September 15, 2009


This Right Here Is Rich Terfry: The man also known as rapper Buck 65 becomes the voice of CBC Radio 2’s endlessly controversial makeover (Dave Morris, October 2009, Walrus)

When the brain trust at CBC Radio went looking for a face for their reinvented Radio 2, they needed someone with an established cheering section among the nation’s tastemakers. Terfry seemed an obvious choice. Although he wasn’t a CBC insider, he had years of radio experience hosting a popular hip hop show on the Dalhousie campus station CKDU (where he was known as DJ Critical). As Buck 65, a veteran Canadian hip hop artist whose gravelly voice and gritty, sometimes nostalgic lyrics attracted endless comparisons to Tom Waits, he had access to a young, hip audience CBC had frequently courted but rarely won.

In the late 1990s, Buck 65 became affiliated with anticon., a San Francisco hip hop collective that was to underground hip hop what New York’s legendary Wu-Tang Clan once was to the genre’s mainstream. In 2002, he signed a major-label deal with Warner and in 2003 released Square. Later that year came Talkin’ Honky Blues, a departure from his previous albums’ low-fidelity style, incorporating more guitars and, on the twangy but no less funky “Wicked and Weird, banjos. He had risen to the challenge of addressing a broader audience. Rolling Stone called him a “hot indie rapper. The influential Village Voice critic Robert Christgau hailed Talkin’ Honky Blues as “one of my favourite albums of the millennium.

In Europe — France in particular — he was even more successful. “Les Inrockuptibles — basically the French Rolling Stone — picked Talkin’ Honky Blues as one of the best albums of 2003, says Terfry. “The French just really picked up on that record, and it sold pretty well there. They came out and saw me in pretty big numbers — they still do. So he hit the road, playing a series of European festivals, including the UK’s legendary Glastonbury Festival. A highlight was the Les Eurockéennes de Belfort festival near Belfort, France; the day’s headliners included PJ Harvey and reunited indie rock icons the Pixies. Later that year, he returned for another, even bigger festival just outside Paris called Rock en Seine. “It was the most people I’ve ever seen. It seemed like they dropped off the horizon. It was definitely over 50,000 people. I was alone onstage; it was just me with a turntable and a CD player or a computer or something like that. It’s a tall order, one guy, so I did everything I could to make it as big as possible and try to make people forget about that fact, that it was one guy up there trying to hold it all together.

It was an auspicious beginning, but not all strong starts lead to stardom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 15, 2009 6:55 AM
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