By Eóin Donnelly
I like to think of my iPhone as my own little ecosystem, a self-managed environment where I alone control my diet of ideas. From every app to every like to every follow, everything I love is filtered through this device: on Facebook it’s hilarious memes and the news outlets I’d like to hear from; on Spotify it’s the various artists and playlists I keep tabs on; on YouTube it’s the so-called ‘intellectual dark web‘ combined with a bevy of music reviewers; on Twitter it’s the range of pop culture commentators who keep my thoughts invested in all things music, film and sport; and on Instagram… I’ll not even go there. All of this is to say that with the familiar walls of information access torn down, the internet’s democratising data eruption allows us to cast a pretty large net. Me myself, I don’t miss much.
Inevitably, most of the content on my phone is geared in some way towards staying informed on new music. I don’t need a mediocre Radio 1 DJ to tell me when my favourite artists have released a new single anymore; ninety-nine times out of hundred I’ll already have listened on repeat and added it to the appropriate playlists before he’s had his eggs and bacon the next morning. Or avocado on toast if he’s putting up an Instagram story. Every so often, however, I come across an artist who makes me churn my facial expression like Warden Norton when he tears Andy Dufresne’s Raquel Welch poster off the wall: how did this escape my attention? Buddy is one of those guys.
Although he is yet to release his debut album, rapper and singer Buddy has been bubbling up in Compton’s music scene for quite some time. Signed by none other than Pharrell Williams- all the way back in 2009- it’s a minor miracle that Buddy has escaped my attention for so long. Six weeks ago I stumbled across ‘Shine‘ on a Spotify playlist and was instantly hooked on its infectious melody and aspirational tone, immediately deep-diving into Buddy’s entire discography. He even has a Neptunes-produced track with Kendrick Lamar. Again, how did Buddy escape my knowledge? Baffling. It’s moments like this that keep my musical obsession from ever wavering. I’ve discovered way too many gems hidden in plain sight not to wonder what other unknown masters of sound are out there.
Today, Buddy released his new single ‘Trouble On Central’, which after ‘Black‘ is the second song to be released for his upcoming debut album. On the evidence presented so far, it’s going to be one hell of a listen. Despite not yet being out for 24 hours, I’ve already listened to ‘Trouble On Central’ as much as just about any other song all year. It’s early days, but I’ll be surprised if there’s a better soundtrack to summer released between now and the rain’s return. While ‘Black’ was an above-average attempt at an ominous trap banger, ‘Trouble On Central’ shows Buddy exploring sonic territory that is more suited to his gift for melody, charismatic delivery and ear for smooth yet expansive production. His vocals are remarkably in the pocket of the infectious, gummy bassline. The drums knock like Bob Dylan on Heaven’s door, the vintage West Coast synthesisers lullaby you into a nostalgic 90’s daydream, and can I mention the incredible funky bassline again? Scoop DeVille really delivered on the production. I might be getting caught up in the hype, but Ice Cube’s ‘It Was A Good Day’ might finally have a contender to its quarter-century run as the best song ever written about South Central L.A.
Buddy is more than a match for DeVille’s breezy summer groove, elevating ‘Trouble On Central’ beyond balmy seasonal fodder with his relatable aspirational lyrics and an RnB melody so catchy that you’ll want to tell everyone you know about this song. “I wish had a girl by my side/Wish I had a brand new ride/I wish I had a light/I wish I had a private flight/I wish upon the stars sometimes”, he sings with weary optimism and hints of Skee-Lo’s ‘I Wish’, imagining a better life while observing the broken world around him. Me too Buddy. And I wish I had synesthesia so I could see all the colours this track exudes. I’m moving to Melbourne in July, much sunnier than the perennially rainy Ireland, and I cannot wait to play ‘Trouble On Central’ on the beach. It’s everybody don’t worry and be happy music. ‘Trouble On Central’ is the kind of song you recommend to a girl you’re texting, convinced you’ll get a positive response and then end up blushing over the reply. “Omg it’s so goood!! I love it. Your music taste is so good”, one said. I can’t disagree.
Even to a music fiend like me, Buddy is a lesson in ignorance. Your favourite song could be languishing in obscurity, its creator struggling to survive in the dangerous streets of Compton or wherever as just another talented but starving artist banging the glass ceiling to no avail. He’s also a lesson in perseverance. Almost a decade into a recording contract that’s yet to bear fruit even as paltry as a debut album, Buddy remains undeterred, still bashing that glass ceiling until his glory shines through the cracks. The closing lines (“Trouble On Central with the homies/Oh no, oh no/Pretty soon we gon’ take control/Just wait on it, wait on it”) come across as emphatic, cool and confident all at once- no mean feat- but you can hear that this kind of imperturbable hopefulness was not a given. Just like on ‘Shine’, Buddy’s self-instilled mantra is to keep on keepin’ on through troubled times and to look to the heavens when left stranded on the runway. With ‘Trouble On Central’ he has curated the perfect theme tune to doing so, centred in trouble but on the fast lane to something more.