Hip-hop's big tent admits all manner of oddballs, but even in that realm Buck 65 stands out. On Situation, his ninth album, Buck 65 (Halifax, Nova Scotia's goat-voiced Richard Terfry), casts himself as a kind of impressionistic pop historian: “1957″ quotes Allen Ginsberg's “Howl” (which was published in 1956) and features lines like, “Orpheus descending, walking in the crooked waters/ Hello Sid Vicious, goodbye Brooklyn Dodgers.” That sets the tone for the rest of the set, which riffs on that year, painting a rich and jumbled tapestry over production that buffs up mid-'80s rap beats (an appropriate choice, given how large the nostalgia market had become by then). “The Beatific” hinges on the line, “Che Guevara, rock star,” while the slide guitar-fueled “The Rebel” is a true-crime narrative that replaces hip-hop's drive-bys and Tupac references with fistfights and Eddie Cochran.
Best of all is the three-song arc about the bondage-porn market: “Lipstick,” conga-fueled and funky, is about Bettie Page (a “girl with a perfect figure and a cult following”); the low-key, semi-electro “Shutter Buggin',” about a photographer (“Don't understand your needs, and frankly I don't care/ He wants to be a cowboy, she wants to be an actress/ I just want to stash the money under my mattress”); and “Spread 'Em” focuses on the cops busting the whole thing. It's not quite a history lesson, but he puts you there anyway.