Buddy can’t stand the cold weather. The California-born rapper has been in New York for a few days to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon but by the time he walks into Sweet Chick on a chilly Tuesday afternoon, bundled up like he’s about to scale Mount Everest, he’s tired of hiding it. Once we’re situated and warm, Buddy begins to open up: dancing along to a playlist filled with vintage 3LW and Dr. Dre songs and laughing at white people desperately trying to be Black (“Any caucasian with dreads is the most ‘these niggas wanna be Black’ moment ever.”)
Buddy’s music is as breezy and fun as he is in person. First discovered by Pharrell Williams in 2009 when he was just 15 years old, Buddy signed to his I Am Other label and collaborated with artists ranging from Kendrick Lamar and KAYTRANADA to the late Nipsey Hussle. It would be nearly a decade before Buddy would release his formal debut album (Ocean & Montana) through RCA, a blend of old-school and new-age California rap named after the Compton street intersection where he was raised.
Buddy’s latest project Superghetto began to take shape shortly after but was delayed by the pandemic. “We made about 300 songs [in total] for this project and consolidated them down to the best 10,” he tells Audiomack World. Though it’s no less melodic or concerned with love (“Wait Too Long”) and lust (“Hoochie Mama”), Superghetto is decidedly less frenetic than his debut. Buddy chalks that up to a growing sense of maturity. He still has fun recording hundreds of songs in the studio and hanging out with friends like Tinashe and Kent Jamz, but he’s keener to connect with his family, who he’s often separated from while recording and on tour.
“I’m not young anymore for real. I’m closer to 30 than I am 13 and I’m acting like it—or at least trying to,” Buddy admits. He’s more contemplative and nostalgic than ever, but he always cracks a joke before things get too serious.
“Black” and “Black 2” address the allure and weight of Blackness from different angles. Why did now feel like the right time to make a sequel to that track?
I wake up Black every day, so I feel like that every day. I didn’t arrange it around a social crisis or plan for it to come out around this time. I was trying to put my album out, so scheduling it around the album release was more important than the intention around the record. I made that song that day and it was tight. I was rapping real good and the beat was tight. The timing was impeccable, but it also just happened organically.
Felt. Blackness is timeless.
Word. I’m a Black nigga at the end of the day.
Superghetto feels like it has fewer stakes attached than your previous project. Walk me through the idea of what it means to be “superghetto.”
I feel like I just am super ghetto. I grew up in the hood in Compton. I feel like there’s a ghetto everywhere around the world. It’s very relatable and easy to digest. It’s in you, it ain’t on you. It’s just a different vibe you carry growing up in the hood. No matter what specific hood you’re from, you know what the ghetto is when you get there. It’s the place that no one wants to be when they get there for real. But it’s way more of an experience when you get there.
Did you come into this project with a specific sound in mind or were you surprised by what spoke to you?
I was literally just jamming out and creating for the longest and then the pandemic happened. Then I was chillin’ at the crib, bought hella toilet paper, and watched movies. Then when I went back to the studio, I made a bunch more songs. Some songs stood the test of time and we made a handful of others that bridged the gap between the older and newer.
Do you typically record this way? Narrowing 300 songs down to 10 is an intimidating thought.
Not even full songs. I try some ideas and not all of those make it to full songs. The ones that do still get sifted through to determine if they’ll make the cut. I’m my biggest critic, so I don’t like my shit that much. I feel like the undeniable songs are undeniable.
Your music seamlessly bridges different generations and subgenres of California hip-hop. As you’ve further defined your sound with these last two albums, where do you feel you fit within the legacy of West Coast hip-hop?
I’m paying homage to a lotta shit I genuinely fuck with. From The Beach Boys to the street shit, the [Dr. Dre] shit. I’m a LA baby for real. It’s felt because it’s not fake and it’s not curated too deep. It feels different from what it actually is. It actually is what it is.
Are there any specific ways you feel like you’ve matured aside from “I’m getting old” type shit?
A lotta shit that used to turn me up and light a fire under me doesn’t anymore. I have new fires under me.
I just wanna learn more. I wanna build with my family more. I was on tour and working on my album for so long that I was away from my family. Building a deeper family relationship at this age is what really excites me.
Best piece of industry advice you’ve ever received?
Everybody always just tells me to be myself and keep going. I’ve just seen people enter the industry one way and come out a completely different way. They’re not who they really are and that’s not the type of person I’ve been. There’s a lotta artists who didn’t finish the way they started.
Biggest contemporary influence?
I fuck with Robert Glasper. Fucking legend. The way he does his whole thing is tight. Down-to-earth and nonchalant but very epic and timeless and classic. From the visuals to the live performances, I aspire to be held to that kind of standard.