Posts tagged Buddy
Less is More: the case for shorter albums

Advancements in technology have, for better or for worse, changed the way 1. consumers receive music; and 2. artists create and distribute final compositions. Instead of the need to be physically present to collaborate with others that are thousands of miles away, unfinished tracks can quickly be shared electronically with a click of the mouse, bridging the virtual gap between collaborators that are countries apart.

An ambitious high schooler can become a rapper, producer, and audio engineer by watching instructional videos on YouTube straight from their momma’s basement. In lieu of a proper studio, plenty of hits during the SoundCloud era (again, for better or for worse) were performed in a bathroom with makeshift soundproof paneling. DIY mentality, in conjunction with the tech boom, saturated the market of recordings, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. More opportunities to take risks to expand the sound of a genre. More output also means more chances to miss, which leaves an increasing clutter of broken songs to sift through.

Sorting the mess can be a daunting task in 2018. Even with the advent of streaming services - with thousands of neatly organized albums at our instant disposal for the cost of about 12 CDs per year - keeping up with the latest releases is a chaotic schedule to maintain. It shouldn't be a chore to press play on a new project by a favorite artist. "Are you fucking kidding me?" shouldn't be the first thing that comes to mind when looking at a tracklist. That, for example, should be reserved for the optimistic shock of seeing guest features; however, exasperating said phrase at the long runtime or the number of songs has become a negative trend.

There are obvious exceptions, but a CD should not be the same length as a motion picture movie. Human attention spans have unsurprisingly been dwindling because of technology. It's no wonder that why can only focus on something important for about 30 minutes or less. The internet alone stimulates our minds in many different ways to ensure that we're never truly "bored."

Oh, and there's life: social with friends, relationships with significant others, work with people you secretly hate. It's a lot for our minds juggle at once. Even if one sits at home and does nothing but consume music, listening to something for an hour and a half straight seems laborious, not joyful.

Artistic merits exist within these projects, but a few of the biggest culprits of an extended runtime happen to be three of the biggest names in hip-hop: Migos, Rae Sremmurd, and Drake. Culture II (24 tracks; 1hr 45m), SR3MM (triple disc, 27 tracks; 1h 41m), and Scorpion (double disc, 26 tracks; 1hr 30m) rack up 77 songs totaling 5 hours & 56 minutes. In that same time, you could watch Black Panther & Infinity War back-to-back, or take a flight from NYC to London.

Long albums can hide behind the guise of "we're giving more to our fans," but the jig was never fooling anyone. In the streaming age where all sorts of sales records are being broken by the hour, a loaded tracklist primarily has rich goals of achieving RIAA certifications. The logic behind it is to compile as many records as possible, including scraps off the cutting room floor, and see which single pops. Essentially, throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Can't knock these artists for their business acumen but with lengthy projects, they run the risk of sacrificing the quality of a finished product. RIAA certifications add little to a legacy in the streaming age if there's an asterisk.

What Kanye West tried to do with five projects in five weeks was disrupt a flow that was endlessly trending upwards. A disorganized circus in Wyoming played active defense against his strategy, leaving the experiment as a whole disheveled. While the panned three-fifths of the session was hastily put together, the two standout products DAYTONA and KIDS SEE GHOSTS succeeded with precision and conciseness, as they took more than a week to plan. Having seven songs per project leaves little room for error but increases the chances of a high, efficient batting average.

Many believe they hit, but there are some groups with the flawed opinion that DAYTONA and KIDS SEE GHOSTS are not "legitimate albums" because their 20-minute runtime. It's fine if they get left off Album of the Year discussions; this isn't a campaign about that. Disregarding them because there wasn't additional filler shouldn't be a valid dismissal.

A complete thought can be assembled in 30 minutes or less. In an over-saturated music economy, stripping a project down to the bare essentials is a merit in and of itself. As streaming becomes the preferred method of listening, the lines are getting blurred between what separates an album from a mixtape or an EP. The EP vs. LP distinction was strict when the boundaries of distribution were as well. Why can't these distinctions evolve with the times? A comprehensive story can be told in 30 minutes or less just as effectively as an hour-long release. The M.O. of "less is more" was influenced by three impressive projects: FETTI, FM!, and White Bronco.


Joint albums - even with three legendary acts such as Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, and The Alchemist - always look great on paper but are far from a guarantee. Listeners have been scorned by recent collab tapes with chief complaints stemming from the chemistry or lack thereof. Big names will certainly attract an audience. A compilation of throwaways and a lack of effort will dissipate said crowd faster than yelling fire! in a movie theater. Heavy smoke (no pun intended) surrounded the anticipation of FETTI after a surprise announcement. Clocking in at 23 and a half minutes, this powerhouse trio exceeded expectations by delivering an intricate balancing act with two rap styles, seemingly on polar ends of the spectrum, complementing each other like Yin & Yang. Gangsta Gibbs is known for expertly running through sets of triplets in rapid succession, all the while flexing on a 16 with hay makers for punches ("My baby said if I be faithful, she gone hold me down / I'm fuckin' these hoes, I want it all like an only child // About to take a trip, I got coke and dope on my grocery list // Oxycontin pack, I be switchin' rackets like Djokovic"). He slickly does so most prominently on Willie Lloyd and even sings with conviction on Now & Later Gators.

In many ways, Spitta Andretti is just different. If Freddie is a renegade assassin, then the New Orleans native is a cerebral marksman that moves with grace and precision who is equally as lethal. Curren$y's flow embodies a cool ass nigga; his presence will be felt without ever doing the most ("It's like divin' out the plane / Once that music hit our veins / Tins of Rose Champagne // Mascara telling her tale, Revealin' her pain"). A confident calmness, exhibited on Saturday Night Special and No Window Tints, showcases skilled rap ability without needing to spazz out. And what's left to say about Alan The Chemist that hasn't been said already. There's a masterful, haunted essence to his production that's sharp, distinct and one-of-a-kind. The sample-driven, minimalist landscape The Alchemist provides for the duo is deranged and beautiful, manic but never frantic. No one truly dominates except FETTI as a whole; Gibbs, Spitta & ALC co-exist without intruding each others space. These veterans understand the strength of effective teamwork.


Vince Staples can rap his ass off. He's technically sound, quick, witty, and intelligent. At such a *young* age, the North Long Beach native has a wisdom that resembles a man in his mid-40s. People think his interviews are hilarious. All of the above is a recipe for a hip-hop star in 2018, not to say that he isn't. How come he's not universally beloved? The beats. For lack of a better phrase, the "robotic production" on Prima Donna and Big Fish Theory - two solid pieces of work with underlying creativity - has been sonically off-putting to some. The thing is: he doesn't give a fuck. It's evident by his brash attitude and the way he carries himself. Vince's latest project, FM!, thanks in part to the chameleon-like super-producer Kenny Beats, is a more palatable experience to all listeners involved. At just over 22 minutes, FM! is a straightforward concept album on the surface: someone turning on Power 106 ("Big Boy's Neighborhood" to be specific) hearing him rap about his life. In meta terms, it could be interpreted as a voyeur’s experience of a real story; a brief snapshot of a complex individual that's witnessed the traumatic pain of street life, but disguises it as entertainment. The visuals to the ironically titled, E-40-featured FUN and the song itself captures that point. With assistance on the hook by Jay Rock, Don't Get Chipped is a weary, bass-heavy track that talks about remaining skeptical even after you've "made it":

Everybody say it's lonely at the top
I want my homies at the top
My little homie, he got shot
And now I'm moving by my lonely with the .40 and the mop
Finna pull up early morning and somebody getting dropped
I throw a party on your block, like I'm Tommy the clown
Hundred thousand dollar car, bet you proud of me now
Took my mama out the set, house as big as my mouth

That balance between light and dark keeps Staples on edge, knowing that his work isn't done. Ty Dolla $ign, Kehlani, Buddy and Kamaiyah (“head on a swivel, no bleedin’ me!”) all make an appearance (engineered by MixedByAli) to help provide as much of a vibrant West Coast feel as possible. Even 1-verse snippets from Tyga and Earl Sweatshirt, with dashes of segments of Big Boy's Neighborhood, add to the authenticity of the FM! radio show. Vince Staples had much to say in this concept album without belaboring the point.


Action Bronson has had one of the most interesting careers in entertainment since the start of the decade. After breaking a leg in the kitchen, gourmet chefs don't typically end up signing to a major as a result of releasing critically acclaimed mixtapes. They don't typically parlay their success into two television shows AND a book deal. Completely self-made. Last year’s effort Blue Chips 7000 may have indirectly foreshadowed the chaotic gap between 2017-2018. Unlike the nonretail mixtapes Blue Chips 1 & 2, 7000 (retail) felt...forced and uncharacteristic. 2018 marked the end of the Atlantic partnership and the Queens-bred talent cut ties with Vice for not fully appreciating him. Like OJ speeding down the 405 in '94, White Bronco is Action Bronson's burst of freedom (under less grave circumstances). 26 minutes was all that he needed to confirm his return to true independence.

When left to his own devices, Bam Bam has an incredible ear for beats. Having enlisted heavyweights like Harry Fraud, Party Supplies, Daringer who have collabed with him before, these producers helped to restore the feeling from earlier in his career. The narrative on White Bronco, never explicitly stated, is wild and cathartic - something that can't be tamed. He's at his best when his shit talking with a grin with absurd one-liners and quotables you can't help but laugh at ("all these women calling me Taye Diggs," "my haircut is like Dominican folk art," etc.). On the soulful Knxwledge-produced Prince Charming, there's a mix of reckless hilarity and controlled sentimental moments that a well-balanced Action tape sounds like. Featuring two of his closest friends (Big Body Bes and Meyham Lauren) and fellow statesman ASAP Rocky, White Bronco is a strong return to his independent roots in a major way. Sometimes the raps aren't perfectly strung together, but that's okay. He sounds free of constraint, happy to be himself again (“Hold up, just let me roll up, bitch, I'm 'bout to fly // Your boy been out his mind, tears fall out his eyes”). The signature "it's me" rings louder these days.


It was a struggle to power through both in one sitting, but 03 Greedo and Lupe Fiasco are examples of artists who had a legitimate reason for their lengthy projects. Greedo dropping an official album exceeding 90 minutes, God Level, just days before the start of a 20-year prison sentence is understandable. Lupe's Drogas Wave is a deeply thorough epic that's meant to be dissected for years to come. I see why it's over an hour and a half. A slight variation in production for the course of damn near two hours is unnecessary without a purpose. The three recent examples by FETTI, Vince Staples, and Action Bronson are proof that a condensed album can be just as declarative as a sprawling "full-length LP."

It's a low stakes investment for both the consumer and content creator. If it works, great; bump it multiple times until it falls out of rotation - it's bound to eventually reach the same amount of plays as the 30-track CD. If it doesn't work, great; move on to the next project - literally in the case of the artists; sometimes a fresh start is needed. Too much music to listen to is a great problem to have but we're adults now, we got shit to do. Less is truly more in an increasingly congested world of information. If you don't have anything interesting to say for an hour+, please keep it under 60 and...

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The Internet, Buddy, and the Pursuit of Timelessness
Columbia Records

Columbia Records

RCA Records

RCA Records

“I got inspired by what she was talking about, and that night I did the drum beat and piano part for ‘Back to Black' and put tons of reverb on the tambourine. She’s deceivingly nonchalant, and when I played it for her the next day, she said, ‘It’s wicked,’ but I couldn’t tell if she meant it. Then she was like, ‘This is what I want my album to sound like.’

She would come in every day and play me songs on the acoustic guitar, and we’d try different arrangements to find something that felt authentic. The reason everyone goes back to those Motown records is that there were amazing musicians playing together in a room, and that’s what we tried to do.” - DJ/Producer Mark Ronson on creating the classic album Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

We are living in the most prolific time in music history, in terms of output; which is great because it offers fans a wide selection of new material to listen to from their current and new favorite artists. It's also disorienting for avid fanatics; it feels like a chore to keep up with the latest releases on a weekly basis. A project could receive critical and universal praise, only to be shuffled into the ether and forgotten about merely weeks later. Something like the Kendrick and TDE-curated Black Panther OST are a distant memory six months later.

With the rapid pace of material being produced daily (and with social media playing a role as an accelerant), six weeks ago might as well be six months ago in this current climate. There's an argument to be had about whether or not an artist should excessively drop multiple projects (3-4 or more) in the same calendar year. Experts like Curren$y and Future are revered for such a tactic because they meet the standards of what their loyal fan base approves of; at the very least, a handful of tracks can be taken away for high replay value beyond the life of "opening weekend."

It begs the question, though: is a compilation of greatest hits, in the long run, more valuable and more memorable than a discography filled with individual bodies of work with the most cohesion from front to back? What trumps all is having a bold authenticity to your craft. Far too often many artists on the urban scene catch the most popular wave, with the hopes of hitting a crest and ride it until the crash into the shore. We all hear it. Certain flows, cadences, vocal effects, drum patterns, hi-hat tempo, rhyme schemes, etc. get recycled into mediocrity. It's reheated microwave shit. It's digestible, but the quality is noticeably poorer. 

Important pioneers like Chicago's laidback rapper Valee has created a new style that's catchy and infectious in the best way possible. His "Ijustwokeupgaudyrapsthatflowlikerunonsentences" is already getting bitten by other rappers. Like his overall demeanor in his raps and interviews, he's not worried about it.

"I never get the time to get mad [about other rappers stealing this flow] because I'm so happy that they didn't do it right...you're so big [popular, well-known]...but you can't do something right" - Valee

Separating yourself from the crowd with authenticity and being distinctly unique has the best chance of success beyond the life of a current wave. In this fast-paced digital age of new music, The Internet and Buddy slowed things way down with their latest efforts, Hive Mind, and Harlan & Alondra, respectively. These California natives took the scenic route, via different paths, to their most mature and complete sounding records to date.


It's only been three weeks since the release date, but Harlan & Alondra already sounds nostalgic.  The foundation of this soundtrack, provided by Los Angeles residents Mike & Keys (Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies), DJ Khalil, Terrance Martin, and Scoop DeVille among others, helped create an atmosphere that felt true to the region they were raised in. Without sounding forced, the production could easily replace the scores to Menace II Society or Boyz in the Hood and it wouldn't sound foreign or out of place. Sonically, Harlan & Alondra is an ode to its predecessors like Dr. Dre's The Chronic, DJ Quik's Way 2 Fonky, and Doggystyle by Snoop, who makes an energetic and youthful cameo on the groovy "The Blue." Soulful and g-funk-inspired, Buddy doesn't forget the roots that influenced him musically growing up in Compton, CA.

Despite being only 24 years old, Buddy has more than half a decade under his belt in this industry. As he raps on the introspective Find Me 2, "the last nigga signed to Star Trak" has had connections with Pharrell since the early 2010s, and they "still keep in contact," (he co-produced the final track on the album, Shine). Having that experience lends to the composure he displays throughout the album while talking about his trials and tribulations with slick raps and soulful crooning. Growth with his personal development from a reckless youth to a productive young adult is evident throughout this 12-track project. The album's peak, Trouble on Central shows Buddy's range as he melodically raps, bops and sings about his past situation and how he dreamed of something outside the view of his hood.

Just so good at being in trouble
Spending my days out in the ghetto
Papa say that I need to be careful

Heard a nigga just got popped at the Arco
Pros on the hoes stroll, junkies on narcos
Long Beach, Compton, Watts to South Central
Damn, I just can't wait 'til I get home (shit)
That's when a cop had pulled me over

“I feel relieved,” he says. “It’s like taking a shit. I had it in me for so long and now it’s just out into the world, just flushed.”

Buddy has crude humor about his debut album, which was nine years in the making, but judging by how well put together it was, one can tell how seriously he took this project. From the aggressively hype and proud Black featuring ASAP Ferg, to the cool, breezy, and light Hey Up There featuring Rev. Ty Dolla $ign, Buddy's range as a captivating musician is on full display. Named after the cross-street he grew up on, Harlan & Alondra is extremely personal to Buddy, both lyrically true and sonically native to his home environment.


Hive Mind, as of December 2017, was 95% finished, yet it only came out on July 20th, 2018. The hype was plenty, but the crew wasn't bothered by that pressure. It was fine-tuned to the highest of qualities. There's a certain maturity that comes with independence; branching out to do solo projects definitely contributed to their growth as a group. The opening track Come Together literally does that, as if it's a collective "oh what's good?" to the homies you haven't seen in a while. Every single element of the band is audible on this airy song, sounding sharper than ever.

I feel like this is on a higher echelon than Ego Death. I love Ego Death, that was a great record, but I know this one is a step up." - Steve Lacy

It's incredibly grown. Like, if you get passed the aux cord at your family's annual cookout, mixed with younger cousins and great-grandparents, this album is a safe medium that'll be impressionable to both crowds. Funk, soul, jazz, RnB, and electronic music are blended together for a groove-filled entertaining mix from start to finish. Syd hang-glides as a vocalist and constantly shows her versatility. On Stay the Night for example, her verses are delivered as relaxed jabs right before she hits a breathy stride into the bridge. One of the major standouts, the somber It Gets Better (With Time) evokes strong emotions from her vocals alone.

The lyrics are even more of gut punch:

Is something wrong?
'Cause you seem mighty low
Tell me what's going on
Probably been there before
Sit up and fix your face
You see me, I'm okay
We ain't got time today
Throw on your darker shades and
Smile for the camera

Balance is important; songs like the bass and percussion-driven Steve & Syd duet Roll (Burbank Funk) and the light-hearted upbeat groove of La Di Da provide just that. Girl chasing, love makin', heartbreak, self-care are universal themes in not only soul and RnB, but life in general. The Internet connected on these from a maturely confident point of view.

Staying true to self is something that'll never go out of style. Why be a copycat in an increasingly artificial world? Eventually, hit chasing is bound to lead to fatigue and it's even worse when it's not legitimate. It's not sustainable long term.

In the quote at the start of the piece, Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson were aiming to create something authentic with lasting effects and used the Motown era as an example. He wasn't equating the two directly (I hope) but was showing how important it was to take the time to make the best possible thing as best as they can.

Slowing down the pace to focus on the long-term isn't always a bad idea. Even if wide-spread love isn't immediately shown, Harlan & Alondra and Hive Mind are two bodies of work that'll live beyond 2018. If done correctly, the culture will always accept and respect, futuristic throwbacks rooted in authenticity. The Internet and Buddy did just that.