LA’s Busdriver, a staple of the city’s underground scene for the past decade plus, came through Manhattan on the heels of his weirdest album yet, Beaus$Eros The record, a complete reimagining of the artist’s vocal cords released earlier this year via Fake Four Inc, chronicles a devastating breakup and the road to recovery. Playing the downstairs stage at Santos Party House, replete with a cheesy silver backdrop he compared to a stovetop popcorn container, Busdriver showed off the new record through the electro-pop sing-along of “Bon Bon Fire” and pensive, slow-building “Utilitarian Uses Of Love.” On the latter track, Busdriver croons “This freedom it tastes funny / I am a case study,” outlining some downer content to come juxtaposed with head-nodding uptempo production. Belgian producer Loden supplied all the beats on his latest post-rap effort, providing necessary cohesion for Busdriver to dissect his heartache and get some ugliness off his chest.
The biggest cheers of the evening came from the Project Blowed emcee’s back catalogue. “Avantcore,” a title poking fun at sub-genre classification, was a welcome Fear Of A Black Tangent addition to the setlist. There were some remarkably rhythmically-challenged individuals in the audience and their spastic awkwardness peaked dramatically when the meandering flute of “Imaginary Places” kicked in. Perhaps they were being ironic. As we were leaving the venue, a friend suggested this particular Santos crowd was the most eclectic he had ever witnessed at a rap show. From the artists in the house such as Despot and Dapwell to the mother and daughter rocking out to the elderly gentleman dead center with a dance routine straight out of a Tim and Eric Awesome Show sketch, I’m inclined to agree.
A couple tracks from Busdriver’s Flash Bang Grenada side project found their way into the atmosphere despite his partner-in-rhyme Nocando being absent. The shit-talking “Moisturizer” showcased Busdriver’s clever lyricism and comedic sexual innuendo. “Two Track Mind” ran a similar route while displaying his ever-improving singing chops. Many were caught off guard by the abundance of singing and vocoder on Beaus$Eros, but love it leave it, one must give credit to Busdriver for boldly taking a chance that risked alienating his fanbase and ultimately resulted in a record label dropping him.
Busdriver’s chameleon delivery dropped jaws on the elastic, piano-laden verses of “Me Time (With The Pulmonary Palimpsest),” a standout from the Jhelli Beam LP. He is often regarded as the world’s fastest rapper and large sections of his Wednesday night performance stood as evidence. And unlike the tongue-twisters of yesteryear (e.g. Twista and Bone Thugs N Harmony), Busdriver brings substance and hilarious cultural commentary to go along with the parlor tricks. Unfortunately for him, much of his genius was lost to Santos’ subpar sound system, resulting in breathless tangents and pop culture witticisms being lost in the mix.