Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ask Dr. Flavour

Kill-Joy from Salmon Arm, BC asked in his blog:

"A good friend of mine turned me onto the brilliance of the great Buck 65 about a year ago, during that time I've often pondered the significance of the #463 from the album Talkin' Honky Blues. Is this something only beknownst to those down with the Buck or is it some kind of Canadian colloquialism? "

It is a cultural colloquialism all right, but it’s not a Canadian one. It’s American.

To understand Rich Terfry’s (i.e. hip-hop artist Buck 65’s) poetry, it helps to know that he was a rarely gifted baseball player. He took to it relatively late in life but was so proficient he soon was being scouted by the New York Yankees as a legitimate prospect. A busted knee and few bad breaks later and he was back to DJ’ing in rural Nova Scotia. But his love of baseball has not diminished. Terfry sees a kinesiological beauty in his childhood sport, in its dirty aesthetic, in its hours of disciplined practice, in the ability to turn a precise trick with the simplest tools, like a stick of wood and ball, in this he finds a mystical connection to an internal spirit. He once said in an interview that, when playing baseball as a young man, it was like “the gods were speaking to me”. This is why his verse has so much appeal to those kindred souls, fakiegrind skaters. This is also why his poetry is populated with baseball idioms and allusions. He’s a kind of Flatlander for baseball.

Rich Terfry, aka Buck 65

“463” is a baseball term for a double play. Players in the field are assigned numbers by which plays are recorded. In this particular case, a ball is hit on the ground to the second basemen (#4), who spins to his right and throws to the shortstop (#6) who has already moved over to cover second base. The shortstop catches, drags his foot across the base as he moves laterally (and thereby putting out the runner charging from first) and then he leaps over the sliding runner. He throws the ball to first base while in mid-air. The first baseman (#3) stretches forward to make the catch while careful to keep his left toe on the base, and if they are all quick about it, they also put out the batter who’s running to first. Thus the fielders make two outs in a single, blink-and-you-miss-it play: 4-6-3.

Terfry uses the image of the double play in the chorus of his song, and in fact mentions the expression 'double play' explicitly in lines 27-9 “Learning the words / Turning the double play / Doing some damage in my own subtle way.” The song, in the form of a nostalgic remembrance of youth, has repeated allusions to his adolescent pastime (long summers days, tall grass, throwing rocks, a world made of wood, i.e., perhaps bleachers and the dugout). But the double play is the central image, and its is used as a metaphor for duality: “4-6-3: An X, an O…”; “4-6-3: A yes, a no…”; “4-6-3: A kick, a punch…”; “4-6-3: Life, and death…”. The author himself feels he is an expression of this double-ness: “I’m upside down, I’m inside out”. His sensitivity to, and approval of, the hidden dualities of life seems to be presented as a positive consequent of his childhood experiences, perhaps in his divine communications during his athletic pursuits (if baseball here is not merely a metaphor). This is in contrast with the “youth of today” who see things simply, who have “an answer for everything”, who miss the latent duality, the precious 4-6-3s.

I should add to this that there is a rival theory on the meaning “463”, supported by a small but vocal minority in academe. Some note that "463" translates in alpha-characters to "DFC", the acronym for the Dairy Farmers of Canada, an extraordinarily powerful lobby (some would say ‘mafia’) in Eastern Canada, Terfry's home. The repetition of “463” in the chorus could be an homage to them, the artist's “dues” as it were, in exchange for the freedom to practice his music without intimidation. The DFG Presdient, CEO, and Cappo, Jacques Laforge, denied this in a recent interview. “Buck 65 is providing the music for the new ‘Got Milk' advert. It’s in production now. So he’s already a ‘made’ man from our perspective. There’s really no need for further tribute, in song lyrics or anything.”

I leave it to you to judge the sincerity of Mr. Laforge.

Dr. Flavour

1 comment:

kill-joy said...

thanks for enlightening me doc, you made my day. now i don't have to ponder it any longer. just a small tip though, the correct spelling of your last name is actually 'f-l-a-v-o-r'.