follow Zakaria Sharif on twitter because Pharrell still hasn’t
Reinvention’s tricky. Compton rapper Buddy, luckily, found smooth sailing on a second wind. The 23 year old initially broke onto the scene as a teenage rhymer with a Pharrell cosign in the late 2000’s, and worked that cosign into his 2014 mixtape, Idle Time. Unfortunately, despite the tape’s deep feature list that included Kendrick Lamar and Miley Cyrus, the project never really took hold, and Buddy was faded from the greater rap consciousness. The hiatus has done him well; Buddy is back on the scene with a new sound and lyrics that are sharper than ever. Buoyed by the Kayatranda produced EP Ocean & Montana and its introspective and catchy single “Shine,” Buddy pivoted. On this latest EP, Magnolia, the Californian is tighter than ever, delivering brash raps alongside heartfelt insight over Neo West Coast bounce courtesy of Mike & Keys for the best project of his career thus far.
Buddy’s fierce delivery and eye for detail make for a compelling listen, painting a picture of a rapper hungry for success. Take opening track “4 The Record”: Over rattling percussion and a woozy, quintessentially LA synth, Buddy rips into doubters who angle to bring him down. When he spits “gettin’ money I’m the sole proprietor / keep on sleepin’ man that’s fine with us” the listener can do nothing to ignore Buddy’s calls to attention. It’s his growl, aggressively, painfully spitting words, that makes Buddy’s delivery stick. Fellow LA native Boogie, who is himself stuck in a pitfall between fast success and a shifting market after a strong 2015, joins the fun.
Aside from his raw delivery, Buddy also has a knack for doling out personal details that make his stories rise to the occasion. On “Who Shot 2 Tall”, Buddy paints a picture of a day in the life of a young Compton-ite, always caught between the violence of the streets and law, never quite able to settle down. Little details like “Back in high school I used to catch the train home / Lookin’ out the window pane as it’s gettin’ rained on” the listener enters Buddy’s world, feeling the somber vibe of the daily Compton struggle. All those finer points build to an aching climax where Buddy cries out “How many niggas gon’ die before the summer’s up?” Buddy paints the track with his worries, lacing every word with the weight of the city he reps. That clear storytelling best displays Buddy’s acute potential, and it serves as his greatest asset across Magnolia.
Mike & Keys bring their best to every beat on Magnolia. From the tense “Who Shot 2 Tall” to the hazy “Type of Shit”, Mike & Keys perfectly execute a mood, illustrating the cohesive vibe of a late night on an LA boardwalk; sand underfoot, police lights around the corner. The highlight of their production is “Last Time”, a delirious swirl of synths and dusty drums that evoke a fluorescent nightclub after one too many shots, woozy and blurry, hinting at the danger below the surface of the fun. While Buddy details late-night flings and hazy mornings, the production brings the scenes to fruition. Buddy’s rapping across the project is tighter than ever, but Mike & Keys’ skilled hands bring Magnolia its unique charm.
It’s far easier to chase cars in someone else’s lane than to strike your own path. By injecting his art with a personal spin and a distinctly Los Angeles vibe, Buddy has reintroduced himself to hip-hop with a new energy and purpose. In the three years separating Idle Time and Magnolia, it’s easy to see that Buddy has matured, imbuing his Magnolia with a fresh perspective and a more tangible vision. Buddy delivers solid lyrics and engaging narrative, all with a wavy, intricate soundbed bumping underfoot. Buddy is not playing around with his second shot, and we should be happy he was given one.