The Experienced Listener Presents: Polos and Retros: The Maturation Process, by John Bussie
Contrary to how long it’s taken me to write this review, I’ve been greatly anticipating the release of Polos and Retros by Augusta ambassador John Bussie. I was very impressed with his first two releases iPod Muzik 1 and iPod Muzik 2; this third effort proves to be ‘the charm’, so to speak. Featuring the infamous song and video for Lamp Lights, this mixtape is a good listen that really gives you a feel for the REAL Augusta. I say REAL because Augusta has many faces; I’ll leave the rest to you mathematicians out there.
Beginning with Brief Introduction, Polos and Retros offers wordplay hand-over-fist. With that being said, the intro lives up to its title and, before you know it, you’re snapping along to City Lights, the second track on the mixtape. Produced by the infamous Andre Ellis, the beat consists of a nice loop and a soft string accompaniment. A smooth bass guitar peaks into and pulls out of the track in such a way that really launches Bussie’s voice into the forefront. And the best part is he’s actually got something to say:
They say I’m living wit a blindfold/
Prolly cuz I’m walkin through the city wit my eyes closed/
Yeah I’m from a town, live fast and you die slow/
Young niggas grind, they serving for survival/
Some coulda made it, never tried tho/
Haters be trippin, on my side tho’/
That’s why I keep a 45 on my side do/
One hand on the 4, other hand on the Bible/
…There’s that Augusta zeitgeist again— a community of ambitious people and self-defeatists; a mixture of community church rolls and Jail Report mugshots. It’s not glamorous, but it’s true, and that’s what I most desire from hip hop artists.
In that same spirit, I love the next track. It’s called Morning, and it’s yet another instrumental contribution from producer Andre Ellis. This is the type of song my city really needs to hear; a song about tapping into that ‘obvious potential’. In my psychology class I taught my students about something called “cognitive dissonance” where, basically, for the sheer familiarity, you let undesirable things continue to happen in spite of your ability to change the outcome. That right there is Augusta’s #1 problem. But Bussie has the mentality of a builder and creator. My favorite part of the song is when he stops rapping and goes into this monologue:
You know what, man? One day I was talking to my boy Rockwell, man. I said, ‘Bruh this shit gotta work man; this shit gotta work bruh. Nigga with a degree not supposed to be starvin, man. Ay, the shit gon work man. The shit GOTTA work. We two hustlers, too much ambition man! You gotta GET TO IT, you know what I’m sayin’?’ So that’s what we do, that’s what I do…
I love to hear the talk almost as much as I love to see the walk. Me and my friends and associates have had much the same conversation for years, and I think we all want to see the “curse” broken and see our city emerge as the recognized force and establishment it ought to be. And Bussie’s well on his way to accomplishing that.
In light of track 3, track 4 comes off a little disheartening. Nevertheless, Product of My Environment features what is easily one of my favorite instrumentals on the mixtape; it puts me in mind of that joint Kanye did for Scarface, Guess Who’s Back. The song tells the true story of an incident in Augusta where a young Black man allows the company he keeps to prevent him from moving forward in life, resulting in him become yet another statistic. …Beware the crabs-in-the-bucket. Product of My Environment is intelligently placed on the mixtape, as we just discussed how Augusta needs forward thinking; part of the progressive process is understanding the things that hold you back. So this song comes as a warning to brothas: if we want to break the cycle, we’ve got to watch our associates. People who don’t want you to do what’s best for you don’t need to be in your circle. I like this series of lines which details the ‘creative process of destruction’, if you will:
Raised in your ordinary bad zone, with momma and dad gone/
Who figured out that Fast Ty would be the backbone/
His brothas was a couple of youngins that act grown/
They figured that they wouldn’t be hustling that long/
See Ty was the neighbordhood star, that cat’s known/
And could ball, but because of his brothas was trapped home /
Only thing holding him out of the classroom/
Was the weed charge that he took last June/
Although it was a case in which he coulda got probation/
Woulda paid a fine, the charges they would erase ‘em/
He caught a lucky break from the time he was facing/
When he coulda avoided the whole situation/
Through separation and dedication/
Going to the gym instead of chillin in the basement/
Instead Ty want the streets to embrace him/
Since they say niggas from The Bottom never make it/
Instead of tryna climb up that mountain/
He wanna keep it real with the niggas that’s around him/
Problem is the niggas that surround him/
Would clown him like going to school was for cowards/
Nite and Day reinvents and reconstructs a familiar instrumental to create the platform for Bussie to take a more sentimental approach with his lyricism. I reviewed this track once before, as it appeared on Bussie’s iPod Muzik 2 project; if you want to catch my thoughts on it, peep this link. Meanwhile, I want to take this opportunity to zero in on the next track from Polos and Retros, which focuses on the same subject of relationships gone awry. On Man Moment, Bussie uses his storytelling skills to lay out a soap opera about infidelity and all that other good stuff that creates Black-man-phobia in the average sista. (…I told ya’ll my views on Tyler Perry before, right? …No? …Aight, give it some time.) A PHAT bass guitar laces this instrumental and kinda creates an 8Ball & MJG vibe as Bussie spits:
She rubbed my head calmly saying, ‘Just relax’
Then I get a text from my girl sayin “Where you at?”/
Shawty said, “Tell your girlfriend she should hit you back/
Cuz I’m tryna get you right and she just tryna chat”/
So I flipped the phone over thinkin “Okay it’s a wrap/
Gotta hit this chick and get her gone, I can’t get attached”/
So I started doin what I do, hittin on dat ass/
When I hear a knock on the door, then I hear the latch…/
…Trust me when I tell ya, there’s some hella twists and turns on the way before this track gets sewed up at 2:38. But you’ll have to give it a listen to find out what happens next.
Friend or Foe manages to garner my attention at a time when I’m totally distracted. See, I’m just discovering that the game Killer Instinct is about to be snatched up by Microsoft, right… but when I hear the beat on this joint, I involuntarily start noddin’ my head and muggin’. Then Bussie gets on the track and rides it like Ray J rode that Kardashian chick. I don’t know what it is, but I like when the hook on a song isn’t obvious and almost sounds like another verse; ‘more gritty that way. Peep:
Pretty bitches dwell, and males listen well/
I guess to gather dirt, I see the bitch in males/
Niggas say they real, but real niggas rare/
That’s why it’s hard for me to tell if you friend or foe/
Trill nigga here, so let’s get it clear/
You niggas ain’t my equal; you niggas can’t compare/
We ain’t the same breed; you barely appear/
That’s why it’s hard for me to tell if you friend or foe/
Nothing like a good battle track, and this one definitely fits the bill. My favorite line is at the end of the last verse, where Bussie says, “Runnin the city with no radio, ain’t it tho…” Nothing like a good subliminal to close out a tough-talk session.
The timing of the sample at the beginning of I Ain’t Got Time is awkward at first… and I love it. You need that sometimes; after you establish a routine of timeliness, a little off-timeliness actually creates a nice vibe. Plus, once the drums kick in, everything falls right back into place and you realize how nice the sample is. John Bussie gets on the track and uses a flow reminiscent of something you’d hear from Pimp C or spit over a DJ Paul instrumental. By the time you let this track ride for about a minute, there’s no turning back; you’re gonna hit ‘repeat’. Speaking of ‘repeat’, check out this line:
Ay I hope you understand, if you tryna come again/
Then you better go and find the rubber that I’m comin in/
…Yeah. When I heard that bar, I had to run it back; joint caught me TOTALLY off-guard. Well-played, Sir Bussie.
I’ve already mentioned Lamp Lights (counts on fingers) ‘X’ amount of times by now, right? But I love this track so much, I gotta mention it again. Everything from the verses to the hook, to the beat (this time, produced by Soundtrakk) to the video is MASTERFUL. And you won’t really know how masterful until you come to Augusta and get a feel for the city. This is what you need to hear on Wrightsboro Rd. at 9:50PM. Broad Street at 10:20PM. Laney Walker at 11:35PM. Bobby Jones Expressway at midnight. Ya’ll mind if I post the video up one more time? …Didn’t think so.
All-in-all, I’m impressed and satisfied with this project. Polos and Retros: The Maturation Process indeed shows us a much-matured John Bussie— and he really didn’t have much to prove after his first two projects. Andre Ellis’s musical contribution… I wish I could find the words. That’s what it’s all about: not a rhyme spitter and a bunch of random beats, but an MC and a producer building chemistry through consistent interaction. This mixtape actually has a SOUND, and the city of Augusta— the South in general— NEEDS more production like the sounds of Andre Ellis, BHZ, Soundtrakk, and The Alumni. It’s a return to the art of sampling that hip hop was built on; an ‘antique’ sound— smooth, polished, gritty-but-light— that captures the reality of life in the CSRA without the fluff and exaggeration. ** ATTENTION BTW**: We’ve had about enough of the overly-used 808 drum kicks and 808 hi-hats over synths and strings that you hear thumping up and down the streets in every datgom neighborhood you go to (when I’m not teaching high school, I deliver pizzas on the side, I know what I’m tambout). …It’s played out. Let it go, Black people. Diversify.
If you’re in the Augusta area this weekend, you should fall through Sky City, where Bussie will be performing live. Doors open at 8, show starts at 9, just $5 to get in; in all likelihood, Yours Truly, Earl Grey Summers, will be in the building. I’m just as excited as you are. Show some love…