Buddy: Tiny Desk Concert The preacher's son from Compton brought his flair for the dramatic, and an air of rebellion, to the Tiny Desk.

Tiny Desk

Buddy

When Buddy, a preacher's son from Compton, turns to me with eyebrows raised on the elevator ride inside NPR's corporate headquarters, it's hard to tell if the question that comes next is in preparation for his performance or pure provocation.

"Can we smoke in here?!" he asks with a grin that elicits stifled laughter from his bandmates and a few newsroom journalists along for the ride. It's a blunt request, even from a self-professed "weed connoisseur," and it kicks off one of the most dramatic Tiny Desks in recent memory.

If 2018 signaled the year of disruption in rap — with a shortlist of vets and newcomers trolling their way to the top of the charts — it was dominated by a groundswell of emerging voices who found more creative means to make their mark. Buddy's anticipated full-length debut Harlan & Alondra, named for the cross streets where he lived as a child, placed him among the better company (and on NPR's Best Rap Albums Of 2018). The same soulful hybrid of rapping and singing that compelled Pharrell to sign him as a teenager found Buddy stretching L.A. hip-hop beyond its typical gangsta narrative, while dancing with his dreams and shaking off his demons.

But sometimes being a nonconformist works both ways. So when Buddy proceeded to fire up a blunt midway through his set, we had to stop the show and ask him to put it out before re-recording his song, "Hey Up There." (Smoking is not allowed on NPR property.) The performance was still lit, owing in part to Buddy's Baptist bona fides and his hood's close proximity to Hollywood. He grew up a singing in the choir and watching his dad work the crowd from the pulpit. He's also an alumni of actress Wendy Raquel Robinson's Amazing Grace Conservatory, an L.A. program known for steeping inner-city kids in the performing arts. Between the two, he earned his dramatic chops early. "I'm so used to being in front of an audience of people," he tells me, "just doing my thing and not really caring about it." He's definitely not afraid of the camera. In fact, he's one of the rare Tiny Desk guests who stares directly into it throughout much of his set, performing for the camera in the most literal sense.

While onstage drama kept Buddy a safe distance from the streets, he still experienced the kind of coming-of-age struggles that shaped his personal and political outlook. On "Real Life S**t," the opening song on his album and the last song in his Tiny Desk set, he conveys that reality with raw sentiment for the sitting President in lyrics straight from the record. It's that freedom of expression, from unbridled joy to middle-finger attitude, that makes him a provocateur in the purest sense. "If you don't like it, you weird," he tells me about his music before acknowledging the unintended irony behind his characterization: "Yeah, I am weird. So I guess being weird doesn't matter."

Set List

  • "Legend"
    "Trouble On Central"
    "Hey Up There"
    "Real Life S**t"

Credits

Producers: Rodney Carmichael, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, Maia Stern, Kara Frame; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Mandolin Orange plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 21, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Mandolin Orange

Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz made everything seem so easy, with just a few acoustic instruments and a single microphone behind the Tiny Desk, performing songs full of joy and thoughtfulness.

Nicole Bus plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 8, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Nicole Bus

Nicole Bus' sound is reminiscent of vintage R&B, yet still feels current and capable of transcending age and demographics.

Tobe Nwigwe plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 27, 2019 (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Tobe Nwigwe

The Houston-based rapper's mindful words are like a life hack for anyone seeking guidance, with pleas to look past inherent hardships and evil and to stay focused on life's ultimate prizes.

Kian Soltani plays a Tiny Desk Concert on March 8, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Kian Soltani

Watch a young cellist on the rise, offering music of virtuosity, sweet lyricism and a little fire from his Persian roots.

half•alive plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 21, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

half•alive

How does half•alive, known for funky earworms and synchronized dancing, translate to such a cozy space? Have the dancers sit.

Among Authors plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Among Authors

Among Authors' music isn't casual; there are songs within these songs, and they're not always catchy. They'll take you on a journey worth following.

Ty Dolla $ign pays tribute to Mac Miller at the Tiny Desk (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Ty Dolla $ign Pays Tribute To Mac Miller At The Tiny Desk

While Ty Dolla $ign visited NPR to record his own Tiny Desk concert, he also performed a special tribute to his friend, the late Mac Miller.

David Crosby and The Lighthouse Band performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 29, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR). Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band

David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League are The Lighthouse Band, and together they harmonized the heck out of the Tiny Desk.

Bas plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 15, 2019 . Amir Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amir Alfiky/NPR

Bas

Bas came to the Tiny Desk to get it, and — in a breathless four-song set — he did exactly that.

iLe plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 23, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

iLe

The Calle 13 veteran, fresh off her appearance at demonstrations in Puerto Rico, performs three songs that rage with revolutionary intensity.

Back To Top