The intersection of Ocean and Montana Avenues in Santa Monica lies in the shade of leafy palm trees and overlooks the sparkling Pacific. A far cry from the streets of Compton where Buddy grew up, Santa Monica became the rapper’s home after he moved out of his parents’ house.
Shortly after moving into an apartment complex on the corner of Ocean and Montana, Buddy met Kaytranada, the very much in demand Haitian-Canadian producer. The young rapper collaborates with Kaytranada on his first formal EP, aptly named after the Santa Monica intersection.
Although the five-song project comes in at a little over 15 minutes, “Ocean & Montana” is an engaging crossroads of infectious dance music and approachable hip-hop, careful production and unrestrained vigor, mature self-examination and youthful energy.
Buddy has certainly come a long way from “Awesome Awesome,” the mildly popular Neptunes-produced single that consisted of a high school-age Buddy nasally chanting “ohs” and “yeahs” against an unsuitably heavy beat.
On “Guillotine,” the second track of “Ocean & Montana,” Buddy nimbly speeds through verses about throwing cash at a strip club, keeping up with Kaytranada’s dizzying patchwork of cascading synths and string samples.
Buddy’s agile rhymes do justice to Kaytranada’s most intricate production work of the EP and demonstrate the skills he’s honed over the past six years under the tutelage of Pharrell.
Buddy, who is signed to Pharrell’s record label i am Other, pays homage to his mentor’s vein of alternative R&B on “Love Or Something.”
His longing croons bring to mind the melodies of N.E.R.D.’s 2002 album “In Search Of…,” and the track’s amorous keys and bass recall the production of The Neptunes. Buddy’s confident presence seamlessly matches Kaytranada’s lavish landscape of glittering synths and muted bass.
The tropical “World Of Wonders” is the only track on the EP that lacks substance. Buddy’s plain vocals flounder in Kaytranada’s underwater playground of slide synths and light beats. The production carries the track, and Buddy is merely tagging along for the ride.
However, Buddy truly comes into his own on “Find Me,” the EP’s lead single. In the track’s anthemic chorus, his voice is supple and effortless, demanding attention. Kaytranada’s synths flicker and whirr at an atmospheric altitude as Buddy remarks on family dynamics and discovers himself at the bottom of bottles and the ends of joints: “Close my eyes just to see what’s inside of myself/I cry by myself.”
In the music video for “Find Me,” Buddy clings to a flying Oldsmobile amid a blue sky of cumulus clouds. He climbs on top of the floating car, gripping the car’s tan body for dear life.
Although he freely soars miles above earth, Buddy confronts the intimidating loneliness of leaving his origins behind. On his 2016 single “Shine,” Buddy “[couldn’t] help but shine” thanks to his family’s support and faith in God, but on “Find Me,” Buddy recounts his father’s warning: “Yeah I know you out here shining but you can’t do it all by yourself.”
With Kaytranada’s help, Buddy has solidly established himself on “Ocean & Montana” thanks to slick beats au courant with today’s electronic music scene, genuine storytelling and his affable personality.
Buddy’s challenge is now to find himself with a solo project that can test his capabilities and remain an unfeigned testament to his youth and origins.