Buck 65: Situation (Strange Famous Records, 2007)

December 20th, 2007

“Situation” adopts a classic 1980s hip-hop sound with reference to a late 1950s motif — 1957 to be exact. The year is indicative of a time in which then-underground rock ‘n’ roll artists began to gain mainstream popularity in American culture, which Buck relates to underground hip-hop today with artists like Talib Kweli, El-P and Brother Ali.

The first track, appropriately titled “1957,” references familiar 50s figures like Bettie Paige and Elvis Presley, featured alongside a catchy piano beat with a Thelonious Monk feel. Buck also uses a jazzy snare-to-cymbal sound meshed with a simple bongo beat, reminiscent of Kool and the Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” on “Lipstick.” Buck’s patented funk and blues style in these tracks comes through, but it’s the characters he creates within each song that add to the strength of the album. The track “Mr. Nobody,” sung through the eyes of a bitter divorced man, is the best example. Lyrics like “Mostly poor/little things you have to look closely for/I hate kids/Standing in line at the grocery” develop the character so that it’s not Buck anymore rapping, but a character expressing his story.

In prior albums, Buck’s reoccurring problem was his cohesion. But the 1957 theme, however, has helped Buck focus on his track transitioning and theme. Even though a song like “Spread ‘Em,” which concerns prison sex, doesn’t fit the theme very well, it also doesn’t seem out of place, located after a song about ‘50s’ pornography (“Shutter Buggin’”). In this aspect “Situation” isn’t quite a concept album, but a reference guide for an artist concentrating the content of his maturing musical style.

-Matt Duelka

Whaling Wall Matthew Farrell
Chow Feng Shui Josh Elmer
Stained Glass Ceiling Emily McNeill
Anarchitect Mike Berlin
SaHarrison Desert Harrison Flatau
Metrolollipopolis Jennifer Konerman
Tropic of Scurvy Heather Newberger
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Front cover and back cover of print edition by Jake I. Forney.
Section dividers of print edition by Jake I. Forney and Justin Lubliner.