Buck 65 is a rare breed: a white Canadian rapper. On his latest release, This Right Here Is Buck 65, Buck complicates things further by incorporating distinctly American themes and instrumentation into his esoteric production style. He not only presents new material, but also reworks several of his aggressive raps into folkier numbers. His now subdued lyrics add to the sincerity of his approach and bolster his candid storytelling technique.

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The best rapper who regularly uses an Oxford knot. (Courtesy of V2)

From the album’s first twangy guitar riff, it is obvious that this isn’t the typical Buck 65. The rearrangements begin shortly after the record starts with stripped-down, string-ridden track “B. SC.” “Centaur,” whose original release on Vertex carried a pompous and unwanted attitude, is the most mutated tune. Though he still discusses being literally “hung like a horse,” Buck removes many of the more outlandish lyrics in exchange for opaque, cryptic musings.

Not all the songs are this trivial. Buck discusses casual recreation — “Well, I went down to the fishing hole / And I sat down with my fishing pole” that quickly evolves into a mystical trip — “I jumped in the river and I went down deep / Saw a hundred pound catfish laying there asleep.”

Buck’s older style has not completely disappeared on Right Here. “Cries A Girl” retains its minimalist beat and tender essence. The track’s morbid subjects — a Southern girl knowing she’s a product of incest and another’s struggle with drug addiction — pull at the listener’s heart without making the tune unlistenable.

Occasionally on Right Here, Buck crosses the experimental boundaries a bit too much. On “463,” he attempts to make yet another genre shift with a distorted guitar riff and a confrontational chorus. He aggressively sings, “463 / Ah yes / And no I can’t think of a better way to end the day” over an uninspired and monotonous guitar line. The track sounds more like a B-side randomly thrown onto the album.

As awkward as this combination of musical and lyrical idioms may seem, this Canadian rapper is challenging American ideas. He incorporates the earthy themes of artists like Johnny Cash, while adding something wholly new to the genre — hip-hop. Buck thrusts rap into the heart of musical Americana, and to him, it seems ludicrous to separate the two.

 

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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