when i first heard buck 65's album, vertex, i couldn't believe hip hop could sound so progressive. he uses his originality and inteligence to advance rap music to the next level. until vertex, i was disillusioned with the state of hip hop, and disgusted with its stars. integrity didn't mean shit anymore, but i remember when "selling out" was a bad thing for a rapper to do. after talking to buck 65, i realized there was hope for the art of hip hop.

ryan o'connor wrote this interview, but it was actually the result of ryan, marc macdonald, and myself having breakfast with buck one morning in halifax.

Buck 65 discusses hip-hop, centaurs and the truth about Len by Ryan O'Connor

CHARLOTTETOWN (CUP) - It's a breath of fresh air to meet an artist who places musical integrity above financial gain. Halifax hip hop legend Buck 65 is one such artist.

Despite a constant pull to relocate to a city with a larger market for his unique style, Halifax remains Buck's headquarters.

Perhaps the most compelling attempt to get him out of his home province occurred just over a year ago when Marc Costanzo, Len's Burger Pimp, gave Buck a phone call.

After helping Len record their breakthrough album, You Can't Stop The Bum Rush, Costanzo was hoping his friend would join the group. But despite the opportunity to make a pile of cash, Buck wasn't up for it.

"Len's image is all about having fun," said Buck. "I don't like to have fun."

Before Buck had the opportunity to reject the offer to join the group, the album's cover art had been printed. As a result, Buck can be seen on it between Costanzo and his sister Sharon.

Buck grew up in Mt. Uniacke, a small town outside of Halifax. He began his involvement in hip hop as a b-boy in 1982, and used to participate in b-boy battles at the local roller-skating rink.

In grade seven, he began writing rap lyrics to impress girls. Now an internationally recognized DJ and rapper, and having toured with the Beastie Boys, he draws his musical inspiration from ordinary things, such as dreams and everyday occurrences.

"If you live in Halifax, for Christ's sakes, it's not like some hardcore, urban experience here," he said. "It's pretty ridiculous to me if someone's living here and making music that's supposed to sound like music from New York or Los Angeles."

So the Atlantic wordsmith prefers to look for inspiration to things he knows best.

"All I've ever really been able to do is just be myself," he said. "It seems like an obvious thing, but not a lot of people really are themselves. Even if you are a thug and you've killed people and beat someone up everyday, there still has to be things in your life like what you do Sunday morning, or Christmas. There's got to be other stuff to talk about."

Noticeably absent from Buck's music are your stereotypical gangsta rhymes and misogynist references. This is not surprising, considering that he doesn't like the hardcore sounds of rap at all.

"To me it [listening to hardcore hip hop] is just as weird as if you make it," he said. "It's perverted almost because you want to get some cheap thrill from listening to some guy talk about killing people. That's really bizarre to me. I just rhyme about baseball and riding my bike."

Not all of his songs, however, are based in reality. Perhaps the prize possession of his active imagination is the Centaur, a song about a half-man, half-horse living in North America.

After the idea initially popped into his head, he began to think about how living with a centaur's body would affect his life.

"I'm smart, good looking, and well read," Buck imagined, "but all anybody seems to care about is the horse body. Essentially, you're a man, but you have a horse's body, but specifically a horse's genitals, and people would probably dwell on that a lot."

As bizarre as the idea may be, the song parallels Buck's musical career.

"I started to get sick of how I would do a show and do a song that was a little out of the ordinary, or maybe sort of a joke, and that would be the only thing that really seemed to get people's attention," he said. "It seems that if you just joke around with gutter level things, then that really excites people, and you'll get a real strong reaction. That's always been disheartening for me."

Buck 65 says that the Centaur is almost a test of that impulse in audiences.

"Nine times out of 10, when I perform that song fists go up in the air.

People say, 'yeah man, the Centaur is a song about a guy with a big cock,'" he said. "But if you listen to what I'm saying, 'all you care about is my big dick 'cause I'm a centaur. You don't care about my next life, just my ex-wife, and the intimate details of our sex life.'"

Buck has hosted a weekly radio show on CKDU, Dalhousie University's campus radio station, for the past 10 years. As a result of his show, he has been able to reach a loyal audience of followers, and has inspired a new generation of young hip hop performers within his home province.

In fact, it was his inspiration that fostered the growth of a young Truro group, Hip Club Groove.

Former Groove members DJ Moves and MacKenzie, now known as D Rock, are now part of Len.

Despite reviews of his latest release, Vertex, flooding in from around the globe, Buck remains perplexed that no one has mentioned In Every Dream House There Is A Heartache, a Roxy Music cover.

"I thought it was one of the most brilliant things I've ever heard," said Buck, "because the guy is singing, quite passionately and sorrowfully, to an inflatable doll. The way he's expressing it is actually, as insane as it is, almost beautiful."

In covering the song, Buck took great effort to make it sound as much like the original as he could without sampling from it.

"It was a challenge to recreate a song that was made with musical instruments just using samples that were not from the original," he said. "I tried to recreate the whole chord progression and everything.

Buck is quite adamant about his views of sampling.

"Another aspect of it [sampling] is that people will find something off the Internet, and they just take samples without giving a shit about the song they are borrowing from," he said. "It's music for robots. It's horrible. It seems like there's music, and then there's hip hop. People are stripping the musicality out of it altogether."

"There's been times that I've seen biographies on TV on classical composers from way back, and the level of their musical inspiration and the things they created musically, to me, is almost incomprehensible.

"No one seems to put that much thought into making a piece of music anymore. I want to see hip hop be refined like classical music and I've fantasized about the idea of a symphony or something created all from sampling. Bit by bit I see people treading closer to that. Making masterpieces out of sampling, a seven minute song composed of hundreds of samples."

Buck 65 has a new release coming soon from San Francisco based Anticon Records.

Entitled "Man Overboard," it promises to continue where "Vertex" left off. You can find more information about Buck on his website: