The past should generally stay dead. It can oppress even the most positive in their times of weakness. There's a reason so many of us look forward to moving forward. But really, only the strong and determined survive in a world consumed by the status quo.
Los Angeles hip hop newcomer BUDDY isn't here to show the world why he can kick it with the best of them. He's here to show how the past can motivate the hell out of you, and why being true to your own sense of style is one of the most important things you can do.
Growing up in the notorious Compton, Buddy's former life was filled with the general negativity associated with the LA suburbs - gang violence, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol temptation - until production legend PHARRELL picked him up and signed him to his label iamOTHER about 5 years ago. While learning the in's and out's of the hip hop industry nestled under Pharrell's wing, Buddy became determined to shed that negativity that he once thought would have plagued him forever while living in the suburbs.
After moving to Santa Monica and meeting KAYTRANADA who has now entirely produced his debut EP, Ocean and Montana, Buddy seems to have struck a chord within hip hop, and makes his journey seem limitless and nothing less than totally worth it.
Ocean and Montana is catalyst for the future of hip hop, bringing funky and smooth vibes to a genre in desperate need of some fresh air. We spoke to Buddy about it all, and found that the pain is always a blessing.
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As much as you're known for rapping, your style kind of crosses over into singing on various tracks, especially on the new EP. Is that something you want to get around more as time goes on?
Yes sir! I ain't trying to limit myself. I'm a performer more than anything, so I want it all. Singing, choreography, visuals - a full show is really where it's at these days. I've been getting into some acrobatic stuff as well. Showing off talents to the world is someone's art form, it speaks to people in different ways. I want that full fledged entertainment for all people to enjoy.
I went to a performing arts school back in LA where they taught us how performance art is a cultural cornerstone. It's important.
It feels like Kaytranada is on top of the world right now, and it must have been insane to have him produce this new record for you. How did that even come about?
I met Kay in LA at a couple of music video shoots, and we just started hanging out from there. I told him his beats were tight, he told me my raps were tight. Simple really. We just got it going from there, and it eventuated into this new record. Working with someone like that always does wonders for your confidence, and I feel like Kay really challenged me to be the best I could be on this joint.
So you are from Compton - the same neighbourhood as Kendrick Lamar. How inspiring has it been to see someone like Kendrick rise to the top of hip hop with positive messages and good story telling? Is that something you feel like you're responsible for in your music as well?
Absolutely. I'm down to tell some stories because it's important and it means something to the people. Memories, aspirations - I just want to keep that cycle going and put out some tight stuff, whether it's serious or fun and keeps a positive vibe.
This whole hip hop and dance/funk thing that is happening right now is really killing it in the underground and the mainstream. I also think this EP really solidifies how diverse can be as rapper and a vocalist. What's the background there and what was inspiring you at the time of writing Ocean and Montana?
The title is a cross street in Santa Monica where I lived after I got out of Compton, and started really taking this music shit seriously. It's right across the beach. So many good memories man. Parties, barbecues, drinks. It really was kind of like a new life for me and got me away from all the previous negativity. I really figured myself out and how I got down with certain situations. This whole project is looking back at how far I've come and what I've achieved in the last year or so.
So you're saying you weren't involved in anything like that before?
Not at all! I'd just wake up in Compton and make music, even at my job and at school. It's all I was really interested in all the time, and all the while dealing with some bullshit - living at my parents house, family issues, trying to get it. It was a tough time. Although, all that stuff kind of brought me here today, so I guess I'm still grateful for what it did and how it motivated me to get to this point. Crazy.
So you got picked up from Pharrell about five years ago now. Tell me what's been like working with such a respected legend within hip hop.
Incredible. Pharrell is a genius. No one should have any doubt about that. He taught me to just be myself and not worry about some bullshit. Honesty is key, so I just try to do that. The whole time with him has been really hands on, and we've made a lot of beats together and had some good conversations.
He also introduced me to a bunch of my famous friends (laughs). Mac Miller, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle. Shit was and still is crazy.
Out of all the collaborations you've had over the past few years, who do you think has challenged you the most?
I feel like Nipsey Hussle was the most challenging artist I've ever worked with. We actually had a studio together in Hollywood, and had a daily routine that kept my mind active. Wake up, do some push-ups, straight into the studio for hours at a time where we would make some magic. There's so many others out there that I want to meet and work with all of them. There's so much to be made musically and sonically.
Any plans to come to Australia any time soon?
Whenever it happens it happens. But I'm trying to see Bondi Beach. Australia looks like a beautiful place. But y'all better be ready for a show, we bout to turn it up over there. I heard y'all get pretty crazy with the crowds, and that's something I'm a fan of. Sooner rather than later I hope.
Words by Benjamin Potter