If you hunger for an emcee who can take most of the local rap scene to school, while still having a wider perspective on the music world at large, Los Angeles maverick Busdriver (a.k.a. Regan Farquhar) would seem to be your snack.
Not only does he have the immense scene cred of cutting his teeth at the storied Good Life open mic back in the early '90s, but he's paid his dues many times over. He's climbed through the ranks of the Project Blowed collective and the alt-rap bastion Mush Records, which helped him garner production by IDM/electronica whiz Daedalus, in addition to the beats he's gotten from indie-rap stalwarts like Omid and Boom Bip.
Even though his hip-hop roots run deep (his father was the screenwriter for '80s hip-hop cultural milestone Krush Groove), Busdriver keeps his ears open to other sounds. He appears on the album Return to the Sea by Canadian indie-rockers Islands, and because he knows a good rhythm when he hears it, he samples legendary krautrockers Can on his 2005 album Fear of a Black Tangent while spitting intricate, algebraic rhymes at machine-gun speed: "I'm mistaken for the next Kool Keith / because I interbreed indie-rap acts and groom them at the pet boutique."
Logically, Busdriver is among the hip-hop performers most likely to take the next step and graduate to the well-financed Anti-/Epitaph label, which has put the push behind his new, and fifth, solo effort, RoadKillOvercoat. On it, Boom Bip returns with DJ Nobody to provide structure to floorbangers like "Kill Your Employer" as well as the pop-laden "Sunshowers." (Total coincidence that there's also an MIA hit by that name?)
But even though he's bound to smoke cats in a freestyle session, you can tell Busdriver is also a decent, modest guy. "This is the grassroots, off-kilter, rap-intelligentsia undertow that your friends talk about," he exhorts, bringing the hipsters and backpackers together under one big, Obama-style tent.
Busdriver 6:30 p.m. Fri., May 2. CFA Lawn, Carnegie Mellon University campus, Oakland. Free. All ages. 412-268-2106
- At the pet boutique: Busdriver and friend