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‘Don’t Forget To Breathe’ | Buddy’s Latest is a Groovy West Coast Shot at the Summer Throne

Evan Dale // April 7, 2024

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No offense to any rapper out there that may infuse the adjective groovy into their sonic identity, but you ain’t Buddy. For more than a decade, the Compton lyricist, vocalist, songwriter, and beam of irreplicable collaborative energy has been making use of his broad skillset to curate a one-of-a-kind signature that – albeit rangy – never ceases to exude a retrofuture-nuanced, funk-loving, footworking groove. Something about his sound is irreversibly tethered to his West Coast roots. Whether environmentally or creatively influenced – whether by nature or nurture – the triangulation of Buddy’s head-bobbing flow, oft-laid-back aesthetic, and yet vicious annihilation of any beat put in front of him draws equal water from his Compton predecessors as it does from sunny slow drives up the PCH. To no surprise and just in time for a due change of weather, his latest album, Don’t Forget To Breathe, drips tantalizingly with that same warm, groovy signatures that have made him one of the more sought-after, yet somehow simultaneously overlooked names in all of modern hip-hop.

No offense to any rapper out there that may imbibe their work ethic with the word prolific, but you ain’t Buddy. Tirelessly crafting a sound and a supporting catalogue that speaks honestly to his unique interpretation of soulfully drenched West Coast rap, he’s released three lengthy solo albums since 2018, starting with Harlan & Alondra, followed up by 2022’s Superghetto, and now with Don’t Forget To Breathe in 2024. His two earliest were expanded on by Deluxe Editions, which will undoubtedly see the same treatment applied to his newest. He also released the collaborative Janktape Volume 1 with Kent Jamz in 2020. And as if that somehow weren’t enough, his wildly ambitious additions to Dreamville’s 2019 Revenge of the Dreamers III stole him the show, along with an innumerable grip of other featuring verses and hooks across myriad artists’ singles and projects during that same span. He is an absolute workhorse, that has built himself the infrastructure of a top-shelf rapper whose music everyone has downloaded for every beachbound flight.

And that’s exactly how he should be received from this point onward, because Don’t Forget To Breathe is not only his at this point zenith as rap’s prime example of a hard worker who has surrounded himself with the respect and collaboration of his peers, but even more importantly a dynamic creative whose ability to pull together a collection of groovy hip-hop anthems sounds unlike anyone else.


Much of that has to do with the fact that Buddy’s additions to his own music are nearly omnipotent. A ferocious lyrical force, he has somewhat understatedly and simultaneously developed his vocal prowess to a likewise commendable height. Often acting as his own featuring vocalist for a hook, he controls – with vast range – every aspect of a given track when he wants to. Just take into account Do Thangs, which rides a swirling West Coast beat into a barrage of poetic braggadocio before descending into a chorus that most rappers wouldn’t dare to belt. But for Buddy, it’s effortless, and packed with authentic character.

Much of his knack at carving out groove-stricken anthems also bleeds from the specific fact that no one shapes their flow like Buddy. One listen to the album’s standout leading single, Like This will tell you everything you need to know about what I’m trying to say. His ability to manipulate the pace of every syllable, and shape them into a flow meandering almost instrumentally adds even another layer to his sonic depth. All at once, Buddy is the rapper, the singer, and the instrument, and that stranglehold over the direction of his sound defines Don’t Forget To Breathe at length.

And yet, when Buddy wants to give up some of his artistic control, handing the reigns instead to his equally talented friends, he does so seamlessly – folding their own unique musical perspectives to expand the project even further. With frequent collaborator, Kent Jamz along with the unparalleled R&B force that is BJ the Chicago Kid, Talk About It emerges as a soulful, fun-loving cut. Next to pineappleCITI, Get It All bursts at the seams with retro-2000’s nostalgia, evoking positive perspectives and overcoming. And perhaps most exciting of all, teaming up with the indefinable name that may be the only modern artist equally enigmatic as Buddy, Should’ve Known with Smino is an exhibition of both artists’ immense range.

Top to bottom, Buddy’s new album – whether for its West Coast aesthetics, or its at times beachy pace – feels first and foremost like one of those albums that defines a Summer. So, Don’t Forget To Breathe everyone, because Buddy is coming for that warm weather throne in 2024. We’ll be listening for the foreseeable seasons.

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