When everyone else is thuggin’, then the nerds (and only the nerds) are truly hip. After all, gangsta rap’s cool pose loses some of its underground, ghetto-approved credibility when suburban kids know the Crip walk as well as Compton G’s. This is why alternative rap is the new punk. No doubt, indie-label artists like Busdriver, Radioinactive, and Daedelus are responding to Ja Rule’s predictable reign as surely as the Clash and the Ramones offered an alternative to Led Zeppelin and the Eagles. Bob Dylan once said you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but listening to The Weather requires both patience and a willingness to embrace an offbeat approach to hip-hop.
This album earnestly tries to be different, which means that it takes chances and avoids the easy out. Busdriver and Radioinactive’s rhyming cadences owe a debt to both Freestyle Fellowship and Latyrx, while Daedelus’ lo-fi Casio tones could qualify him for at least a charter membership in Anticon. Their collaboration results in an album’s worth of often-silly abstract wordplay and even sillier beats. The hazy psychedelia and sample-happy neo-funk of “Carl Weathers” and “Exxaggerated Joy” could be outtakes from De La Soul’s first album, as performed by Sly Stone and Danny Hoch. “Glorified Hype Man” plays like a scene from a hip-hopera written by Bertolt Brecht. And “Weather Locklear” is sorta like a bossa nova break on the set of T.J. Hooker.
The Weather will probably annoy “traditional” hip-hop listeners, while indie rock and experimental-music freaks might hail it as a work of utter genius. Nerdy as Coke-bottle spectacles and pocket protectors (Radioinactive brags about his G4/iPod hookup), The Weather has no pretensions toward mainstream accessibility — which might be its most appealing quality. Where else can you hear lines like “The devil made me grow a handlebar moustache” or references to Sasquatch and gazpacho in the same sentence?