The rapper known as Busdriver is particularly heated during our phone interview. Earlier this week, the born-and-based Angeleno was stuck somewhere in Arizona, trying to get his engineer/DJ/producer out of jail so he could continue his tour, which (hopefully) will make a stop at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle on Wednesday night.
“I was pulled over for speeding,” says Busdriver, aka Regan Farquhar, 36. “I was getting my little warning and all this other stuff. But, you know, when you get stopped in America, you being stopped is an invite for anything else that could be wrong potentially.”
From the way Busdriver (a name given by a friend when they used to cypher on school buses back in the day) tells it, as one cop was giving him a warning, another cop (in tactical gear) approached the vehicle and asked him some questions as well.
“He says this – I swear to God – ‘Are there any bodies in the car? Are there any drugs? Are there any firearms?’ ” he recalls. “Oh – actually, he didn’t say that first. He said, ‘Why are you sweating?’ Now, mind you, we’re in Arizona!”
Then, Busdriver says, the cops got a drug-sniffing dog to check out the car, where they found, in Busdriver’s words, “an incontestable amount of weed.” Busdriver had his medical marijuana card on him, but unfortunately, his producer didn’t. So he got tossed in the paddy wagon. “They had no cause to search the car – none!” exclaims Busdriver. “We missed Albuquerque – that’s all that money.”
As someone who grew up the son of screenwriter Ralph Farquhar (“Krush Groove”) and TV scribe (“Married with Children,” “Moesha”) in an upper middle-class family, Busdriver has spent most of his professional career doing everything he possibly could not to fit the profile of an average MC. Known for dense rhymes, eccentric wordplay and downright unpredictable flow, the man has worked with the most underground of underground MCs (Myka 9, Nocando, 2Mex) and producers (Daedulus, Boom Bip, Loden). But he’s also collaborated with rockers like Jeff Byron, formerly of The Mae Shi, as they joined forces for a band called Physical Forms.
Busdriver admits he always has a hard time putting a race-heavy spin on rap music. “Definitely when you make something, you’re aware of how you’re being perceived,” he says. “The whole thing of identity is always something I wanted to toy with. I’ve always been bewildered by how normal it is for people to accept black people as these uneducated, unruly heathens – and I feel guilty for saying it out loud, but it’s very true.”
For his latest album, “Perfect Hair,” he worked with producers like Jeremiah Jae and Mono/Poly, from the LA-based Brainfeeder label, home to such artists as Thundercat and label founder Flying Lotus. Aesop Rock, Danny Brown and Open Mike Eagle are a few of the hip-hoppers who do guest shots. As he’s done with other releases, Busdriver got together with artists and producers who are the closest to him, regionally and musically, so they can make music that reflects the time, place and scene they know so well.
“I just really think it’s important for people to know that I’m not a careerist,” he says. “I’m not going to blow up. I don’t think anything. I’m just here, and this culture is [expletive] here. It’s not a [expletive] joke. People really have been doing this left-field, rap, jazz, weird [expletive] for 15-20 years!”
Busdriver keeps pushing, going down roads some rappers are too afraid to drive through.
“I think that vulnerability and the ability to just, like, indulge certain impulses in order to achieve a certain edge, whether intellectually or emotionally, has kind of been sold to me – at least, me – as a very, exclusively white thing,” he says.
“And it’s not like we can’t. I know that we can, but culturally, there aren’t those obvious pathways to it. So I always thought, with Busdriver, it was good for me to speak creatively and as honest as possible.”