Sunday, January 13, 2013

Buck 65 Situation Demos

So, a few months back, DJ/producer Skratch Bastid posted the original demo versions of Buck 65's Situation album (which he produced - it was a collaborative project between the two of them; though DJ Signify did add a couple extras on there). As of this writing, the link still works\, so go for it, Buck fans. But you all know me; I'm not just here to post a link that's already been around, I wanna break down exactly what's there and explore this more deeply.

Situation, to me, was always a good but underwhelming Buck 65 album. Buck is a lot of things - a great lyricist, nice on the turntables... whatever you think of his aesthetic choices or artistic decisions; he's a damned talented hip-hop artist. And one of those talents, too, is production. So when I hear that an album of his is going to be produced by somebody else, that's already a red flag. And predictably, this album, while still undeniably good in a lot of ways, disappointed me on the production end. ...Although, I have to say, revisiting it now for the sake of comparing it to the demos has given me a stronger appreciation for it. I think I was getting spoiled by all the great work he'd been putting out, that music that would ordinarily be graded a solid B felt more like a C-. But, still, as a full-length, it doesn't rank among his greatest hits.

So when I read about this original demo version, I was amped. Here's a truncated version; be sure to read the whole story on SB's blog, "[Warner Bros] liked it and wanted to put the record out as Buck’s next major label release... Until we told them that pretty much the entire record was made from samples. Without a massive budget, the record was not going to come out in the style that we had initially made it," So yeah! This must be why the album never quite clicked! Now we're going to hear the rich, uncleared instrumentals that will sound so much more natural and better, right?

Well, first of all, the song titles and sequencing are completely different, so if you're used to the official release of Situation, it can be a bit confusing. It's easy to guess that "FiftySeven" is "1957" or even that "Photographer" is "Shutterbuggin'," but other songs you'd never guess from the titles alone. "Battered" is "Cop Shades," "TheCity" is "The Outskirts," "TheLaws" is "Heatwave." But basically, every song is accounted for and has an alternate version, except for "Intro," and the single "Dang," which I guess was recorded a bit later.

But here's the thing... most of these songs are pretty much the same. Often, the only noteworthy difference is that they're missing some scratching elements. "OldDays"/ "Back In the Days" is just missing the "All the Way To Heaven" vocal sample being mixed in to the hook. "Benz," too, is missing all the frantic cuts throughout the song, and it just winds up feeling duller. Listening to this underwhelming revelation, I was beginning to wonder why they bothered posting it.

Rereading SB's blog offers some explanation, "I went back to the studio a few times with some session players and made new versions of most of the songs." Yeah, so some of the songs I guess are exactly the same, or just less polished... but the main difference is that samples have been replayed to sound like the originals. So the differences are barely perceptible. It's most obvious on "The Rebel," where the main riff is similar in tone and vibe, but distinctly different if you play them back to back. Actually, the official, cleared version kinda sounds better to me. So much for my visions of a lost, masterpiece version of Situation; what a let-down. I mean, he's just releasing free mp3s of something fans have been asking for, so I'm not mad at it; but it's pretty disappointing.

Only one song sounds really different: "Cube," or as you know it: "White Bread."  That piano and all that music (even the underlying drums, though the same rough bpm, are different) on the album version are gone on the demo. Instead, you've got a plodding but atmospheric instrumental. It's  darker, and fits the lyrics better. Still, the newer version sounds rich and really nice, so I'm reticent to declare a definitive winner. But both versions are are definitely worth your while.

So, if you're a curious, amateur producer and really want to analyze the details to see how a major label release can rework its instrumentals to make them clearable, then check this out. It's a pretty compelling educational experience if you're that into the inner-workings of hip-hop production. But for everybody else, even serious Buck 65 fans who have all his tapes and records, I'd say download it, save "Cube" in a folder with your other rare Buck 65 mp3s, and delete the rest. There's just the one song to get excited about here.


  1. Any chance of you providing a full mapping of the demos names to the album names? Much appreciated!

    1. Okay. =)
      FiftySeven = 1957
      Rebel = The Rebel
      Cube = White Bread
      Hobo = Ho Boys
      Photographer = Shutterbuggin'
      MisterNobody = Mr Nobody
      Beatinick = The Beatific
      Battered = Cop Shades
      OldDays = Back In the Day
      Benz = Benz
      TheLaws = Heatwave
      Girl = Lipstick
      TheCity = The Outskirts
      SpreadEm = Spread 'Em

  2. OK, I had them all right. Thanks for the confirmation!!!