With his witty rhymes and nasally voice, Busdriver has been steadily building up and expanding upon the L.A. alternative rap scene since 2001, when his debut, Memoirs of an Elephant Man, came out. With each subsequent release, the MC embellished his already eclectic repertoire with increasingly off-the-wall lyrics and production (the latter handled by a number of different people). On RoadKillOvercoat, his first record with Anti/Epitaph, he continues this trend, branching out even further from more typical hip-hop associations and moving towards indie rock and electronica territory. It's the kind of shift that's likely to bother fans of the MC's fast and intricate delivery, because more often than not, Busdriver ends up singing his lines with a kind of slow whine that would make emo proud. Tracks like "Sun Shower" and "Dream Catcher's Mitt" are pure indie pop, and even the more rap-oriented songs, like "Pompous Posies! Your Party's No Fun" and "Casting Agents and Cowgirls" have strongly melodic, refrain-like hooks. Lyrically, Busdriver is still as cynical and biting as ever, constantly criticizing and making fun of different groups of people and drawing attention to various hypocrisies. He takes an especially hard swing at hippies, mentioning them frequently throughout the album, accusing them of empty actions and simply following popular trends for appearance's sake. But while statements like "these hippies are holier than thou at poorly attended peace marches holding cold veggie dogs.../Cuz smearing a salad on a SUV can't save the black faces at the refugee camp" and "working class heroism is stylish all season" are certainly blunt, they're almost so caustic that it's as if he's mocking himself for, as he calls it in the album's notes, his "niche-based, nonsense rap." That's a fitting description of RoadKillOvercoat, actually, and the MC's ability to recognize it shows a disarmingly candid self- and world-awareness. "I...drive my stretched Humvee through rap fads like an occupied Baghdad" he rhymes in "Secret Skin," and though he may be speaking for a collective "I," he's including himself in it (he is less catholic, however with President Bush, who though is never named directly, is clearly the object of opprobrium and the reference of the epithets "populous Texan," "troglodyte," and "daddy's spoiled son"). The beats on the album, mostly provided by Nobody and Boom Bip, are structured almost like rock songs with clear verse and chorus parts, and work well with all of this, and their synthesized elements fit the MC's nasally sneer nicely. But while Busdriver's refusal to adhere to genre boundaries may be a refreshing alternative to tiresome rap trends, it can also distract from his true lyrical talent. RoadKillOvercoat will certainly win him some fans who have previously avoided hip-hop, but for those same reasons, it might also cost him some, too.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
feat: Bianca Casady