Richard Terfry is a Canadian hip-hop artist who has performed under half a dozen names over the past 20 years, but he’s best known as Buck 65. His earlier work was the kind of thing the term “alternative hip-hop” was invented to describe: bare-bones rhythms embellished with Terfry’s turntable scratching, samples of TV dialogue, and other, less identifiable sounds, all topped with his gruff voice rapping about nonstandard hip-hop subjects such as Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis. In recent years, Buck 65 has been exploring a new, underexplored area: the intersection between hip-hop and country.
It’s a richer vein of inspiration than you might think. Sometimes Terfry sounds as if he’s just putting a drum loop on a ’70s-style trucking song (think C.W. McCall’s “Convoy”). But he takes the idea wherever it leads him. In “Paper Airplane,” he alternates between his pissed-off vocals and the gorgeous voice of guest Jenn Grant singing a country-folk melody, resulting in what sounds like a clumsy mash-up. But when this stuff really works, it sounds like nothing else.
Take “Centaur,” in which Terfry speaks from the point of view of a guy who walks around without a shirt on and is “built like a horse from the waist down” but gets offended when people are only interested in him as a sex object. It may seem at first that Terfry is just engaging in some braggadocio and metaphor, but keep listening. No, he’s really talking about a centaur. The music itself is a mix of country guitar, hip-hop beats, and a harmonium-like drone. It’s probably just the kind of music a centaur would like.
Kristoff Krane and the Illuminauts also perform.
BUCK 65: The Casbah, Tuesday, February 21, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $15 advance; $17 day of show.