With so many artists bringing powerful ideas to alternative hip hop, it’s really inspiring to an artist try to do the same in the mainstream. On their newest record, Buddy brings infectious rhythms again and again, while delivering stories from the heart that will leave you heartbroken at times. Though it’s more radio-friendly leaning can occasionally result in some less than memorable music, they hit the mark more often than they miss it.
Though it slow-burns the total feeling of the album, “Real Life S**t” oozes its bass out in powerful punches and lets its vocals do the talking. As harmonies spiral around each other, even the dark story of the track takes on a lively atmosphere. While it also takes a moment to really hit its stride, there’s a truly infectious groove to “Shameless” once it lands. With Guapdad 4000 along to amplify the song’s attitude, the raps go absolutely off the charts for a song with energy and real bouncy beats. Alternating vocals with A$AP Ferg on “Black” there’s a sharp amount of commentary in a song with such a heavily repeated refrain. By evaluating how many negative attributes we attribute to black things, Buddy really puts the spotlight on modern society.
“Hey Up Here” does fall into a lightly generic slump of modern hip hop production, making even its delivery feel less exciting on the whole. Interestingly however, there’s so much going on in the background vocals that the song really grows on you in the smaller details. With a groove that rivals many of the album’s best, “Legend” almost undermines the record’s production with how funky and upbeat it is. Luckily “Trouble In Central” picks up on this feeling for a song that mixes the amazing bass into their R&B for something smooth but with something powerful to say. As the everyone jumps in on the song’s moving energy, the story reveals the dangers of life in Central and why it’s so hard to leave.
As disco and Stevie Wonder-soul comes in on “The Blue” they lean into every bit of their dance minds for a track that rarely lets up. As all their vocals really play with the space of the track, even Snoop Dogg goes beyond his already fun delivery for a standout verse. While they bring a little to explicit of a sexual energy on “Speechless” it’s hard to feel like their arrangements aren’t perfect for the song. With vocals flying around almost like a parody of how exciting love can be, the track leans into its cheesy nature for something fun.
“Young” tackles every generations view of the next, using a dark and gloomy keyboard line to underscore exactly how bleakly people can look at each other. Looking at social chains as their own form of barriers, Buddy really opens the floor to interesting conversations here. Even with Khalid elevating the chorus on “Trippin'” the party-heavy atmosphere of the track just feels a little too shallow for its own good.
Using some unusual vocal samples and a much more soulful angle in its core melodies, “Find Me 2” finds Buddy looking inwards to discover more. The pointed verses really paint a powerful story of growing from a collaborator to an artist in your own right. As charismatic as the vocals are on “Shine” it’s the deep bass and the atypical percussion that really make it stand out. Letting all the lively vocals and weird production quirks come through on this track, it never stops impressing.
Words by Owen Maxwell