Simmie Sims III, known professionally as Buddy, is an American rapper, singer, dancer and actor from Compton, California. Previously on the I Am Other label, he is now signed to Cool Lil Company/RCA Records. He is also a member of the hip-hop supergroup Zoink Gang, with J.I.D, Smino, Guapdad 4000, and EarthGang.

By the time Buddy was old enough to drive, he’d already been thrust into hip-hop’s fast lane. A rising rapper from Compton, California, he was discovered by Scott Vener, signed by Pharrell, and tapped for collaborations with Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. It was the kind of breakthrough most new artists dream of, but Buddy found himself restless, eager to get to work realizing his own artistic vision. In 2016, after years of industry groundwork, he summoned the courage to go his own way. Harlan & Alondra, his highly anticipated debut album, is both a declaration of independence and a vivid reintroduction. It’s Buddy, invigorated, in his element, and on his own terms.

Born Simmie Sims III, he grew up in churches where his father, a preacher, choir director and a recovering addict, introduced him to the uplifting power of gospel and soul. As he soaked up the sounds neighboring communities––from Compton to Long Beach, where he attended performing arts school––he observed the many interpretations of “the L.A. sound.” “I had friends in the ghetto and friends in the hills, and bounced around from school to school, so I watched all the phases––jerk music, ratchet era, gangbanger,” he says. “But they were very specific. I wanted to do something a little different.” The Los Angeles he sought to capture was bouncier and brighter, a colorful blend of jam-heavy funk, retro R&B, and chilled-out rap, strung together by his infectious optimism. “I wanted my music to sound like the sun,” he says.

The Next ListMarqx: 11Buddy