A rough and rustic upbringing still haunts the Canadian rapper. By Kyle Mullin for Albuquerque’s Local IQ Magazine, Aug. 4 2011
(Reporter’s note: This is an uncut version of the story that was published in Local IQ. It contains course language and graphic details that are not suitable for younger readers The published version can be viewed at http://www.local-iq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2079&Itemid=54).
The boy who would be Buck 65 tried not to choke up on the bat, even though he was clutching onto it for dear life.
As the pitch sailed closer, scouts watched the future rapper’s swinging technique. The Major League talent seekers (one of them formerly employed by the New York Yankees after discovering a future hall of famer), had journeyed to the tiny Canadian town of Mt. Uniacke Nova Scotia to witness the sixteen year old shortstop’s heavy hits.
“That was probably the most exciting week of my life,” Buck, who then went by his given name Rich Terfry, says of that early peak. He adds that all the critical acclaim for his latter twisted, rustically husky raps about centaurs and zombies can’t compare to being scouted then by the MLB or simply playing ball in his hometown as a boy.
“I (still) need baseball, this thing that I can turn to that is really simple and good, (especially) when things aren’t going as well with (my) music. I can get that simple satisfaction even just out of playing catch, there’s something so Zen about it… it just feels fluid and rhythmic, like all is right with the world.”
He needs such a reprieve to cope with the current state of indie rap. Buck was unable to revisit Albuquerque, one of his favourite tour stops, for over two years now (leaving him so disappointed that he named one of his EPs after the town in 2010). Fellow indie artists had gridlocked the city’s every venue for months on end in their scramble to recoup some semblance of income in a post album sales age. It’s enough to make the most jagged ball diamond or barren outfield seem like an oasis these days- but the sport has always been Rich’s saviour, especially in a pastoral hometown that wasn’t nearly as quaint as it seemed.
“It’s really weird that I grew up thinking I had this nice country childhood,” Buck says. “Because when I look back, it’s kind of littered with skeletons.”
At the age of eight, Rich would run the bases with his buddies under the oppressive summer heat until dusk- when one of their often absent peers would finally show up.
“This old guy Raymond, who lived down the road, had all these little dirt bikes, video games and all this fun shit at his house. And (my classmate) Peter would willingly go spend the day there. Then he would come find us playing ball in the park and say ‘Man, I got to play video games at Raymond’s house all day, and all I had to let him do was put such and such in my ass…’ Just insanely dark stuff like that that, that’s what you’re just growing up with, so much dark shit.”
The gravity of those surroundings dragged well into his senior year, when Buck’s neighbouring buddy Jeff came home for the last time.
“My dad (while visiting next door), heard this noise from the basement, went down to see what it was, opened up the bathroom door and my friend Jeff’s head was completely gone… Jeff had come home and just blew his head off.”
Gossip of similar calamities had bubbled up like bile throughout high school, until it seemed that everyone was spewing a sick story- be it about town bully Tardit chasing his classmate Smokey down the road with a chainsaw, or other youngsters showing young Rich where the conniving Dinker Dash hid skeletons in the woods.
Before long the twisted characters that peppered Rich’s youth became the key ingredient in his first off kilter rhymes. The songs were more like snapshots of authentic Mt. Uniacke scenery, capturing factual narratives with real names.
“(Lyrical) honesty is always way more personal than when something is veiled or fictionalized,” the MC says of the people he documented in tunes like ‘Cries a Girl,’ about former Uniacke urchin Stellar Kewan, who was haunted by her classmates’ accusations of incest. Buck felt nearly as vulnerable when his muse’s cousin approached him after a show. The MC’s face flushed when Kewan’s relative said those lyrics proved at least one of her neighbours was capable of empathy instead of mere hearsay.
All of Buck’s raps are equally introspective, even when his muses aren’t so local. An upcoming EP (tentatively dubbed ‘Hardest Hit,’ as a tribute to his fellow struggling indie hip hoppers) will include a tune inspired by Toronto Blue Jay third baseman Jose Bautista. It was lyrical déjà-vu- rhymes about a player who was scouted and carried an average team season after season. With those lyrics, Buck didn’t merely relate to an All-Star- he paid tribute to a sport that was so much more than inspiring.
Between his first games, an eight year old Rich would thumb through legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams’ book ‘The Science of Hitting’ as if it were the Bible.
“I read how he was really disciplined… kept his senses as sharp as they could be… (and once said) ‘the hardest thing I ever drank in my life was a milkshake.’”
Strangely, Buck grew up to be like Ted Williams- just not in the way he expected.
“I was always a straight laced kid,” Buck says, adding that literal sobriety still lingers through his life and lyrics. “When people would go off to parties… havin’ fun, but where trouble tends to happen, I was never there. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a (dance) club in my life, do they play Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane in there? The thing I’ve always struggled with is people look at what I’m doing and say ‘you’re weird.’ To me, all the rest of it, that’s more weird.”