Reggae Sensation Collie Buddz Keeps it Real

Collie Buddz is a 25-year-old Bermudan dancehall "sing-jay" and reggae artist. He describes his journey in music and, as a white musician, how he's contributing to a traditionally Black musical genre.

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(Soundbite of song, "Come Around")

Mr. COLLIE BUDDZ (Reggae Singer, Songwriter, Musician): (Singing) Oh, that's some the sweet, sweet stuff, you know. Yeah, I...

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

What do you get when you mix dancehall, hip-hop, blues and reggae with Bermudian flavor? Collie Buddz, of course.

(Soundbite of song, "Come Around")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) Finally the herbs come around. The high grade when me a look for. Me get it by the pound. Yeah. Sweet sensi a come around. Me a take a little draw and pass it go around, so.

MARTIN: That's his hit, "Come Around." The video has been a hit on MTV and BET, as well as overseas. And his self-titled debut album launched as the number one reggae album on the Billboard charts. You can hear why.

Born in New Orleans, he grew up in Bermuda. Collie Buddz, a.k.a. Collin Harper, is with us now in our studio in New York.

Collie, it's, so great to talk to you.

Mr. BUDDZ: Yes. Good to talk to you, too.

MARTIN: So Collie, "Come Around," a great song. Congratulations on the hit.

Mr. BUDDZ: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.

MARTIN: And what's about it, again?

Mr. BUDDZ: Well, mercy, you want me to explain it on the air?

MARTIN: We could say it's about the pleasures of getting weed again after a dry spell. Is that right?

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah. Yes, that's exactly what it's about.

(Soundbite of song, "Come Around")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) There's nothing like the sweet sweet sensation. The first time me take a drag was in elementary.

MARTIN: And you're aware that that's illegal in some places. I just...

Mr. BUDDZ: Yes.

MARTIN: ...thought I'd mention that.

Mr. BUDDZ: It's illegal in Bermuda, too. But, you know, when I was making a tune and from the start at writing the tune, it's about a part of life that I was brought up in Bermuda. And, you know, just - it's really the tune. You know, when I write tunes, they have to make sense to me and the experiences that I'm going through in life.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about the music, and here's what I've been reading. First, it's man, have you heard Collie Buddz? And then the second line is have you heard that he's white?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: So, I mean, is the idea that you're the supposed to be the Eminem of reggae? Or...

Mr. BUDDZ: I've heard that before like - and that's definitely a compliment.

MARTIN: But how do you feel about the constant emphasis on your being white? I'm just wondering, how does that strike you?

Mr. BUDDZ: That's kind of irritating, like, really. Because, you know, I just want to do what I love to do and sing the music that I know. But it's never -it's something that's never going to go away. And, you know, I just have to learn to deal with it and...

MARTIN: Do you think you get set to a higher standard of authenticity or cred or whatever?

Mr. BUDDZ: I definitely need to prove myself a lot more than some others, you know.

MARTIN: Oh, let's talk about that. Let's play "My Everything."

(Soundbite of song, "My Everything")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) Let me do that thing, (unintelligible) my girl. (unintelligible) just you and me girl.

MARTIN: So what's David Bowie doing on the CD?

Mr. BUDDZ: Mercy. This beat, this rhythm was given to me by Sony back in 2005. And it was in the midst of them signing me. It was, sort of, like on a level where's it's, yo, we're really interested in this guy. And, you know, let's send him a rhythm. Let's see what he could do on it. And so I got this beat. And to be honest, at first, I wasn't really feeling it, but, you know, as it being a chance and everything, I stuck on it (unintelligible).

MARTIN: Oh, it's kind of like a test - kind of like the SATs.

Mr. BUDDZ: It was definitely a test. Yeah, you know. And so within like an hour, an hour and a half, you know, I hopped on the groove. I record myself, and this was what the end product was right here.

(Soundbite of song, "My Everything")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) Let me do that thing, my wannabe girl. Want to be in your sweet love, just you and me girl. Why, you're the only one, I love to please, girl. You're my everything, I need these words. So let me do that thing.

MARTIN: How did you start writing music?

Mr. BUDDZ: It was all a fun thing. Mercy, you take me back. Memories. Every day at the high school, even before, there at elementary school, I mean, all my friends used to come down my yard. And I had this old Aiwa three-CD disc changer, and it had a microphone jack. But we never had no mic.

So we figured out that if you plug in headphones into the microphone jack and sing through one of the earpieces it actually acts like a microphone. And with some old airplane headphones too, like some Air Canada headphones or something like that, yeah. And we had a tape deck, too, so we'd thrown on one of instrumentals on a CD and just chat lyrics for a joke, you know.

And I just stuck with it, started writing my lyrics like at night after everybody went home. And I just kept going with it. And I actually went to a school called Full Sail after high school, which is a media arts school. And I graduated in 2001 with associates of science in recording and engineering. And from then, I fell in love with the production side of things. And so, the artist thing took a back step, you know, and I started doing some rhythms and handed them out to some of the Bermudian artists.

But, you know, when I was recording them, it never really came out the way I wanted to, because I had to produce hat on. I'm like, no. Try singing like this, and artists - they still couldn't get it right.

MARTIN: So you were thinking you're going to be the behind-the-scenes guy.

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah. That's why, you know, that's what I always picture myself as being, you know. Even to this day, I still feel a little weird in front of the spotlight, you know. What I've always loved to do is sing, too, but you know.

MARTIN: Oh, let's about that. Let's play "Tomorrow's Another Day."

Mr. BUDDZ: All right.

(Soundbite of song, "Tomorrow's Another Day")

This tune is basically inspired by - my studio was in Toronto at the time, and the night that I was out, it was freezing, blizzard-type weather. And I'm looking down the street and there's girls there in mini-skirts...

MARTIN: Hmm-mm.

Mr. BUDDZ: ...and, you know, nothing but stockings and high-heeled boots and whatnot, basically selling themselves. And it kind of hurt my heart, like. And so I decided to write a tune about it.

(Soundbite of song, "Tomorrow's Another Day")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) Girl, I know you've got some issues. And I, and I never try to dis you, no, no, no.

And you know, basically, the whole tune's, if tomorrow's another day, you could change your ways, if you want to.

(Soundbite of song, "Tomorrow's Another Day")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) Yeah, yeah. Tomorrow's another day. Tomorrow's another day. Where you going, now, won't get you nowhere. Yeah, yeah. So I just want you to be prepared.

MARTIN: You have a lovely voice.

Mr. BUDDZ: Thank you.

MARTIN: Have you trained your voice?

Mr. BUDDZ: It's - a lot a studio work here, you know...

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. BUDDZ: I trained it like, not that I've been doing stage shows and everything, yeah, my voice has come a long way. At first, because I wasn't a singer at first, like, I'm still not really a singer, but, you know, I couldn't sing a note to save my life.

MARTIN: Really?

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: You have a pretty high falsetto going there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah. That took a lot of practice.

(Soundbite of song, "Tomorrow's Another Day")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) The way you moving now, won't get you nowhere. Yeah. Yeah. But tomorrow's another day. Tomorrow's another day. Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: Okay. And then you got some Latin flavor on your song, "Mamacita."

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: Let's have a little bit of that, and then we can talk a little about that.

(Soundbite of song, "Mamacita")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing in Spanish)

Well, you know, I always enjoyed this track, because I mean, I produced it, so it's something that's close to my heart, you know. Probably one of the best rhythms I've produced so far.

MARTIN: Do you like Latin music?

Mr. BUDDZ: I love Latin music. Yeah. I love all types of music.

MARTIN: Country?

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BUDDZ: You know what? You know what? Some country songs are all right, you know. Some country songs are right. I just can't, you know, I'm not even going to go deep.

(Soundbite of song, "Mamacita")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: Are you trying to show a lot of range on your first album?

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: Show what you can do?

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah. I was starting to show a lot of versatility, keep it interesting, you know. A lot of artists out there just have that one style. And I love the fact that people don't know if I'm singing a tune. They're like, who's that singer? That's Collie Buddz, too? You know what I'm saying? So, yeah, I definitely try to keep it interesting and versatile with this first one. I'm going to do the same on the second one.

MARTIN: Exactly. I was going to ask you that.

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: So won't you tell me about the second album. What's going with it? Do you have a title? Do you have a theme?

Mr. BUDDZ: This first album didn't even have a title. That's why I self-titled it "Collie Buddz."

(Soundbite laughter)

Mr. BUDDZ: And so...

MARTIN: You stop smoking that weed, you might be able to come up with a title, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BUDDZ: No. I do - I just wanted self-titled, you know. But I just love to record tunes, so whatever tunes I have on the album, that's always going to be there, you know.

MARTIN: What song should we go out on?

Mr. BUDDZ: "Blind To You." "Blind To You."

(Soundbite of song, "Blind To You")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) You know...

This is all about all the haters out there...

MARTIN: Oh.

Mr. BUDDZ: ...that you hated on me from jump, you know, saying oh, he's white artist. He's signed to Sony. He doesn't know nothing about reggae, blah, blah, blah, you know, and it's that's there. And I had to pour it out on a track.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. BUDDZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: All right. Take that, here.

Mr. BUDDZ: Yes.

MARTIN: "Blind To You."

(Soundbite of song, "Blind To You")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) I'm blind to you, haters, and (unintelligible) instigators.

MARTIN: Bermudian reggae artist Collie Buddz joined us from our New York bureau. His debut album is called "Collie Buddz."

Collie, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. BUDDZ: Thank you for having me, for real.

(Soundbite of song, "Blind To You")

Mr. BUDDZ: (Singing) (unintelligible) creators.

MARTIN: That's our program for today.

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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