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Photo: Twitter

We Need to Pay Attention to Buddy

The first time I thought Buddy landed was back in 2012. At the time the West Coast (specifically Compton) had been enjoying a resurgence. The Game was prepping Je5us Piece, Kendrick Lamar was becoming a mainstream obsession and YG’s mixtapes were making national noise. All eyes were once again on a city that had played a central role in rap’s evolution.

The timing couldn’t be better for Buddy. He’d signed to the Neptunes’ Star Trak  imprint the year before and the blog consensus was that it was just a matter of time. Then he dropped a song called “Staircases,” which featured Lamar and production from the Neptunes. With shit lined up like that, I was sure Buddy was, for lack of a more refined term, outta here.

I was wrong. As good of a song as “Staircases” is, it wasn’t the song that put Buddy into the leader of the new school category. Since then, from the outside, his trajectory seemed to have all but flatlined. Aside from a handful of collaborations, Buddy’s been largely quiet on both the underground and commercial circuits

But I wasn’t wrong for thinking that Buddy would one day be outta here. After releasing Ocean & Montana, his new EP produced by Kaytranada, he’s ready to make it happen

Buddy’s return began late last November when he released “Shine,” the feel good anthem that premiered on Apple Music via its playlist guru Carl Chery. The song began to gain steam on streaming services and it’s become Buddy’s trademark. Over an instrumental that sounds like rolling hills and exhilarating open air, he melodically liberates himself from his anxieties, willing positivity into his spirit. The video is similarly endearing, but it also allows the viewer to focus on the complexity of Buddy’s inner-workings, which judging by Ocean & Montana, is an important aspect of his message.

Ocean & Montana opens with “Find Me,” the only track Buddy released ahead of today’s release date. This morning, the music video also dropped.

While “Shine” found Buddy more assertive about his happiness, “Find Me” is rooted in the confusing uncertainty and insecurity that often accompanies soul searching. The video relays that sentiment perfectly, placing Buddy in a flying car near the “pearly gates” he wished to experience on “Shine,” but without the stability he needs to steer it correctly. Ultimately, he opts to just let himself go, eventually ending up on the roof of the car as it teeters through the heavens on its own. To Buddy’s surprise, he loves every minute of it.

The rest of Ocean & Montana plays out like a day in Buddy’s life. On “A Lite,” the nuanced—and agonizing—feeling of not having a lighter to spark a freshly-rolled blunt ripples out into ruminations on social and romantic experiences. The actual Ocean and Montana that the EP takes it’s name from is an intersection bordering a touristy stretch of beach of Santa Monica, and you can feel the vibe of street performers in the staccato drum pattern of “Guillotine.” On the song’s vintage, soulful chorus he wails, “What you know about me?” The response comes in chopped-and-screwed vocals: “Not a goddamn thing.”

Buddy isn’t isolating. Instead, he’s throwing himself into the world and owning those experiences, drilling himself on the idea that having it all together all the time is neither the rule nor the exception. It’s an illusionary goal anyway, and the comfort he’s found in that truth makes Ocean & Montana some of the most relatable music I’ve heard in quite a while.

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