These days, anybody with a decently powerful home computer can be an aspiring musician/composer/performer/rapper. That’s actually been true since the days of the Commodore 64, but what’s changed over the years is the continuing growth of the internet and the increasingly cheap and easy ways to mass produce and distribute your own music. It used to be that an aspiring rapper had to produce messy demo tapes that were mailed to record labels and handed out to people at free shows – now it’s easy to rip a perfect sounding MP3 of your audio tracks and either give them away over the internet or burn them to CD with the cheap and ubiquitous burner technology now standard with new computers.
This doesn’t change the underlying dynamics of music of course – there are still good artists, and wack artists. There are still wack artists who think they are good and substitute overconfidence for talent. There are still good artists who think they are terrible and fail to capitalize on the cheap and available opportunities to expand their careers. With their self-produced debut album, Buggzy & Bonafyde are living out the American dream to be stars. Confidence is definitely their strongest asset – they believe they can go from internet MP3’s to.. who knows? Maybe they only aspire to be local Bay Area rap stars. Maybe they aspire to get bigger recognition and sign a deal with 75 Ark or Dogday Records. Maybe they even aspire to blow up nationally and embark on a jetsetting world tour to promote their major label debut CD.
I applaud aspirations to achieve your dreams, however small or large. However, Buggzy & Bonafyde exist at that bizarre nexus between being wack with overconfidence and good without self-confidence. On the one hand, their lack of self-confidence seems to come in the form of retreading beats that have already been used on well-known national rap CD’s; with little or no tweaking. Listening to “Femalez” you’ll catch the ghost of De La Soul, listening to “Redemption” puts you smack in the middle of what was +arguably+ Canibus’ biggest hit and the flute sample of Jurassic 5’s “Jayou” is cold-copied in it’s entirety on “Unity.” Now most of us who are aspiring rappers or rap fans have ripped freestyles over our favorite instrumentals while sitting around in the bedroom – but why would you put that on an album? This betrays the idea that this is supposed to be a professional, full-length debut CD. If it was they’d have the confidence to rap over their +own+ beats; even if they had to shell out some money to pay a producer for them – otherwise you’re just coming off cornball. Listening to this gives me scary memories of a 101st Airbourne album.
The perplexing thing about this is that neither Buggzy or Bonafyde is a wack rapper. They can do better than jacking beats from Styles of Beyond (“Microphone Technicians II”) and Dr. Dre (“Keep the Party Rockin'”). Now I admit that “World Champions” may actually be another jacked beat whose origins I don’t recognize, but the fact it’s not immediately familiar allows me to concentrate on the rap skills they display – and they definitely got the humor and a flow that’s very accurate to the beat. They make a naturally good tag team:
Buggzy: “Yo I link with ‘Fyde to provide a combo unstoppable
Strip your lyrics down like po’-po’ but my cause is probable
Your shit is straight up wack, successfully stepping’s impossible
You used to be on top but now you dropped like the Chicago Bulls”
Bonafyde: “And my rhymes will catch the ears of every priest and nun
And here comes my arsenal of bombs and weapons;
cover up like cosmetic, my rhymes sho’ ain’t fake like prosthetic
Like N.B.A. they authentic, yours are cheap like K-Mart
You can’t see that we’re champions, we undetectable by radar”
The thing is that this gets straight perplexing again – the lyrics are great and the flow is completely on point, but the “cheap like K-Mart” line rings hollow because it sounds like the raps were recorded with a $10 Radio Shack plastic microphone. The P’s are popping all over the place, and not in good ways – just hearing the chorus when they say “who’s the world cham-PEE-un” is painful. The vocal levels are not equalized – they are loud enough to be audible but still come in and out as though they were wobbling drunk in front of a mic stand. Self-produced albums, even albums recorded in your own bedroom studio, can come off more clean than this.
The depressing thing about Buggzy & Bonafyde’s album is that they clearly have the talent and ability to be greater than this. The unclean vocals and the recycled beats can’t hide the fact that both rappers have pleasing vocal tones, excellent breath control, and a good talent for penning lyrics. In fact it’s actually kind of fun to listen to them rap over the blatant jacks of songs like “Reason to Love You” and Buggzy’s solo joint “From the Heart” – and the latter would be a really great self-narrative if the bass wasn’t over-tweaked and distorting all over the track. If your boys gave you this as a demo tape, you’d probably say “it’s aight” and toss it in a pile of dirty laundry by accident w/o even thinking about it. They have the skills to pay the bills if they’re serious about rap and really don’t need to be lying under someone’s shitty drawers; but without a more professional presentation the end product is SOL.