Buddy, On the Corner
The Compton local wants you to reconsider your perceptions of his neighborhood—and of him.
FROM: Compton, California
HEAR: Harlan & Alondra
SEE: Lollapalooza, Cayuga Sound Festival
When discussing Compton rapper Buddy, many of music’s most famous names are spoken in tandem: Pharrell, Kaytranada, Mike & Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus. Yes, Buddy (born Simmie Sims III) has a resume that includes signing to Pharrell’s label i am OTHER in 2011, releasing two EPs in 2017 alone—Ocean & Montana with Kaytranada and Magnolia, produced by Mike & Keys—and a back catalogue boasting features from Kendrick and Miley. But the twenty-four-year-old isn’t resting on anyone else’s laurels. “A lot of people seem to depict the people coming out of Compton as no-dad/no-mom crazy vagabonds running around,” Buddy says. “That’s the whole perception of Compton. I’m trying to show a different side—a young boy from a wholesome family who grew up in Compton, went through all the bullshit, but prevailed through all adversity.”
On his proper full-length debut, Harlan & Alondra, Buddy pays homage to the city and his roots; the album is named after the intersection where he grew up. The record sees cameos from his mother, his father (a pastor), and his nephew, in addition to more famous names like Khalid and Snoop Dogg. “It’s more of an on-location type of vibe,” Buddy says. “I’m really trying to talk about me and where I grew up and my family.”
Though raised in Compton, Buddy bounced between church, school in Long Beach, and theater programs like the Amazing Grace Conservatory in Los Angeles. After forays in acting, he was introduced to Pharrell, who signed him and helped produce his first mixtape, Idle Time, which Buddy released in 2011 without label backing. His subsequent EPs, Ocean & Montana and Magnolia, showcase a sunny West Coast outlook highlighted by Kaytranada’s production on the former and smoky ambiance courtesy of production team Mike & Keys on the latter.
As for his live chops, Buddy cut his teeth touring this year with both Joey Bada$$ and A$AP Ferg, outings that Buddy says helped get his name—and personality—in front of fans. It was also a way to develop a character, not unlike what he learned in acting classes—except this time, the role is himself. He plans on bringing that same energy to the music-festival circuit. “I feel like with acting, you’ve always got to pretend to be somebody else, but in music I get to be myself, solely,” he says.
Rather than succumb to the bravado of rap, Buddy elevates the come-up—the reality of his and his fans’ lives. He didn’t grow up surrounded by wealth and extravagance, so better to stick to the themes he knows—the trials of a young man with dreams, the small moments in broken down cars, at parties, crushes in Compton—and the experiences he’s been humbled by, like getting to work with and learn from the best in music, and not the champagne and private jets. “The consumers aren’t rappers,” Buddy says, “so I feel like they deal with a different day-to-day life. It’s always better to make relatable music than songs about some unattainable fantasy life.” FL
This article appears in the 2018 FLOOD Festival Guide, presented by SiriusXM and Toyota. You can check out the rest of the magazine here.