Published Nov 06, 2015Listening to Busdriver isn't merely a matter of hearing rhymes and beats; rather, the Californian MC grips you in a hip-hop mind-meld, his esoteric lyrics leaving fans privy to the very depths of his subconscious. On Thumbs, that journey into his twisted psyche is fraught with subdued, murky synths and paranoid verses, as if you could hear his every panicked thought while he drifts off into a nightmare.
Turns out Driver has plenty of reasons to lose sleep. One of his first verses on opening track "Absolutions in the Hottentot Supercluster" perfectly encapsulates the folly of our current Big Brother era: "There are no black militants to bench warm / The feds are using your phone data for revenge porn." His criticism of America's police state becomes more pointed on "Ministry of the Torture Couch," where he spits: "Remember when we were radicals out there fanning them flames / Rooting
out injustices in our family names/ Cops measuring our grave plots in candy canes" over a drumbeat so tinny it hisses, while distortion warbles in the background. Other tracks, like "Del's Couch" and "Shadows and Victories," follow suit, with dimly ambient instrumentation that's as dense as Driver's lyricism.
But Thumbs isn't an uncompromisingly dire affair. Compared to the LP's other elaborately dark tracks, midway cut "Too Much" is practically a Hot 100 pop single, what with its sing-along refrain, funky bouncing bass, gurgling bursts of 8-bit synths and its smoothly upbeat percussion. The song once again evokes insomnia inducing oppression, but Driver sounds tirelessly determined on the song's chorus: "I go so deep, you know I don't sleep / And I've been awake for months."
The song is just one of Thumbs' many enthralling surprises, all of which will allow indie rap fans to rest easy knowing that Busdriver has by no means exhausted his waking nightmare, subconsciously subversive shtick. (Temporary Whatever)