Review: Ben Buck, Back Burner ’97
Latest album encapsulates mounting frustration with Austin rap's progression
Second-generation musician Ben Buck refers to his very own birthplace as purgatory on "Velvet Rut (Austin Texas)." The cynically titled second track off his latest album encapsulates mounting frustration with Austin rap's progression; Its repetitious hook even attempts to mirror a social justice anthem's earworm. He rightfully highlights issues plaguing local MCs, such as the lack of bookings in accessible venues consistently used for other genres. "Pipeline" embodies perseverance over bright synths, but the project later becomes a series of gripes related to suffocating jobs. Sound bites from satirical comedy Office Space (another Austin native) implemented on "Working Man's Debt" ironically amplify the song's morbidness. His first LP of new content since 2021 feels like a sardonic slog by the end of penultimate cut "Rollout." There, the multitalented artist/promoter suggests he's overlooked because lyrical hip-hop isn't appreciated before randomly scoffing at kids who idolize Travis Scott. Sonically, Back Burner '97 showcases the crispest version of Ben Buck to date by demonstrating he's not just a boom-bap aficionado perpetually clad in a faded, shrunken Wu-Tang Clan shirt. Though he gratingly hammers home his disdain for juggling mundane work to scrape by as an independent artist, these 10 songs mark a welcome attempt at crafting more personal lyrics. As one of the city's most visible hip-hop figures in terms of live show involvement, the dystopian sentiments expressed here should at least grab the attention of local industry figures. If someone like Ben Buck harbors this much contempt, what are the many MCs here without anywhere to perform thinking?