By Jose Mujica
October 29, 2020
Hailing from the small town of Mullins, South Carolina, Marcus Dwayne Samuel a.k.a. Buddy Cuz, exemplifies the classic Southern hip-hop archetype as a smooth-talking, silver-tongued, swaggering veteran imparting knowledge and wisdom over soulful Southern-style production. His new project, simply titled Buddy, narrates his journey, including the accomplishments and setbacks that have made him who he is today. Having spent the last ten years in Charlotte, Buddy Cuz embodies Carolina culture.
On the first track titled “Chevrolet Music,” Serenity Skyy sets the tone with her silky smooth chorus harmonizing over the lead piano melody. Buddy’s verse is well within his wheelhouse: “Under the streetlights posted, trying to make some ends. Always been a Chevy rider, you can keep that Benz.”
“I used to rap about the shit I ain’t have,” Buddy said when speaking of where he draws his inspiration. Though he’s achieved much since his humble beginnings, it’s that ambition and hunger that continues to serve as fuel for his artistry. That go-getter, money-making mentality is a motif in Buddy’s music. He continues in “Chevrolet Music” paying homage to the late great Nipsey Hussle: “The marathon continues. Rest In Peace to Nipsey Hussle. I had to level up and get myself up out of trouble.”
The third track, “I Know,” featuring Paso Slim, is a trunk-rattling trap anthem featuring boomin’ 808s exploding upon a hypnotic guitar sample as he flexes his hook-writing skills on the track with a catchy chorus. Paso Slim contributes a forthright feature verse that adds to the rawness of the track. Buddy Cuz finishes by delivering an ending verse that simultaneously celebrates his success while cautioning anyone who would dare get in the way. You may find yourself absentmindedly singing the chorus of this song long after it’s done playing.
Slowing the pace down, “Smoke Sum’n” featuring Belmont’s Matrix P, is an ornate and luxurious track that makes you want to blast it while cruising on the freeway, possibly smoking something. Buddy’s cadence rides the beat so well one can’t help but nod to the “Southern fried and seasoned down to the bone” flow. Matrix P adds his flavor to the track with a groovy chorus and laid-back vibe.
On “Trials and Tribulations,” featuring OG Swanga and Gary Grams, Buddy shows a more serious side in a narrative verse that highlights the not-so-glamorous aspect of the hustler lifestyle: “The struggle I go through is itching at me like a scab. In these streets ain’t nothing more important than some cash.”
Speaking from his lived experiences, Buddy knows all too well the downsides this lifestyle can bring. Like many from small towns in rural Carolina, he spent a lot of his childhood pursuing athletic endeavors, playing running back and defensive in high school. It was only when legal troubles and an expulsion in his junior year crushed his athletic eligibility that he turned his attention towards music. “I did graduate in my 12th grade year though,” he said, with a laugh. That attitude illustrates his determination to bounce back from personal setbacks, and that profound resilience leaks through in his music.
Buddy pays homage to one of the legends of Southern hip-hop in the penultimate track titled “I Swear,” featuring first-generation Dungeon Family member, Big Rube. Known for his spoken word monologues that have graced the projects of ATL legends ranging from Outkast to Future to Goodie Mob, Big Rube brings his talents to the Carolinas as he preaches on the latter end of this track. “How can we claim to be made in God’s image, destined to ascend? And we still pass judgement on women and men based on the pigment of their skin,” Rube contemplates with all the resonance and reverence of a pastor at Sunday Service, a perfect blend of pithy and piety that’d put the fear of god into anyone listening.
Ending with “Still Venting,” Buddy uses the opportunity to get some stuff off his chest. Starting with the opening monologue: “We ain’t kissing no ass to be accepted. But at the same time, we’re going to lay back, be cool and not pick fights with nobody.” He demands recognition for the lane he’s carved out, while also denouncing the marketing-driven beefs and antics that many young artists rely upon. The message makes the track easily one of the most meaningful on the project and serves as a deeply resonant bookend for the LP.
Overall, Buddy is an entertaining listen featuring some standout tracks, offering something that’s equally timeless, familiar and refreshing. Keeping the Southernplayalistic, grits-and-gravy sound alive and well, Buddy Cuz knows his role and plays his position strongly: “Everybody on the new wave and that’s understandable, yknow? But artists like me, Elevator [Jay], Matrix P, we’ve got that real soulful lane and that old school southern sound is still here.”
Listen to the self-titled Buddy album by Buddy Cuz.