I can’t say for sure how many of Skee-Lo’s wishes have been granted at this point, but I was recently reminded that “I Wish,” the only song of his you know, scored a summer in the mid-’90s and came from modest beginnings. Antoine Roundtree (that’s his real name) was sloughing off coursework in college, thinking about all the things he wanted and didn’t have but would like to, some fine day. First Roundtree made a list—a ’64 Impala, a few more inches in height, a rabbit in a hat with a bat—and then his ears caught the boisterous, festive horn section from Bernard Wright’s 1981 single “Spinnin’” while he was busy tidying up his apartment. Roundtree chopped the record up with an MPC, laid vocals over it, and the rest is history. He unveiled “I Wish”— which sounds like mesh shorts and sunbaked black tops—in 1995 at the Good Life Cafe in Los Angeles, a now-defunct venue for rising indie acts that used to be at the corner of Crenshaw and Exposition.
It was just on the other side of the Santa Monica Freeway at the Amazing Grace Conservatory a handful of years later that Buddy, born Simmie Sims III, learned to sing. He does this well for a rapper, but he also does it well full stop. The mini G-funk EP sandwiched in the middle of the Compton MC’s debut album, Harlan & Alondra—a new summer score, or at least part of one, released last Friday—is proof positive. The album, nearly eight years in the making, begins with some thinking aloud about Buddy’s unique relationship to fame and stardom (“Real Life Shit,” “Shameless”), followed by a half-sung, Ty Dolla $ign–assisted statement of intent: He is going to get on the radio, and then he is going to get rich, with precious few hang-ups in-between (“Hey Up There”). There is also Harlan’s politically charged lead single, “Black,” featuring A$AP Ferg and Buddy, ordinarily set to cruise control, rapping at his most percussive.
It’s after the short, narcotized “Legend” interlude that the hue of the album changes and the strobe lights begin darting back and forth across the roller board floor. Then the singing starts in earnest. “Trouble on Central,” the second single, is a sweltering piece of R&B that beads on the skin and paints a necessarily unfinished picture of Buddy and the city he’s from. You feel the warm smoke of an overheated engine on your face and the cloth seats of the Blue Line Metro beneath you. You also wonder why the fuck everything costs money. Buddy is a tour guide first and foremost, but a tour guide who, like Skee-Lo, wouldn’t mind getting a little (or a lot) more out of life:
I wish I had a girl by my side
Wish I had a brand new ride
I wish I had a light
I wish I had a private flight
I wish upon the stars sometimes
I wish I had a ride
I wish I had the finer things
I wish you wasn’t so Cobain
I wish I had you (shit)
And I wish I wasn’t stuck on Central
It’s only the lyrics that sound impatient; the music moves along at its own pace. Recently, because it’s nice out, I’ve been driving around with the windows cracked, listening to Harlan & Alondra, named for the cross streets nearest Buddy’s childhood home. (His 2017 EP, Ocean & Montana, was named for the apartment in Santa Monica he traded up for.) It’s easy to imagine the alternate music-video reality where “The Blue” bubbles out of every window-chalked storefront, or where “Young” cascades over the golf course you snuck onto well after dark with nothing but an eighth, a blanket, and racing hormones. “Speechless” would be a couples skate at some rink out in Glendale, but for its almost comically explicit back half.
Similarly humid and sexy—but not quite so, uh, carnal?—is Hive Mind, the Internet’s fourth studio album that also came out this past Friday. After putting out one of the most well-reviewed albums of 2015 in Ego Death, the five-part outfit withdrew to work on solo projects, each dazzling in its own way. Matt Martians, the lead producer, had The Drum Chord Theory; Steve Lacy, the guitarist, put out a self-titled EP (and made a song for Kendrick Lamar on his iPhone); Syd, the frontwoman, put out a sultry, post-trap R&B album; and Patrick Paige II, the bassist, released Letters of Irrelevance in early May.
On Hive Mind’s lissome opener, the group has picked up right where they left off: The threads from all their stylistic explorations quite literally “Come Together.” Lacy’s whimsical noodling, Syd’s honeyed, barely there vocals, and Paige’s rubbery bass line are in conversation with everything and nothing in particular. Like Ego Death, the more confident Hive Mind showcases the L.A. band’s ease of collaboration, what happens when friends and musicians step into a room and skip all of the awkward small talk about how and why they haven’t hung out in so long. The visual treatment for “Come Over”—where they all share a picturesque house in suburban somewhere—is genuinely believable.
Hive Mind, like Harlan & Alondra, sets its sights on what seem like pretty attainable goals: returned glances, stolen kisses, coming home to a clean apartment, having air conditioning or enough booze for anybody that might show up. Each opts to befit a certain mood, to construct moments over memorable lines. A flowering synth here, a playful keystroke there, a gentle proposition like the tap of a pebble on a bedroom window. Both are the work of artists finally comfortable within themselves, content to let you meet them where they are, and the result is a perfect score for you to do all the nothing you want this summer. Isn’t that the wish you most want granted?