There’s a pharmacy on the corner of Alondra Boulevard and Harlan Avenue in Compton, a little, nondescript building attached to a small medical clinic, the sort of neighborhood mom-and-pop operation you drive by without noticing, even if you happen to live up the road. There are dozens of small businesses dotting the nearby landscape, which is primarily dominated by one, often unexpected feature: The Compton/Woodley Airport.
It’s the sort of thing locals are proud of, that outsiders have never heard of, that should define the city, but doesn’t, because news “don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood,” to quote one notable resident of the somehow notorious, ten square mile hub located about fifteen miles south of downtown Los Angeles. But Compton-bred rapper Buddy wants to change the perception of the neighborhood, bringing attention to its little community stores and its best-kept-secret airport and all it has to offer with his debut album named after the intersection where he grew up, Harlan & Alondra.
Buddy, born Simmie Sims, maintains a close relationship to his city of origin. The video for Harlan & Alondra‘s third single, “Hey Up There,” takes place on the asphalt runways of the Compton/Woodley Airport and other songs on the album reference nearby Central Ave. and the rich history that surrounds the city, even as Buddy takes on introspective new dimension on reflective songs like album closer “Shine.”
Harlan & Alondra bounces easily and confidently from traditional G-funk like the Snoop Dogg-featuring “Blue” and militant pride on the staccato trunk rattler “Black.” After releasing a pair of mixtapes named for other locations he’s lived in Los Angeles — the Kaytranada-produced Ocean & Montana and Magnolia with Mike & Keys — he’s come full circle on his studio release, showcasing his full range of skills from spitting THC-laced party rhymes to church choir-influenced melodizing, all in the name of the place he left to find himself and returned to once he had.
My phone interview with Buddy started out discussing the makings of the album and the inner workings of his creative process, but it wasn’t long before our shared city of origin became the focus, as we shared stories of “trouble on Central” and civic pride and ruminated on its shifting perception in the mainstream eye. If home is where the heart is, Buddy’s heart forever resides down the block from that pharmacy, even as it soars in the skies above those asphalt runways across the street from where he grew up.