By Katie East
“Rap has always addressed social issues but ultimately it’s supposed to be entertaining and fun.”
Over the past few weeks, you might have seen people around town wearing t-shirts or using the hashtag #FreeJeffBuck on social media. The only problem is, Jeff Buck’s not in jail; he’s releasing a rap album.
Baton Rouge comedian Jeff Buck’s newest venture is a comedy-rap mixtape that drops this month. He’s hoping to garner some attention and street credibility by poking fun at the criminal nature of the rap culture.
The concept for #FreeJeffBuck came from a joke the comedian had with his friends.
“I’ve noticed that when a rapper is incarcerated people immediately form a hashtag,” Buck explained. “#freeboosie, #freecmurder, #freelilwayne, despite whatever criminal activity they did. People just want them out of jail so they can keep making music.”
Buck is mainly known for his stand-up and improv work in New Orleans and recently performed in the New York Funny Song Festival. He has ventured into rap before though with the Chanel Boyz, a “fashion rap genre” group, who performed shows in Baton Rouge in 2012 and 2013.
The album release party, on Sunday August 31 at Spanish Moon, features performances by more than a dozen local rappers that appear on the mixtape.
Despite the satirical nature of the album, Buck recruited many legitimate rap artists from the Baton Rouge area.
Brian Haydel, who raps on the mixtape as “Haydel,” was somewhat skeptical when Buck immediately approached him about the project.
“I was kind of unsure about him. I had never met him, but he seemed like a real genuine guy,” Haydel said of Buck. “He caught me so off guard with his style. I wasn’t sure how to take it. Now, since I’ve been working with him, I see he’s very talented. He just keeps getting better.”
Even Buck pokes fun at his own competence when it comes to rap. The Facebook invite for the release party promises: “This mixtape is guaranteed to make you laugh as well as leave you surprised that Jeff Buck can actually rap.”
Terrance Turner, producer of the local sketch comedy show on NBC “Laugh Now, Laugh Later,” has worked with Buck before and supports the #FreeJeffBuck movement. He’s in agreement that Buck has talent.
“He actually does have some skill,” Turner said.
“Jeff is a triple threat, he’s a writer, he’s a performer, and he’s a comedian. Everything he touches is funny. He thinks outside of the box. He’s always thinking of new and innovative ways of making comedy.
Growing up in Baton Rouge, Buck most closely equates his rap style with Lil Boosie, whom he has drawn inspiration from. He spent his high school years at Tara listening to the well-known Baton Rouge rapper with a sordid past.
Though the songs on #FreeJeffBuck sound like genuine rap songs, the humor stems from the subject matter. “Waffle House Jukebox, “Dick Pics” and “Skymall” are just a few of the tracks on the album. The latter of which received a Tweet shout out from the actual publication.
Though comedy-rap isn’t a well-established genre, Turner thinks humor and rap go hand in hand.
“In the beginning with the first rappers, it was a light-hearted fun thing,” Turner said. “Everybody thinks rap is serious and it’s supposed to be this hardcore thing. Look at some of the more famous rappers like Run DMC or Will Smith. Rap has always addressed social issues but ultimately it’s supposed to be entertaining and fun.”
Haydel notes that it can still be difficult to get attention rapping about topics other than violence or the “thug” lifestyle.
“I don’t think it’s easy because it’s not,” Haydel said. “It is definitely getting easier though. It used to just be about how ‘hard’ you were. That’s a big reason why I support what Jeff does. I’m not a big fan of gangster music myself. I’m tired of it. That’s why what Jeff is doing is so significant.”
Buck points out that satirical rap songs like “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore are gaining prominence but he finds more humor in the way the artists handle themselves.
“I used to tell people that my favorite comedian was Lil Boosie. I think rappers are the funniest people whether they intend to be or not,” Buck laughed.
“Some rappers definitely live that lifestyle. For others it’s just a masquerade. A lot of the rap artists you hear are very intellectual but when it comes to their music they put on this façade to sound hard or gangster when they really don’t even sound like that,” Buck said.
Selling out is another topic Buck pokes fun at on his new mixtape. #FreeJeffBuck, the title track, forces at least 10 references to Taco Bell, due to a fictitious “deal” the rapper signed.
“In order to be a rap artist, you have to sell out, Buck said. “With hip hop, it’s more derived from the cultural scene but if you want to be a rapper it’s all about selling out and making as much money as possible.”
Though Buck never contemplated actually getting arrested to gain notoriety, rapper Shane RTDS who appears on “Drug Dealing and Exotic Pets” wouldn’t bail him out too quickly if it happened.
“We gotta keep up the #FreeJeffBuck thing. It would help if he got arrested,” Shane said. “I’d bail him out if he got desperate. Otherwise I’d tell him, wait for your court date.”
Keeping the theme running, there are promises of free Taco Bell at the album release party as well as the inevitable pleas for Buck’s freedom. The Spanish Moon show will have plenty of local rappers on hand along with a dance cypher hosted by Oriskany Vadamalez.
Haydel applauds Buck for bringing together so many artists and the changes he’s making to the Baton Rouge rap scene as a whole.
“I’ve been working really hard on my craft the last four years doing open mics and trying to get heard,” Haydel said. “Buck is the one who made it possible for me to actually do shows. I appreciate that. Most rappers from Baton Rouge want to bring you down. He wants to help. He’s kind of started a movement.”
The #FreeJeffBuck Mixtape Release Party is on Sunday August 31 at 9PM at the Spanish Moon. The show is $5 but anyone with a #FreeJeffBuck t-shirt on gains admission free.
The #FreeJeffBuck mixtape will be able for free download at freejeffbuck.bandcamp.com
You can see Jeff Buck and Terrance Turner on “Laugh Now, Laugh Later” after Saturday Night Live at 12:30 AM on NBC.