With his relentless energy and golden voice, Buddy is one of those people who was destined for the stage.
The prodigious singer-rapper entered the music industry as a teenager, signing a deal with Pharrell’s I am OTHER label back in 2011. But you could argue that the 24-year-old has truly defined his artistic vision over the past year, building a steady fanbase along the way. At the tail end of 2017 Buddy made his first trip to London, where he performed on a line-up with IAMDDB and Syd, charmed his way through a press round and ticked off visits to the city’s landmarks. “It was cold!” he remembers, speaking from the warmer Californian climes of his home city, Compton. “But I had a blast.”
In conversation Buddy speaks at a rapid pace, and over the sketchy phone line you get a sense of his optimistic outlook on life. How does he maintain such a positive frame of mind? “I smoke a bunch of weed, drink a lot of water, stay hydrated,” he explains. “I pray. God is good. You know what I’m saying? There’s not too much for me to be upset about. I live an amazing life, I have an amazing team of people around me helping me take my career to the next level. And I love all my friends and my family so I’m just always happy.”
Rappers like The Game, YG and Kendrick Lamar have documented their experiences of being raised in Compton, and the most common perception of the city is probably influenced by N.W.A’s notorious material. But Buddy’s songs depict adventures where trouble lurks but good vibes can be found with weed, hook-ups and dancing. “Growing up in Compton, you know, it’s not like everybody thinks,” he explains.“Or at least not when I was growing up. Like [there] definitely was a couple of drive-by shootings or whatever, but it’s not on a daily basis. But I feel like the constant struggle in the city motivated me to really just do what I needed to do for myself and get my own shit going.”
Buddy met Pharrell when he was just 15. He was ready for the limelight, having performed in musical theatre as a child and later studying performing arts in Long Beach. At the age of 18, he scored an online hit with the Neptunes-produced single Awesome Awesome, complete with a video that sees Pharrell rapping alongside his young protegé. In 2014 Buddy eventually dropped his first full-length Idle Time. The mixtape was packed with high profile guests – Miley Cyrus, Kendrick Lamar and Freddie Gibbs to name a few – but Buddy has suggested that, partly due to bad management, things didn’t work out as well as they could have.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he says of having entered the industry at such a young age. “But I learned a lot, you know what I mean? And it really showed me being in the game young, seeing a lot of people with one hit wonders or whatever. It really made longevity a goal of mine, so I always try to make sure my shit sounds timeless.”
Last year, Buddy released two EPs, Magnolia and Ocean & Montana – the latter which was produced entirely by Kaytranada and had no guest vocalists. Sonically and lyrically, the EPs are by far his best records yet, with Buddy at ease as he glides between rapping and singing over sun-soaked production.
And now that he’s perfected his sound, Buddy is feeling good about 2018. He’s been working on his debut album, which he wants to drop “as soon as possible” – this time, as an independent artist. “I’m solo right now, I got a little company and I’m putting it all together with my team,” he says, with a convincingly confident tone.
Sounds like: A rap / RnB hybrid bathing in the Californian sun
Soundtrack for: Driving around town while contemplating your next move
Our favourite tune: A Lite
Fun fact: Buddy once freestyled while Billy Ray Cyrus played guitar at Miley’s house
Anderson. Paak / Domo Genesis