It's often said that we live in an era of remarkably short attention spans. The internet, instant messaging and the latest fads seem to have made it even less likely that something will be around in five years' time, never mind 20. Nowadays, artists seem to release one or two albums, perhaps a few more if they're lucky, and then hit their peek and drop off.
But there are some musicians like Buck 65 who've pushed past the five-year mark, hit a stride and ran confidently through a decade, and have proven they can continue to be relevant 20 years into their careers.
Of course, the rapper whose real name is Rich Terfy isn't unaware that he's been a player on the increasingly crowded game board that is the music industry. His latest album's called 20 Odd Years, and you can basically look at that as an incredibly self-aware proclamation that yes, he's been in the business for a while now, and yes, he's also doing things much differently than many other people.
But did he see himself being in it this long?
Actually, yes. Or at least he hoped he'd be.
"Longevity was something I had my sights set on from the beginning, more so than getting famous or making a lot of money or whatever," Terfry says. "I was more interested, right from the beginning, in carving out a long career, and I think I've proceeded through those years with some real strategy. I don't think it's pure dumb luck or anything like that."
Plenty of people come into the music industry convinced that they're doing something completely original that will make them huge. Plenty of those people also leave the business quickly, frustrated at not having made it big as soon as they thought they would, or continually being upset that they've built a following in their hometown, but as soon as they visit another city... no one shows up to see them play.
"The hard reality is that a lot of these things really take a lot of time, a lot of hard work and, really, just like almost a boneheaded level of comitment to build these things," Terfry says, pointing out that he's had nights where barely anyone showed up to his gigs as well.
"I had those depressing nights in Calgary, but I stuck with it for years. It just requires a lot of patience, I think, and for whatever reason, I think that's just something that's part of my makeup."
He says he's all too aware, though, that patience can be hard to have in the music industry when you want so badly to make things happen and nothing does. But he says he's also been extremely disappointed to find out that "nine times out of 10," people have left the business because they simply weren't making enough money.
"I don't think there's a more disappointing thing that you could ever possibly hear because in my mind, that instantly raises the questions like where were your artistic convictions? And did they ever exist? Because you gave up because you weren't making money," he says. "That suggests to me that you were in it for the wrong reasons to begin with."
"I hate to say this, but I think I've seen it more, really, within hip-hop than with anything else," Terfry continues. "You see it everywhere; it happens in every genre, there's no two ways about that.
"And maybe I only say that because it's an area of particular interest for me through most of my years, but you really only need to spend a little bit of time listening to hip-hop music to see that it can be a very material, goals-based thing for a lot of people. So maybe it just makes perfect sense that when it doesn't work out that way for people, they kind of pack it in."
Admittedly, Terfy isn't the biggest rapper in the world. He doesn't sell out arenas, he's not on the same level as Jay-Z or Kanye West, but that's not the point. Over 20 years, he's achieved a following in Canada and abroad, and people know who he is. He says he quite often hears a similar comment after his shows: "I'm not into hip-hop, but I like what you do."
So how does he think he's achieved success over the past two decades? First off, he says, he keeps his message pretty simple, which he says he thinks has resulted in something "universal" to which everyone can relate.
That and, you know, he's Buck 65. He's not your ordinary rapper.
"I think that, combined with the fact that I'm still taking an approach to whatever it is I'm doing, whether you want to call it hip-hop or something else, that is really novel in a way," he says.
"It's weird to say, but I often feel like I don't really have any peers. I have people that you could maybe loosely lump me in with, but I've never really looked over either shoulder and had the sense that there was anybody else doing what I'm doing.
"So it seems that maybe part of the key to my success is that I've kind of cornered something. It seems to not have humungous appeal, but maybe enough of a widespread appeal that it kind of works for me and is just sort of like a sustained thing."
So what about the next 20 years (because there most probably will be another 20 years)? Terfry says he wants to keep exploring various directions in music.
"The thrill for me over the years has come from, 'Where can I take this thing where nobody else dares?' basically," he says. "Knowing that's the thing that gives me the biggest thrill, I can only imagine that's what I'll continue to keep doing."
He also has absolutely no doubt that he'll pack things in any time soon.
"The one thing I know for sure is I'll be doing this until the day I die. It comes out of me as some sort of need more than anything else, and so that part's not a question to me at all."
Buck 65's upcoming tour dates:
July 1 Toronto, ON @ Downsview Park
July 2 Toronto, ON @ Lomography Gallery Store
July 12 Ottawa, ON @ Ottawa Blues Fest
July 15 Quebec City, QC @ Festival D'Ete De Quebec
July 16 Vancouver, BC @ Vancouver Folk Music Festival
July 21 Arlington, VA @ IOTA Cafe
July 22 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
July 23 Wilmington, DE @ World Cafe Live
July 24 Boston, MA @ The Middle East
Aug. 6 Kingston, ON @ Wolfe Island Music Festival
Aug. 8 Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
Aug. 10 Scottsdale, AZ @ Chasers
Aug. 11 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Aug. 12 Los Angeles, CA @ The Satellite
Aug. 14 San Francisco, CA @ Slim's
Aug. 16 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
Aug. 17 Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern