Last fall’s Hellfyre Club compilation, Dorner vs. Tookie, exhibited the playful side of veteran L.A. rapper and producer Busdriver. It appeared that putting out a project with a bevy of like-minded artists such as Open Mike Eagle and Nocando, the Hellfyre Club founder that formed Flash Bang Grenada, breathed new life into an artist whose claim to fame could very well be one of his songs appearing in a video game soundtrack. Critically speaking, his career has been marked by various creative peaks and valleys that brought about Busdriver’s esoteric style and pronounced strengths and weaknesses. On his 8th studio album, Perfect Hair, Busdriver puts together many of the hallmarks of his back catalog to make one of his most unique works yet.
Starting off the album, “Retirement Ode” can be read as a play on Drake’s “Tuscan Leather”. This idea is not farfetched considering the goofy interpretation of “Worst Behavior” that Busdriver released last November. This time around, he’s spitting self-deprecating one-liners that flip Drake’s signature bravado into a nervous stream of consciousness. This presents a more affected rapper than the one sarcastically declaring, “ART RAP!” and trying to keep up with frenetic classical music pieces in 2009. That Busdriver opts to present various nuances of his personality and skillset throughout this album allows proper breathing room for the myriad of ideas presented.
On Perfect Hair, Busdriver shifts between introspection, social commentary and endearingly timid love songs. Simultaneously, he gets his point across in a way that is not nearly as intense as the various projects that bore his name in-between 2003’s collaborative The Weather and 2012’s Beaus$Eros. And while this there are many verses on this album that would take awhile to explicate, he still does a good job of coming off straightforward. When he is loquacious, there are beats, guest features, and hooks that do some of the mental heavy lifting for the listener.
Hellfyre Club members are all over the credits of Perfect Hair. VerBS injects life into deep cut “Can’t You Tell I’m A Sociopath” and Open Mike Eagle graces “When the Tooth-lined Horizon Blinks” by invoking such imagery as a “house party playing Twister on the utism spectrum.“ Kenny Segal of The Kleenrz mixed the album and contributed the beat for “Eat Rich” that happens to be the brightest pop on the album, while exploring a middle ground between glitch and instrumental hip-hop.
Furthermore, the placement of Aesop Rock and Danny Brown on the maniacal “Ego Death” is impeccable considering their recent output. The former invoking imagery alternately awkward and terrifying and the latter comparing himself to the “rap Marilyn Manson” in a way that RiFF RaFF has rendered meme-worthy before reminding people he told them to drink Drano. Why this track wound up being the most cohesive is because Busdriver brought on like-minded artists. This has often been the case for Busdriver on previous outings, but the guest artists deliver here on a way that they have not previously on one of his albums.
Where Perfect Hair is quite a surprise, however, is how Busdriver pulls this album together with gusto. There’s a more human quality to this album than Busdriver’s past work. There’s an apparent camaraderie between him and everyone who was prominent on the credits of this album. And while Busdriver was likely not the first rapper to feature production from artists on Brainfeeder or Warp’s roster, the move does not come off as contrived at all because he has worked with artists in L.A.’s electronic music scene for his entire career. This is the easily the most timorous work in Busdriver’s discography. Perfect Hair is also his bravest work since he freestyled into a drive-thru speaker.