On his latest album, "RoadKillOvercoat," Busdriver isn't out to make friends with the right ("you voted in a defrosted Cro-Magnon man") or the left ("smearing salad on an SUV can't save the black faces at refugee camp"). If the L.A. rapper is reaching out to anyone, it's fans of hip-hop that pushes boundaries. The beats on "RoadKillOvercoat" incorporate elements of ambient techno, indie rock and dancehall, a multifaceted foundation for Busdriver's metaphor-drenched, tongue-twisting verses. When the MC takes the stage in Soundlab (110 Pearl St.) at 9 p.m. Wednesday, he won't be there to back a presidential candidate, but he'll certainly be endorsing a party.
>Do you perform with a full band or just a DJ?
It's kind of a combination of the two. There's an electronic band, which plays keyboards, guitar and bass. And there's the turntables and drum machines. It's pretty involved on their end.
>"RoadKillOvercoat" has been called an indie-rock album. Is that accurate?
No. There are certainly one or two genuine attempts at making indie-ish pop songs, but I don't think that encompasses the whole approach. The record has a more poppy appeal to it, because the song structures are really geared toward choruses. It's a slightly different tint, dealing with dance music and psychedelic-sounding stuff, but it's still very much a Busdriver record.
>Would you consider yourself a "conscious rap" artist?
I've never really been called that. Most conscious rap I'm not that into. People who are so-called "conscious rappers" really suggest that you follow a certain set of rules, that you display them, wear them on your sleeves, write about them and rap about them.
>But isn't it just a term that describes hip-hop with social commentary?
Yeah, but there are plenty of rappers that integrate social commentary, and conscious rappers definitely have an approach. It's very akin to what Public Enemy did, except corny. There are some people that do it well -- Immortal Technique does it very well -- but a lot of the politics are really kind of trite. They definitely mean well, like, "Yeah, recycle, and don't be racist!" It's just not as provocative as it once may have been.
>How has rap changed since you got started in the mid-'90s?
There's not an emphasis on local talent. It's more about national acts. People don't have to go out and find their fix; it's marketed to them somehow. Every nook of it has been co-opted by some kind of business entity, and that's not bad, but it seems like kids don't know how to rap -- like, really rap -- anymore. Not that kids can't write songs, but there was a day when people would just rap a lot.
-- Joe Sweeney, Special to The News