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Buddy’s childhood in Compton was different than most of his peers. The 24-year-old christened Simmie Sims III was born into a family where both his father and his uncle were religious leaders. His career essentially started in the church, singing in the children’s choir, preaching the lessons of the bible to his pre-adolescent peers before the main Sunday sermon.
There was also the world of the secular: a performing arts school in Long Beach and a conservatory run by his aunt in Mid-City that taught talented kids how to act, dance, and sing. When his career aspirations became real, his life was spent bouncing around studios from North Hollywood to Santa Monica. Even from the beginning, there was always a degree of separation between Buddy and the world around him.
“You know I would go to Compton. Slept there. Shower, change clothes, go outside, hang out with the homies for a little while. Walk around the corner. Maybe get some blunts or water but like I was out after that. I wasn’t just hanging around doing all the Compton shit.”
This sense of separation doesn’t just illustrate Buddy the person, but also guides Buddy the artist. At a time when co-signs were everything, Buddy had what some may say was the biggest one in the game, Pharrell Williams. He found the pre-teen artist through Scott Vener, a TV music supervisor, who quickly got the then 15-year old to sign a deal on his I Am Other imprint. Initial success came with “Awesome Awesome,” a single best remembered by a bass knock that evoked the feeling of the mailman beating down your door. But Buddy’s output slowed down immensely. Over the next 6 years, a mixtape ironically titled Idle Time was the only full project released from the label.
To the outside world, it seemed like Buddy was shelved.
When I asked about this time in his career, he paints a different picture, “It was awesome. I was super young. I was fresh to the industry and I didn’t really know how shit went down. And I got to see a bunch of cool stuff.” After nine-years of industry-driven expectations and sporadic actively, he’s still able to separate the good from the bad.
Now it’s 2018. He’s no longer on I Am Other, even though Pharrell still executive-produced his album. Harlan & Alondra, his major label debut, was released in the second quarter of the year under his new deal with RCA. It’s led by songs like the A$AP Ferg-assisted “Black,” a timely chant-driven battle cry that plays on the word itself, but also the social issues faced by black people everyday. There’s the underdog anthem, “Hey Up There” with a Ty Dolla Sign cameo and lullaby-esque piano riff. The project itself highlights Buddy’s versatility as his gospel-inspired G-Funk bounce pays tribute to and expands upon his religious upbringing and the gang culture of the notorious neighborhood he was raised in.
Despite his success, Buddy doesn’t seem particularly interested in the bullshit that accompanies fame. In his words, “I just live and exist.” The notoriety is something that he’s still finding hard to deal with, but he’s been able to insulate himself with a small group of friends and family that he considers “the real.” With one tour in the bag, another one coming up, and a new album in the works, he’s getting used to being away from the home that he has such a complicated relationship with.
Maybe this self-imposed separation is his way of staying true to who he is. Whatever it is, it’s working. He has one of the best albums of the year and he’s busier than ever. The rest will take care of itself. — TE P.
Do you think you could give me a little insight on what that was like for you having a Pop that’s a pastor? Do you have any influences from the gospel world?
Buddy: Big time. I grew up in church. My uncle was the pastor of the church I grew up in. My dad was a preacher at the time and I was in the children’s choir. My dad was the director of the men’s choir. So, I would watch them in rehearsal. I went to this thing called children’s church. It’s for the kids who wouldn’t be in the main service. Once I got old enough I would teach the word to the kids. I’m deeply invested in the church and gospel. It definitely influenced my approach to the music. I had gospel songs I heard on the radio and soulful music mixed with growing up in Compton and being influenced by hip-hop, gangster rap, and g-funk. I mixed it all up and made my own little gumbo.
How’s does your Pop view your music?
Buddy: My dad is very proud. He likes what I’m doing. He’s not ever judgmental. He thinks it’s super positive and just kind of misses me and wishes I had more time to spend with him and family because I be on the road promoting and super busy. He’s just happy to see I’m doing something versus nothing.
So, what is that dynamic like now with everything ramping up?
Buddy: Man. It’s different. It’s definitely different. Growing up in the industry there were a lot of restrictions due to age and accessibility at the time. Everybody not knowing or being aware of what’s going on. I was building recognition at the time. Now, I’m in the position where everybody is aware of my talents and the music. But I get less and less time to spend with myself, for myself, with myself. I’m so busy just showing myself and putting myself on display for people to see with promoting the album. I’m getting everyone to pay attention and listen to what I’ve got going on. And I really be trying to take advantage of the moments that I’ve got with myself to just reflect and give myself time with myself. Just me.
What is Buddy like when you are away from the music and the lights? How do you spend the time with yourself?
Buddy: I smoke weed. I watch movies. I listen to music. I’m so used to being in the studio that at times when I feel like I’m doing nothing or not being productive I’ll got to the studio. I’ll hang out with my producer friends or be in some kind of productive environment. The entertainment industry is not just about making songs and stuff. You gotta be at the right place at the right time with the right people and any opportunity can pop up at any time. I’m more-so just staying ready so I can take full advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
How are you able to navigate and stay so grounded in that crazy world?
Buddy: I mean. I hang around too many real niggas to ever get caught up in the fake shit. I always try to find the real. Deal with the real. Get the real deal.
Is there anybody that you would point to that is there whenever you need them or helps you creatively?
Buddy: Brody Brown. He’s super helpful. He executive produced my album. He’s already super successful. He’s super humble and down to earth. He just gives me the tightest beats and all the freedom to do whatever I really want. Makes me feel comfortable to get my thoughts out and be me. We work similar. It’s super open and free. It’s just he’ll start playing the instruments and we’ll start talking and that will end up being the song. It helps being comfortable and being homies, you know. We’re just friends. It’s a blessing to be able to work with my friends. It doesn’t even feel like work we’re kind of just hanging out.
Can you tell me about that time being on I Am Other with Pharrell and what that period in time was like for you?
Buddy: It was awesome. I was super young. I was fresh to the industry and I didn’t really know how shit went down. And then I got to see a bunch of cool stuff. I was in Miami with Pharrell working with him at the circle house. We were working in all these cool studios. He was working with a bunch of cool people. Big Sean, Mac Miller, Usher, Robin Thicke, and all types of people. I’m meeting them and I’m just being myself. They’re fucking with my music and I’m playing them some of my song ideas and their playing me theirs and I get to be this fly on the wall in all these amazing studio sessions. I’m seeing how all these songs get made and albums get released. It was opening my eyes to marketing plans and rollout plans and shit I was completely oblivious to at the time. Definitely dope. I experienced a lot of things being signed to I Am Other.
How were able to apply what you learned in that period to how you work now?
Buddy: I have more of an awareness of the end goal and the purpose of everything. Going into it at first, I was just happy to be recording. I just wanted to make songs. Now, I’m at an age where I’m understanding it’s a music business and I’m trying to make money. I’m finding that happy medium between the fun, the passion, the talent, the bread, the bills, the real-life shit, and the whole reason that we even started to do this.
I know you were young when you first started working with Pharrell. How were you able to stay so focused all this time?
Buddy: I’ve gotta give credit to the people I’m around. My parents, my family, my friends, and my management team. They never really allowed me to deter from the goals. And I’m not a quitter. There’s definitely been down times and situations I feel I could have done something different but everything we’ve done up to this point has made me who I am today. It’s cool and I’m chillin. I can learn from my mistakes and I’m also so blessed to be around people who made mistakes earlier on and been through it already. I can avoid having those problems. Boom. Boom. Boom. It’s my surroundings and the people I hang out with.
From top to bottom you did so many things on this album. Can you tell me more about the thought process going into making it?
Buddy: I was working with some major producers that made me super tight beats that were fitting for the different types of frequencies I was trying to reach. So, I was all over the place really. I was definitely trying to give the listeners a sense of who I am as a person. On top of what I can execute musically.
You have a very good way of telling stories through videos. What’s your approach to your visuals?
Buddy: I collaborate a lot with directors and creatives who have amazing ideas and execution. They execute things properly so I kind of make the song. I talk to them about how I see things going and we both just bring it to life together. We work around ideas and budget that fit what we tryna do. Because we still on the come up, we can’t just do whatever the fuck. We work around a lot of things and make it make sense for everyone.
I read in an interview that you hate going to the studio and wasting time. What is an average session like for you?
Buddy: It varies. Sometimes I’ll have something written out and I’ll record it and see how it sounds. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a song but not have a beat. Then I’ll find the beat that the song makes sense with. Sometimes I’ll be with the producer and we’ll make the song together. They’ll make the beat and I’ll start freestyling the verse. Then we’ll make the hook. So, there’s no one way or particular way. It changes. It’s always different.
The song “Hey Up There” felt like you were yelling out and telling people, “YO! I’m here!” How did you approach making that song?
Buddy: I feel that way with every song though. There are so many pointless songs out there that are amazing and get you in the vibe but are not really saying anything. I’m always making it a point to say something in my records and not make open-ended statements. On top of a cool beat.
That takes me to the song “Black.” It is a statement. It also got picked up by a few shows. Can you explain that session to me and working with ASAP Ferg?
Buddy: I started working on “Black” in February. It was Black History Month. I was already in the vibe feeling hella black and shit. The homie Jahaan Sweets came through with the beat and I was just like Black, Black, Black. All over the record, you know? I was kind of messing around. It wasn’t super serious at the time. It wasn’t anything prolific. I was just kind of saying the word but it was so tight. The beat was so tight and then it made sense. Then I used it as the hook and wrote the first verse. I kind of wanted to implement a message about black shit that goes on. I didn’t want to make it too uneducated. So, before I even wrote the second verse I did my research. I was on Google search, YouTube, and documentaries of black historians and black history. I really had to do my own homework to hit those points I hit in the second verse.
What was that experience like going on tour with ASAP Ferg?
Buddy: Tour was fun. We rocked a bunch of shows. Sold out some shows. Ferg is such a cool dude that it’s just good to be on the road with other people that are around the same age as you doing the same things successfully. I’m so blessed to have people who give me the opportunity to show people what I got and what I can do. It was a big learning experience. I’m ’bout to go back on tour with Aminé. I got a nice little outlook on how to go about it smoother this time with the traveling and going from city to city and getting more in control of my health and my workout plan. It’s so easy to eat junk food and drink a bunch of liquor and do nothing on tour. You gotta be healthy and perform 30-40-minute sets every night.
Where does that want for making good content come for you?
Buddy: Well I resonate with artists that say stuff in their music more than others who don’t. Growing up in church I felt like every time my dad gave a sermon there was a beginning, middle, and end. When he was done everybody got the message he was trying to give. Definitely a subconscious thing for me to get a point across cuz a lot of people don’t have a point. They’re just talking.
Very early in your album you say, “Fuck Donald Trump!” Do you have any views on politics or is it just, fuck him and keep it pushing?
Buddy: It’s really just fuck him and keep it pushing. I’m in the barbershop smoking a blunt, getting my hair cut. I don’t think we should get deep into politics because I’ll rant.
On your album you talk a lot about Compton. People are getting another look at Compton through the group of artists that are talking about it. What was growing up in Compton like for you?
Buddy: I feel like growing up in Compton isn’t as hard as everybody makes it out to be. There’s definitely some drive-bys, some shootouts, some robberies. A couple homies died and a couple homies went to jail. But I feel like that happens everywhere. The depiction that they put on Compton makes it seem like everything is way worse cuz it happened in Compton. It literally happens all over the world but on a higher scale. It’s kind of like regular for me. I spent a lot of time outside of the city too. I went to school in Long Beach. I went to an after-school program and conservatory where we started acting. That was in Mid-City, Los Angeles. When I started rapping and doing music I was recording in North Hollywood and Santa Monica. You know I would go to Compton. Slept there. Shower, change clothes, go outside, hang out with the homies for a little while. Walk around the corner. Maybe get some blunts or water but like I was out after that. I wasn’t just hanging around doing all the Compton shit.
How does Compton shape who you are now?
Buddy: It just brought my attention to a lot of hardships earlier on in my life. It brought more appreciation for good times in life because all of the tragedies were just thrown in your face on a daily basis.
What was that moment like being able to go back to Compton and say, “Here’s some gas on me?” How did you feel doing that?
Buddy: It was cool. I could have bought some whole other shit with that bread. I feel like I made a lot of good people’s day and it made me happy to make people happy. I’m not the most giving person because I never had too much to give. So to be in the position where I have an abundance is a blessing to be able to give back like that. Like I definitely need to give more. I got enough to give people who ain’t got nothing which is amazing.
Do you have any long-term goals doing that or starting any programs?
Buddy: I’m taking it step by step. Check by check. Ima check my budget. That’s what I can do for the world.
What does it feel like right now being Buddy?
Buddy: It feels cool. I feel like a young veteran low key. I’m not thirsty to get super famous or do any antics to just get super relevant I’m just tryna have a good life for myself and make good music.
How do you look at those artists who might use those antics? Does it bother you?
Buddy: It doesn’t even bother me. It’s actually entertaining I feel like it’s a whole other level to reality television and it’s actually reality. People are writing their own scripts and doing their day to day TV shows and we’re all watching and shit is funny. Everyday is a new episode of all these people’s lives and it’s like reality TV for me. I’m just tryna keep it real.
Do you ever feel like you need to unplug?
Buddy: I definitely detox or feel the need to detox. I’m going on a Hip-Hop hiatus right now. Usually I wake up and play 03 Greedo and Young Nudy but I’m tryna take it back and play oldies. I listen to soft rock, switch it up. Switch up my own personal vibes because it could be a lot. I went to a FTP party the other day to see Yung Nudy perform and it was 10 rappers opening I’ve never hear of with music I’ve never heard. Then like everybody is turning up and mosh pitting and it’s super crazy and I’m oblivious to all these new niggas. I’m just like wow, there’s so much I don’t know to this day.
After hearing that, you seem regular. How do you deal with the fame?
Buddy: Just move accordingly. If anybody wants to take a picture I put up the peace sign or pop their collar or something. Just keep it cool. I don’t make such a big deal about it.
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