Interview with Budda Ru

By Nate Whitsell

I never would have guessed that sitting on a futon in YG’s room, interviewing the then-budding West Coast rapper, would be the moment when all of life seemed to fall into place, to line up, to come full circle. My wife and son were fast asleep in our Long Beach apartment. I took a magical drive through Los Angeles to YG’s home, a bit nervous to conduct my first face-to-face interview with such a popular newer artist. He and Mustard commented on how dope of a process the interview was as it came to a close and we settled into casual conversation.

“You know Budda!?” I asked, not expecting the emphatic “yes!” in response, followed by “Budda sleeps right there on that futon [you’re sitting on]!” The conversation wrapped up with us laughing about how small the world is, and connecting the dots as far as how each of us knows Budda Ru.

Five years prior to interviewing Compton’s YG, I was teaching English in a small alternative high school in CPT, near Willowbrook and Rosecrans. Freestyle Fridays were like our (me and all of my students who rapped) reward for making it through a long week, a moment to exhale and simply pour ourselves singularly into something we loved – thirty minutes of reprieve. There were a few young emcees I encouraged to take their art seriously, to record the songs they shared; one of the three best rappers to come through my class was a young man who went by Budda. His smile was infectious, and his disposition was able to smooth the rough edges of the life he lived outside of the school’s protection.

That night at YG’s reconnected us and we have been in touch since, sharing stories of then-to-now, and I continued to echo what I had told him all those years ago, “You need to record your music, put something out.” About a month ago, roughly nine years after we first met and I first bugged him about recording and putting out his music, Budda Ru dropped Better Late than Never – a fitting title.

I couldn’t be more honored and proud to share this interview, an integral piece of a puzzle where multiple aspects of my life – hip hop, writing/blogging, teaching, and a sincere sense of gratitude to know people like Budda – come together and interlock, taking seemingly disjointed events and making sense of them.

Budda Ru is as complex as the gamut his pen runs on Better Late than Never. His smile is inarguably pure, as are his words when he speaks about his young son. That purity is juxtaposed with the grittiness of his true to life in the Hub City lyrics, creating a necessary dissonance, a tension that is, at least in part, fleshed out in the booth and then shared with listeners, with me, with you. Budda took some time away from his son, his songs, and his role in YG’s entourage to spend with us. Read. Enjoy. Share.

Nate Whitsell: Who is Budda Ru?

Budda Ru: I’m an up-and-coming rapper coming out Bompton, a local celeb. lol

NW: How has hip hop changed your life?

Budda Ru: Hip hop has changed my life in many ways, it’s brought me from negative to positive situations and I’ve learned a lot about the game. Going state to state with YG on his tours let me see and meet all types of people. Hip hop’s been good to me.

NW: Man, it is really an honor to be able to interview you, Budda. It feels like yesterday I was bugging you, in the back of my classroom in Compton, to record some of your music. Can we start on a personal note? Be real for my readers – what was it like to be a student in my class?

Budda Ru: Honestly, at [school] you was really into teaching the students, the only teacher that said something to me when I came to school high. lol. I even stopped smoking when I had you first period; it was a pleasure to be in your class, we actually learned something and you know for Compton/Bompton students, it was different … you made the school a better place.

NW: Thanks for the kind words; it’s scary to put myself out there like that. On that same note, and very much related to the tape’s title (Better Late than Never), I am curious, why did it take ten years for you to release your first official project?

Budda Ru: Over and over, the homie Slim400 would tell me, “Drop yo tape!” and I used to be on some, “I don’t care about rapping,” but I knew how to rap. I just sat back one day like, “Man I’mma drop it, better late than never.” Kinda ran with the name.

NW: That’s dope. I’m glad your team is pushing you to use your gift with words. I know that I am being super sentimental, but I was seriously taken aback while interviewing YG some years ago, only to find that the futon I was sitting on during the interview was your bed! How did you and YG link up?

Budda Ru: YG always come to the set as we was younger, and as we got older, he became one of us. And that’s just been my dog for a minute, beyond rap, just a motivational person. But we always been in the mix or in the set – “That’s my little homie from the set, lil Budda Ru.”

NW: One more personal question, and then we will transition to the music. How has becoming a father affected how and why you make music? What’s one unexpected lesson fatherhood has taught you so far?

Budda Ru: Man, being a father honestly has taught me so much. It’s like caring for a whole different person than yo self, from providing to changing pampers to dealing with certain things. Sh-t, I never had a real job till I had my son to be honest; I used to work my ass off, and still do, but for him I gotta make it. Taught me how to be a man. Made me wanna make music again, like gave me that push that I needed.

NW: That’s rad to hear. Alright, let’s jump into the music. “Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood. They [the news] had all this foreign shit; they didn’t have shit on my brother…” Why did you choose to start Better Late than Never with a quote from Doughboy (Ice Cube) in Boyz in the Hood?

Budda Ru: Well, that’s one my of favorite parts in the movie to be honest, but that’s something that we dealing with today [too]. I also lost my brother to the streets, so it just all made sense. Took it and ran with it.

NW: Since the opening quote comes from one of the West Coast’s most loved rappers, it begs the question, who are some artists who have inspired you? Who are some current artists from the West Coast who push you to want to get better?

Budda Ru: Suga Free, DJ Quik, E-40, Too Short, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Dazz, and The Game just to name a few out the west. I’m sure I forgot some, but it’s all love.

NW: While we are looking back, and since your album has a very traditional West Coast sound, who are some producers who inspire you to write? Who produced the beats for Better Late than Never?

Budda Ru: My boy, Jay P Bangz produced most of the beats on the album/mixtape. Tom Ford also another producer, he did one track.

NW: Your lead-off track, “Tired of It” carries the intro’s sentiment forward into the album. What are you tired of?

Budda Ru: The first track on the mixtape is basically me telling a story of me being tired of fake shit, fake friends, but I wrote the song about 4 years ago to be honest. I just had to drop it tho. Not really a story to tell, just put the pen to the pad and come up with that.

NW: On “I Ain’t Mad at You”, you do a good job of describing how the notion of love gets tainted for a lot of guys. I have to ask, how and when did that happen for you?

Budda Ru: The girl from yo class I used to love a whole lot, but honestly I like to tell stories in my music, I like to paint pictures or describe things that I seen or went through. Just a lot of jumping all over the board, different relationship stories. I wouldn’t say the song is about her, or anybody [in particular], just the pen to the pad. Boom. lol. But I’m sure you know, you was there back then, lol.

NW: In “Pray for Me” you mention your mom. Did you have her listen to Better Late than Never? What was her reaction to the album? In general, how have people been responding to the album?

Budda Ru: In general, a lot of people’s starting to tune in and I noticed that the songs I don’t like, others might like. The one I thought was gonna do the worst is doing the best, as in views, but I don’t know if my moms listened to it. I’m pretty sure she heard that song, my little sisters used to play it for her.

NW: I feel like there is so much emotion in your voice on “Soldiers”. Do you think you really turned up on that track because you knew that Slim 400 and YG would be featured on it? Were you all in the studio together to write and/or record “Soldiers”? Do all three of you push each other to grow as artists?

Budda Ru: We was all in the studio when I recorded my verse . I honestly didn’t know if YG was going to hop on at that time, just Slim. I liked the beat and I came with the verse that was for another song, and I thought about maybe not putting it out, but I asked YG one day like, “you fuck with it?” He like, “Hell yea!” YG dropped his verse on it and it was slappin’. Terrance Martin also told me I should drop it, so we dropped it. We all pushed each other from them spruce kids, to watching [YG] do shows across the world; it’s a dope situation.

NW: I noticed that “Brazy” has the most plays on SoundCloud. Why do you think that track has connected with your audience so well?

Budda Ru: I’m not sure why that track has a lot of plays, guess they messing with it. I seen that too the other day. But shit, they like it. I love it. “Brazy” really bang tho, tune in and turn it up!

NW: I am super intrigued by “Curtains”. The sound of the track feels like the perfect end to the album, and Shakiya Monnea’s voice and lyrics only strengthen the nostalgic vibe that wraps up Better Late than Never. I am just curious, why did you decide not to rap a verse on the last track? I thought you were going to come in right after the producer is given a little time to flex and shine, but it transitioned right back into Shakiya’s vocals. Why did you decide to end the album that way?

Budda Ru: It was more like, “let a vibe come in like just let the beat bang.” On that track, Shakiya did her thang. It was only right that I let the album end like that. But the song was set up for me not to rap, just a vibe for the ending.

NW: As we begin wrapping up, what’s something you’d like to share with West Coast Hip Hop?

Budda Ru: I’m working on Better Late than Never 2. Keep y’all eyes and ears out for that. Coming soon.

NW: One emphasis of these interviews is to see a heightened level of unity in the Hip Hop community. Can you point to some other artists who you see as comrades, and who you also see as helping to progress the west’s scene?

Budda Ru: Slim400, RJ, AD, the whole 400 team. The west coast got hitters; I f-ck with ’em, but that’s just to name a few.

NW: Finally, where should readers go to connect with you?

Budda Ru:
Twitter: @buddabaddazz
Instagram: buddaru
Snapchat: buddaru 4

Peace, Love & Hip Hop,

Nate Whitsell