In the six years since he first caught the ear of Pharrell Williams, Compton rapper Buddy has been a consistent but rather elusive figure in hip-hop. Despite Pharrell's cosign, a star-studded list of collaborators from Kendrick Lamar to Miley Cyrus, and even a few acting credits under his belt, he has yet to attain the same white-hot notoriety as some of his peers.
Buddy insists his slow climb is intentional. "I took a lot of time off to really get my life together," he tells Exclaim! "I was going through some real life shit that I had to organize, so I put the brakes on the industry. Being in the industry super young gets a lot of people caught up and becoming some whole other thing than when they started. I just had to stay grounded."
This might be the year the MC finds his footing. In May, he quietly released Ocean & Montana (on Cool Lil Company) a crisp EP produced by Montreal beatsmith Kaytranada that is refreshingly free of guest features. On each song, both rapper and producer showcase the breadth of their skill. And with Buddy front and centre on each track, there was no chance of him getting lost in collaboration clutter. "This was more about me as a writer/singer/rapper," says Buddy. "Kaytranada sent me a folder of beats and I wrote to them by myself. I set my own bar."
A former performing arts student with a background in stage theatre, Buddy uses his training to switch moods on Montana. On the lead single "Find Me," he is sullen and introspective and on "Guillotine," he pretends it's the '70s and channels his inner Curtis Mayfield. On "World of Wonders," he's dripping in boyish charm, throwing flirty vocals against a Caribbean-inspired backdrop.
Sonically, the EP is as random as the creative process behind it. "The title Ocean & Montana is the cross street to my apartment complex when I initially moved out of my parent's house in Compton," says Buddy. "Finally moving out and staying directly across the street from the beach put me in a different headspace. I was riding my bike, I randomly learned how to surf, I was making all types of food — I started baking! I was hanging out with a dog and a chameleon. I was doing all types of stuff! So there's all different vibes in the EP."
The 23-year-old says fans won't have to wait long to hear more from him. Buddy is happily working on his debut album and has another EP slated for release this summer, produced entirely by duo Mike & Keys. "We've got some hits! Smashers and bangers. Smangers," says Buddy excitedly.
While he has big plans in the works, Buddy doesn't look too far ahead. Seemingly uninterested in chasing fame, the artist is quite content to take his time. "I don't really have expectations, I feel like that's a box," he says. "I have no clue where I'm going to be later on. I just go one day at a time, one song at a time, one project at a time."