About thirty miles from Detroit, is Ann Arbor, a green-grassed college town from which emcee Buff1 hails. But Buff1 isn’t overshadowed by his neighboring contemporaries, nor is he trying to be them. Instead he paves his own musical road with his album, There’s Only One, and proves that when it comes to Buff1, well…there’s only one.
There’s Only One, can be separated into two types of songs: warm weather, feel good grooves, or swelling tracks laced with heavy off-beat drums. Songs like the ethereal “There’s Only One,” the gospel sampled, “Goodness Music,” the eighties synthesized, “Dream Streets,” and my favorite, the smooth Dilla-esque, “Real Appeal,” are all examples of groovy, sing along, make-me-smile music. Buff1’s flow is unforced, and almost nonchalant, and comes across as conversational, which is pleasant on these types of cuts.
But Buff1 is no softy. On “Beat The Speakers Up,” a cranking track with booming bass drum and slashing rock guitar, Buff1 confesses, “I’m so angry/these radio stations/ got me sick like chemo patients.” And on “Never Fall,” a quintessential, no frills, hip-hop track, featuring Detroit’s Black Milk, the two wordsmiths express their passion and refusal to be beaten. But the most impressive, or at least charming, of these songs is “Classic Rap,” an ode to hip-hop that seems to be on everyone’s albums these days. But Buff1 preaches his “know your rap history” sermon differently. He toasts to the hip-hop legends by using their birth names. Shout outs like, Lonnie Lynn, Chris Parker, Calvin Broadus, Carlton Douglas, and many more, was a clever way to tip his hat to history, as well as an underhanded way to boast about his own hip-hop knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong. Because I decided to review One by separating it into two parts, does not mean that Buff1 is a two dimensional artist. He isn’t. He’s a clever writer, chock full of talent, with a sincere, and honest swagger. I will say that his nonchalance can sometimes run the risk of boredom, but even then, his ear for beats make up for the few (and I do mean few) times you might drift away from his words. To put it simple, There’s Only One is good enough to make me want to stop through Ann Arbor next time I’m in Detroit.
- Jason Reynolds