BUCK 65 - SECRET HOUSE AGAINST THE WORLD

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Album: Secret House Against The World
Artist: Buck 65
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Rich Terfry is known as Buck 65. He's originally from Mount Uniacke, NS, but he called Halifax home for many years. My parents had a cottage in Mount Uniacke while I was growing up. If you caught my review of Classified's latest album, you'd be forgiven if you assumed Buck's Nova Scotia roots would guarantee him a good review. You be forgiven because before Secret House Against The World, that was certainly true.

Not anymore. I've been a big Buck fan since Shawn gave me a cassette copy of Vertex in 98. But things have changed with Mr. Terfry, and we all know the deal with Stinkin' Rich these days: he lives in France, loves the classic literature, loves art-house films, has a French wife, and he's a whole lot country and now only a little bit hip hop. And all that's fine. In 98 I would have cared that Buck has moved away from the hip hop and now does some melange of country-folk-blues-spoken word-hip hop. But these days I could care less, bring on the weirdness. I love the banjo, put it in every song. You want some pedal steel? Yessir, wail away. You want to have your French wife talking and singing on every second song? Sure...wait, actually that sucks ass, don't do that.

Seriously, the word "eclectic" can only be stretched so far before the more accurate description becomes "weird crap". And this is Buck 65's "weirdest" album to date, and that's saying something considering he's written songs about a half-horse/half-man porno star and about the proper way to give a shoe shine.

But the wackiness starts from the get go with Roughhouse Blues, which is kind of like Wicked & Weird, but not as good. On Wicked & Weird Buck mentions Johnny Cash, on Roughhouse Blues he sounds just like him. Devil's Eyes is one of a few songs that features Buck singing. Not sure why he thought singing would be a good idea, as he can't do it at all. Le 65 isme almost totally kills this album for me. It sounds like it's being performed by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and it's a hyper-active spoken word style song that features a call & response with his French wife. The repeated chant "Sex, cinema, politique" really makes the song seem too arty for it's own good. But the most cringe worthy song is Drawing Curtains, a french-english spoken duet between Buck where his wife uses the phrase "Let's make dirty babies until the morning". Really, makes me want to put the cock-punching robot on the first flight to France.

It's not all doom and gloom though, there are some good songs on here. Buck is a great storyteller, and the melancholy jams like The Suffering Machine and The Floor both work well. Drunk Without Drinking is Perhaps my favorite song. Best mix of pedal steel, banjo, someone else (I believe) singing the chorus, and Buck's old man stories. Blanc Bec also works as a crazy uptempo jam with live drums, scratching, and thankfully no Buck singing. I also like Corrugated Tin Facade and not just for the great name.

I honestly don't know how to recommend this album. If you're a huge music nerd then you make like it just on principle. But the music is so all over the place that regular folks might have a hard time getting into it. I've listened to it a couple times and still find it too jarring going from one song to another. It's more of an interesting listen than a great album. But Buck 65's from Halifax after all, so just buy the album anyway.


COMMON - BE

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Album: Be
Artist: Common
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From the opening notes of the Mingus-esque bass line of Be, you are quickly aware Common’s new album, Be, is not your standard bling bling, whips and rims style record. Right now, most hip-hop purists should be saying – thank god. After his last album, Common was in danger of losing some of his old fans, but as he says – his life is comparable to Christ, he sacrifices for his people and has been resurrected twice. He takes risk, and isn’t afraid to try something new.

Common is one of the game’s most gifted emcees, and prides himself with his socially aware lyrics. He raps about insecurities, his hood, treating women with respect and still takes times to smash emcee’s that are using hip –hop to make bank and nothing else - “I wonder if these wack emcees know their wack, and they’re the reason my people say they’re tired of rap”. With the help of Kanye and Dilla, he uses old skool jazz riffs and large kicks to create fresh beats for this album. Although Common tells us all we can’t go back to ’94 (still in the fringe of Shane’s golden age of rap), this album has the makings of a classic.

The beats and cameos on this album ad to the diversity. Although I cringed when I saw the name (like I do when I see his face), John Mayer’s voice on Go adds to the flow, and since Mr. West has ventured into the Raymond zone - everyone loves him – Real People will for sure be one of the hottest tracks this summer. I might be alone, but I tire of Kanye’s verses, and wish he would stick to the beats, because this track would be fantastic if they used Kanye’s beat and dropped his ill chorus (the whole “so I did, what I had to did” bugs me).

My favorite track is by far, Chi City. Like a true emcee, Common reps his hood and calls out any haters. This is the first hip hop album I have heard in a long time that gets serious play on my Ipod. It’s a no-doubter. Start to finish, this album stands out, and gets stuck in your head. Songs like Testify and The Corner are more addictive than crack. It is good to see an emcee that is still proud to be in the game, and isn’t looking to bridge style, cross over or star in an Adam Sandler movie.



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