I’m not one for narratives; I like to let the music speak. The outside noise of the world is ignored once I put on headphones and press play. An artist of a certain stature can’t sway my opinion one way or the other. “Timing” is only complementary to an album but it doesn’t make the album. I have to judge whatever I’m listening to by its own merit. So the most impressive album I’ve heard so far in 2018 makes me a hypocrite by my own standards.
Backstory: Pharrell cosigned a song called “Shine” by some rapper I’ve never heard before. Then, this rapper released “That Much” and it became one of my favorite songs of 2017. Buddy is this rapper’s name. I Not only became instantly invested in his music but I wanted to see him succeed as well. When Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap was released, I took it upon myself to say “That Buddy guy makes good music. You should check it out”. Obviously, I’m also carrying this good-guy-who-deserves-to-win narrative over to his debut album, Harlan & Alondra.
To be very clear, the title of this post isn’t a dig at all. Harlan & Alondra is indeed a very good album. If you listen, you’ll see it doesn’t need an extra boost. No narrative needs to be applied. I don’t find it impressive because it’s exactly what I expected from Buddy after hearing his previous work — and that’s ok. Many rappers have spoken out about the pressures and pitfalls of making their debut album. The most overused phrase is “You have your entire life to make your first album”. Pressure may cause a rapper to deviate from their formula and take unnecessary risks. Buddy, on the other hand, sounds like a rapper who is fully confident in his sound. Although he’s only 24 years old, he seems like an old soul. He makes his money by incorporating old-school West Coasts sounds with his own unique style. Buddy had the fortune of ironing out his style with the release of prior singles and his Magnolia EP. Early tinkering has made this album sound so clear and self-realized.
Songs such as “The Blue” and “Speechless” sound like songs I’ve heard before but they’re still refreshing. A song such as “Hey Up There” sounds like the optimistic track I love from most rapper’s debuts. When he says “tell the radio to play us”, I genuinely want that to happen because he deserves it.
If you’ve never heard of Buddy, this album will be an interesting introduction for you. If you’re already acquainted with him, I think this album is exactly what you expected. With the landscape of music changing constantly, I don’t mind an album that sounds familiar coming from a rapper who knows exactly who he is. The most impressive aspect of Harlan & Alondra is that it never tries to be anything it isn’t. It just is. He’s not afraid to be himself because he’s a pretty interesting guy. Nowadays, I need an album like this. A solid, no-frills album that will get many plays from me for days to come. So as long as Buddy can keep churning out albums like Harlan & Alondra, I will fully support his narrative.