"I’m just performing and giving people energy..."

It’s a warm afternoon in Austin, Texas, and on a quiet suburban street, Compton rapper Buddy is showing off his handles with a “Jet Life” branded basketball. The 24-year-old and his small entourage have just attended a barbecue hosted by New Orleans rapper Curren$y, where Buddy made what he calls a “legendary” special guest appearance. “SXSW is always a good time for me, I’m always having fun,” he says. “I’m just performing and giving people energy.”

Buddy thrives on fun. His music is born from being a social kid in LA that loves to collaborate with others. His star-studded ‘Idle Time’ mixtape, released via Pharrell’s i am OTHER in 2014, featured appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, and his re-emergence last year spawned a pair of celebrated EPs: one with Kaytranada, the other with Mike & Keys. A few weeks after our meeting he shows up on his friend Kendall Jenner’s Beats 1 show, Pizza Boys Radio, alongside a host of tastemakers, models and artists including A$AP Nast, Hailey Baldwin, Jordyn Woods, Taco Bennett and Luka Sabbat for an impromptu DJ set.

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“The industry is like a big ol’ club,” he explains, taking a seat on the front porch. “You see people out at the same parties or just in the field in LA, and I’m just a cool dude. Most of the people I make songs with is the homies. We smoke weed and eat food together and kick jokes. It’s all about the camaraderie, more so than the feature or the bag. Making songs with your friends is the best ever.”

Later, when we move into the back yard to scout some locations for our shoot, Buddy and his friends happen across a live mic that’s been left plugged into a set of decks on the veranda. Without warning, they take the opportunity to start a poolside freestyle session that likely comes as a surprise to the neighbours. Nobody takes themselves seriously while holding the mic, as they joke around, making fun of each other, playing with different flows and cadences. When Buddy describes his recording sessions, it sounds like what we’ve witnessed isn’t a million miles away. “I have a little mic and I would just freestyle over the homies when they come through and play beats,” he says. “[That process] picks up some tight shit because I never know what I might say.”

Heading into his debut album, ‘Harlan & Alondra’, Buddy was influenced by two records in particular: Nipsey Hussle’s ‘Victory Lap’, and BJ The Chicago Kid’s 2016 ‘In My Mind’, both of which he appeared on. “I’m not really trying to sound like anybody else, but the process of how an album is made was what I was trying to curate this time around,” he explains.

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From Nipsey he says he learned a lot about leadership: “What I took from him was learning to organise the people you’re working with. I would see him delegating what he wanted to do with his people; how he would want things to sound.” During his experience with BJ The Chicago Kid, he watched the singer find originality by being unapologetically true to self, something that Buddy says has been instilled in him since his early days working with mentor Pharrell: “One thing I always learned from Pharrell is just to be yourself, wholeheartedly. Just be authentic.”

Buddy’s own approach when recording ‘Harlan & Alondra’ was again centred primarily around collaboration and fun. To facilitate this process, he first enlisted a live band, comprised of players like Brody Brown, Mike & Keys and Roofeeo, and then rented a range of instruments with which they “made a bunch of noise.” Next up was a trip to the toy store. “I went to Toys R Us and spent $300 on toys,” Buddy says, deadpan. In a studio full of Nerf gun bullets and dinosaurs, the most important purchase turned out to be a Rubik’s Cube. “Whenever I got stuck on a hook or a bar, I would just play with the Rubik’s cube,” he explains. “I would always get one or two sides. I could never really finish it, but I never gave up. It was like a physical symbol of that album.”

And much like a Rubik’s Cube, the finished album is simply the byproduct of a process Buddy enjoys so much that he’ll repeat it over and over again. “Just being around the homies while we’re making music, that’s the best part,” he says, as a car pulls up to take him to his next appointment. “I’m not just making music. I’m enjoying this time and creating memories with my homies. We are making this together: it’s not just my album, it’s our album.”

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Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Katherine Squier

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