THE LA VET'S TAKE ON THE CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS OF INDIE HIP-HOP…
LA's full-throttle verbal surrealist Busdriver might be best known for his breathlessly overcrowded style of emceeing, but he isn't afraid to pose awkward questions. His new LP 'Fear Of A Black Tangent' is a case in point. It asks: How did it come to pass that the underground hip-hop scene was hijacked by a bunch of white indie kids? More to the point, where have all the black emcees gone? Busdriver has some answers…
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE ALBUM TITLE?
"2Mex helped me. I'd just watched 'Fear Of A Black Hat' on DVD and he was like 'Fear Of A Black Tangent' - that's your next shit!' And I was like 'For Real!' A lot of independent emcees focus on the upside like 'Oh, we're on the top of our game' but I want to focus on the other side because I am that. The title relates to what I think is happening right now. Black emcees are a lot less prominent than they used to be and I think the 'non-black' frontmen in hip-hop groups has a lot to do with it."
WHAT ABOUT, SAY, MF DOOM?
"Sure, MF Doom's doing his thing but it doesn't cross over like Slug or Atmosphere do. A big part of that is he's black and doesn't have that edgy indie look. When I started the crowd was predominantly black and now it's not. How did that happen? The average black guy or girl isn't disposed to go to an underground rap show. Mainstream rap is being channeled to the black crowd so what I do is becoming less and less accessible to both the black audience and the non-black hip-hop crowd.
WHY DO YOU THINK THIS HAS COME TO PASS?
"I think the labels in the States are definitely looking for artists who've already established themselves, like a Sage Francis a Slug or a Buck 65. It's more about numbers than seeing potential. It's not that they don't want inventive, thought-provoking artists - they just don't want to take the risk and put in the spadework building them up."
ARE YOU A BIG FAN OF PUBLIC ENEMY?
"I don't have to address Chuck D and Public Enemy's influence on me. It's in me! It's the whole reason why I work! In fact, I had to stop listening to Public Enemy a couple of years ago because I was completely overloaded on them. I really want to write material like that one day but it's hard to get anybody to go with you on that kind of trip. It seems much harder to pull off something like that right now."