Q&A with Regan "Busdriver" Farquhar
Photo by Brian Tamborello Busdriver with Busdriver.
Boasting may seem like a hip-hop requirement, but it's actually possible to play the rap game without overdosing on self-love every other line. For proof, direct your gaze to the following Q&A with Regan Farquhar, who performs as Busdriver. The subject of a Westword profile published in advance of his Saturday, September 5 at the Bluebird Theater, Farquhar actually has to be coaxed into giving himself a compliment during the conversation -- and the act of doing so seems to make him profoundly uncomfortable.
The chat begins with talk about Farquhar's artistically inclined parents, including his father, Ralph Farquhar, a screenwriter and producer whose credits include one of the earliest hip-hop features, Krush Groove. From there, the exchange transitions to the way loneliness fueled his early musical experiments; the importance of L.A.'s Project Blowed when it came to drawing him out of his shell; his sense that the lack of organic local scenes is restricting the development of rap talents; the complexities of his latest album, Jhelli Beam, and the reasons why he may take a different tack in the studio next time around; details about a lyrical critique of conscious hip-hop, and his opinions about being stamped an art rapper; and his mixed feelings about the inability to embrace braggadoccio.
For better or worse, deprecation seems to fit him more naturally.
Westword (Michael Roberts): When I was pulling together background information for this interview, I looked up your dad on the Internet Movie Database, and he's got quite a list of credits. Is there a project he's worked on over the years that particularly stands out for you?
Regan Farquhar: In the '80s, he wrote Krush Groove, the hip-hop movie starring Sheila E and Run-D.M.C. and all that. And he's doing a few interesting things right now. This an animation series called Da Jammies that's a kind of hip-hop-inflected children's show. He's done a lot of stuff. He did that Brandy TV show Moesha a few years ago, which was probably his longest enduring project.
WW: Speaking of enduring, keeping a career in film and television going for thirty years is really difficult in Hollywood. Has his success at doing that been an inspiration for you?
RF: Sure. He and my mother are both in entertainment....
WW: What's your mom do?
RF: My mother is a dancer. She mainly teaches and choreographs small theater pieces. And she does acting on and off, here and there. But that definitely asserts the understanding that pursuing the arts is actually a viable thing. You can make your pursuits practical and have them have real-life applications.
WW: I was going to contrast your dad's work, which has mostly been within the system, with your work, which has mostly been within it. But it sounds as if a lot of your mom's work has been outside the system as well. Do their careers give you examples that represent the best of both worlds?
RF: Not really. I don't have a lot of insight about how they've pursued their careers. I've never really took an example of how they did something and applied it to me. My own pursuits kind of dictated where my music has gone. I don't have the show business background they do for some reason. I never really got knee-deep into Hollywood-kind of institutions.
WW: It wasn't as if there were celebrities over at the house every weekend....
RF: There would be over at my dad's house every so often. But I feel I was too stubborn as a kid. It never really resonated with me. I never thought any of my output had anything to do with the entrapments of celebrity or Hollywood. Making rap songs has always been second-nature. Well, it hasn't always been second-nature, but it's always been the default thing for the way I spent my time. It just becomes more so as the years roll on. That's more at the heart of my work than being a torchbearer for my dad or my brother.
WW: You said rapping hasn't always been second nature, but I understand you started doing it when you were really young, around nine-years old. Is that right?