An Interview with Alt-Rap Kingpin Buck 65

Check out this week’s Scene for a feature about Sage Francis, who’s sharing a bill with Buck 65 at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Hts. Blvd., 216-321-5588) Wednesday, June 11. It’s two of indie-rap’s best writers and rhymers on the same bill. And Buck’s of helluva producer too -- he made the beat in Sage’s “Got Up This Morning” video (above). Sage is the bald gentleman, and Buck is the strapping young lad in the bow tie. Scene called the two and caught them in a crowded tour van on the way from Atlanta to Florida. After Sage spoke, he passed the phone to Buck. Scene: You operate outside the hip-hop mainstream -- what do you see as your relationship to hip-hop? Buck: It’s going to be a minority opinion, but I’m a person who really believes in and values the diversty in hip-hop these days. For example, I’m the kind of nerdy hip-hop fan who will buy a record for turntablism, to sit down and listen to scratch compositions for an hour. And it’s really difficult to put the work of DJ Q-Bert, Master P, and Slug from Atmosphere all in the same category. And I think that’s great; that’s the strength of the art form, but someone might argue the other way. I like to think there’s a place for me somewhere. Scene: Do you think music like you and Sage make has a limited commercial ceiling? Buck: I can only speak for myself, but in all honesty, yeah, I think so, and that’s perfectly fine with me, because I’ve never had ambitions to take over the world or be the next Justin Timberlake. I’m perfectly happy with my place in the scheme of things. Scene: What creates that ceiling? Buck: I think it’s marketability. And the powers that be, their definition of what is marketable. And I’ve been asking myself these same questions. What Sage does, I don’t see why that couldn’t have appeal for a huge group of people. But to reach that next plateau, sales on that level, marketing is what makes that happen. And the average person will buy what’s marketed to them. They want to walk into a record store, see what’s on the wall, and buy it. And there’s a lot of machinery behind that. But good, intelligent, interesting music could sell in a big way; and it’s happened before -- look at Radiohead. -- D.X. Ferris