IT COULD BE SAID that Buck 65 has made a point of going his own way. And while some have long written him off as one of those eccentric "art" rappers, the fans of this loner Nova Scotian have enjoyed a 15-year stretch of completely original lyrics and beat making. Having finally lived down one inflammatory--if largely misunderstood--quote ("I hate hip-hop"), Buck steps up with his tenth-odd release, Situation (Strange Famous Records). A sprawling, hypnotic album, Situation finds the MC negotiating a soundscape as classically boom-bap as it is strangely folksy, all the while rapping about the underground currents of the seemingly random year of 1957. Assuming the voices of anonymous narrators, Buck depicts the Beat Generation's censorship trial, the birth of Sid Vicious, and the vultures of McCarthyism. Christened with a raspy, Tom Waits-ish delivery and sampled banjo riffs, Buck 65's Situation is one of indie hip-hop's most ambitious (if completely oddball) albums of recent years. When I interviewed Buck, we had a super dorky conversation about the origin of Situation's title, an anarchist art camp called the Situationist International (founded in the year, you guessed it, 1957). According to Buck, the group's philosophy is embodied by street skating as much as it is by one of Chuck Palahniuk's crappy books.
So tell me about Situationism. I looked it up and it makes no sense to me.
It can be a little bit confusing. I have the feeling that a lot of the people involved (artists and thinkers such as Guy Debord and Alexander Trocchi) were deliberately esoteric, and they resisted the idea of being defined. It was started by people who believed boredom needed to be destroyed at all costs, because that was the worst thing in life. But they didn't want to destroy it in a completely meaningless way. Absurdity was a really big part of what they were doing, which makes a lot of their stuff really hard to understand. It's about a group of people who would be on the street making all kinds of ruckus and spectacle.
Could skateboarding be Situationist?
You know, I think it is I can see that as almost being a perfect medium for it, because there's clearly an artistic side to the whole thing yet it's of course not the type of thing that just sits in a gallery. It's quite literally taken to the street, which I think is really important. And while I think it's an athletic thing, I don't think you can really separate the art from it. I mean, clearly it's a form of expression. And on top of that, there are all sorts of politics that come into play with all the statements being made about street skating in particular. It's not something I would expect most skaters to be aware of, per say, but I think maybe without realizing it, skateboarding is the perfect example of Situationism.
If you ask what skating means to us, we'll tell you to shut up. And isn't it a rule with Situationism that if you call something "Situationist," then it isn't Situationist?
Right. You're exactly right.
But that doesn't make any sense.
I know. It's weird and it's almost backwards, as if someone decided at some point, "Okay, here's our manifesto, and a big important part of it is the fact that we refuse to be defined." It's almost like Fight Club.
I was just going to say that.
You can't even acknowledge it somehow. It's as if being too conscious about it would mess up the flow. I can see how it would be frustrating, and kind of nonsensical. But I get the whole concept of being cooler like a hipster. Like if you admit it, then the whole fucking thing is blown. You almost can't even talk about it because it's awkward and uncomfortable. You have to let it be its own thing.
But you named your album Situation; aren't you breaking the rule?
Well, I wouldn't say that I'm participating in the whole thing. I would just say I'm someone who's observing it, who's interested in it. The purpose of the album is more to raise questions than it is to answer them. But I wouldn't necessarily pose as the one who has the answers. Sometimes just knowing the right questions to ask can be difficult.
Is it effective to point out things that are stupid without proposing any solutions?
I think getting a dialogue going is really important. It's kind of like, you have two groups of people, someone who says, "This sucks and I'm going to give up forever," or you have the kind of person who says, "This sucks and I want to do my part to change it."
So, you think skaters are Situationists but what about rollerbladers? You've expressed severe opinions about them.
I don't allow myself to get as worked up about it as I used to, but suffice to say I was never a big-time fan. I don't know how useful it is to have a conversation about it. I think basically what it boils down to is that they have lots of tricks similar to skateboarding. I guess I just always saw it as training wheels, like skating with a safety net. But, also out of fairness, I can't really say that in the past few years I've had much of a chance to follow it. In fact, to be even fairer, I probably judged rollerblading without my opinion being incredibly well-informed.
That's OK. You're perfectly well-informed.