Though defiantly idiosyncratic in his own right, Busdriver in many respects represents the West Coast's answer to Aesop Rock, and not just because he puts out albums through Mush, Rock's pre-Definitive Jux label. The similarities are striking, beginning with their inimitable voices and delivery. Busdriver and Rock both adopt an exaggerated comic persona whose court-jester goofiness belies industrial doses of anger and frustration, which is expressed in weird, passive-aggressive, surreal, and occasionally inscrutable ways. Busdriver's voice in particular often seems like a sinister variation on the cartoonishly nasal, clueless tone that black comedians often employ when mocking white folks' soulless, Ikea-loving, John Tesh-listening geekiness. Much like Definitive Jux's cult icon, Busdriver is also a wordsmith of tremendous quality and quantity. His marathon verses are dense with jarring imagery and serrated punch lines that draw blood and bruise egos. With Fear Of A Black Tangent, Busdriver fully exploits the provocative rapper's inalienable right to pick at the psychic scabs and racial insecurities of his target audience, which in Busdriver's case constitutes the white backpackers who are the bread and butter of underground rap.
"I spend less time alienating my audience than I do trying to solicit sales," Busdriver professes on "Happiness's Unit Of Measurement," which is coated in so many layers of sarcasm and obfuscation that it becomes impossible to tell when, if ever, he's being sincere. A postmodernist's postmodernist, Busdriver is well-versed in multiple shades of irony, all of which find a place on Fear Of A Black Tangent. Sometimes it's dramatic irony of the bitterest kind. On "Reheated Pop!", Busdriver explores posthumous hip-hop stardom slipping into the cold, dead skin and chilly formaldehyde bloodstream of a mega-platinum "dead man" with "gold blood" in his bedpan.
Sonically, Fear Of A Black Tangent represents a massive leap forward for Busdriver. The production wraps his prickly sentiments in vivid cinematic soundscapes, like the mellow acoustic guitar and gentle washes of strings on "Unemployed Black Astronaut," the giddy cartoon piano of "Avantcore," and "Befriend The Friendless Friendster," which sounds like a Carl Stalling score rocketed off the rails by pummeling drum-and-bass rhythms. Fear Of A Black Tangent rewrites the country's tortured racial history and hip-hop's devolution as absurdist audio comedy, but Busdriver's bitter jests contain a left-field profundity that gives his latest album a surprising gravity.