The Buddy System

Working an hour behind the scenes for every minute on the mic, Lil Buddy strives to make it big

Like the rest of the album, mostly produced by versatile hip-hop trackmaster Macnass at A440 Studios, tucked away in the Grain Belt building in northeast Minneapolis, the track is hooky without coming off as pushy. Meanwhile, Buddy's slices of street life express few details that distinguish Minneapolis from Baltimore or Houston or Omaha. And that's one of my few reservations about Major: Though its bid for universality might be good business sense, as a result, the disc isn't quite Minnesotan enough.

And what precisely does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine. No one seems to know. While Minnesotan hip hop has managed not to sound overly dependent on East or West Coast trends--avoiding both the minimalist bump of the New York underground or Cali's P-Funked gangsta boogie--the music has hardly coalesced into a regional style of its own. Buddy has made a start by referring to "the Igloo," the name for Minnesota that Mosely and drummer Kirk Johnson used to toss around in NPG days. On Major, some colorful imagery has started to emerge from that term.

Take, for instance, "Eskimoe Pie," a sweet new euphemism for a particularly squishy part of the female anatomy to which Buddy helps himself liberally. (Coo the ladies in the background: "Just put your mouth up on it/And baby you can bone it.")

The big "Woo Woo": Lil Buddy
Teddy Maki
The big "Woo Woo": Lil Buddy

Maybe it's the freak in him that makes Buddy a hometown boy. Though I've heard that this sexual practice has its devotees even outside of Minnesota, there's a tang to such stimulating words that has always lent Twin Cities dance music its particular regional flavor. From Prince to Next, after all, our rhythm adepts have never feared to be freaky, or woman-centered, or eager to please.

Hey--neither has Garth! After all, what is Brooks's "Ain't Goin' Down Till the Sun Comes Up" but a down-home take on the same subject? Suddenly Lil Buddy's hypothetical duet starts to make sense!

In 1997, on the heels of another hit local joint, "What's the Haps?!" Lil Buddy was positing in these very pages that he would soon "make history" ("It Takes a City of 366,000 to Hold Us Back," August 27, 1997). Three years later, he's on the verge of, at the very least, adding a hefty footnote to the annals of hip hop. Not wit, not personality, not rhythmic acumen--though he surely possesses and employs all these qualities--but a supreme determination to get over has been Buddy's primary engine toward success.

"When did I start rapping professionally?" he muses, repeating my question as usual. His somber face cracks into a rare smile. "I was professional when I started."

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