog-sampling ‘King Cookie Faced (for Her)’.
‘Bliss Point’ finds him once again voicing his disenchanted relationship with hip hop, a theme visited numerous times throughout his career, (listen to ‘Rap Sucks’ from Cosmic Cleavage for a taste) personifying it in sensationalist tabloid fashion. Lead single ‘Ego Death’ enlists indie rap heavyweights Danny Brown and Aesop Rock who are both in fine form atop a brooding beat courtesy of Jeremiah Jae.
Whilst the underlying hip hop foundations of Driver’s work appear at the forefront here more than on recent releases, there are still a number of tracks informed by the pop ventures of previous efforts such as ‘Sunshower’ and ‘You Ain’t OG’. The one-two punch of ‘Upsweep’ and ‘Motion Lines’ are perfect examples of this recalling the melodic, catchy refrains of Beaus&Eros. And it’s this knack for creating the memorable hooks that define a lot of Driver’s work that sets him apart from the mediocrity that shrouds a lot of current day hip hop.
Perfect Hair may be intimidating to listeners unfamiliar with Busdriver’s work but is as good a place as any to dive in at the deep end. His evolution over the years is something to behold and this latest effort is another fine entry in an expansive and impressive body of work.