Buddy hails from a storied place, but a lot separates him from some of the musical crop — Dr. Dre, The Game, and Kendrick Lamar, etc. — that has come from the infamous city. He is undoubtedly acquainted with the city’s uncompromising realities, which we have heard stories about for years from Compton’s alumni, as he recounts on “Trouble On Central” (“Spending my days out in the ghetto / heard a nigga just got popped at the ARCO”).
But Buddy, born Simmie Sims III, is unlike some of his OGs. His delivery isn’t quite as gritty as Game’s; his rhymes aren’t quite as abrasive as Dr. Dre’s; the details of his street tales aren’t quite as convoluted as Kendrick Lamar’s. Buddy’s music is that of a man who, I suppose thankfully, sounds fortunate enough not to have been swallowed up by the harsh world around him. Buddy hinted as much in a 2016 interview on Fuse: “I grew up in Compton. It has a big history for ignorance and bulls**t, and I grew up in the midst…but I’m the type of person that strives for success through all adversity.”
And on that note, Harlan & Alondra is also not the album that, say, The Chronic or Good Kid, m.a.a.d. City or The Documentary is — and it certainly doesn’t need to be. The Compton rapper’s debut album feels more like a celebration of a successful harvest after seasons of sowing seed and toiling in the field. And he has good reason to celebrate: nine years after being signed by Pharrell Williams back in 2009, Buddy is beginning to reap a little bit of the fruit of his labor.
Buddy spends much of the 40 minute runtime meditating on this burgeoning success as he traverses a number of West Coast sounds. On “Real Life S**t”, Buddy contemplates his come-up and the problems that still plague his life, his career, and his relationships. Buddy has his head in the clouds on the above-mentioned “Trouble On Central”, a smooth groove in which he dreams of the spoils of success, while his Chevrolet is stuck on Central Avenue. On “Shine”, a West-Coast “street-gospel”, chirps about how he “still can’t help but shine” despite “all of this darkness in my grave.” And “Black”, an ode to unapologetic Blackness whose hook reminds me of CB4’s song “I’m Black”, shows Buddy at his most energetic, as he teams up with A$AP Ferg to revel in “all Black everything” — Black skin, Black clothes, Black cars, Hennessy Black, etc.
Harlan & Alondra puts Buddy’s impressive artistic repertoire on display, showcasing his abilities as “a full-fledged entertainer,” as Buddy described it, as opposed to “just somebody tryna rap about stuff.”