buhbuh Steps

Eugene rapper lil buhbuh mourns a friend’s disappearance and releases debut album influenced by golden age hip hop

Evan Lytle, a Eugene-based rapper who performs and identifies as lil buhbuh, is a friend and roommate of Michael Bryson, the 27-year-old Lane County resident who vanished Aug. 5 after wandering away from a campground near Dorena Lake following a rave.

To process the grief and uncertainty surrounding his friend’s disappearance, buhbuh turned to music. As of press time, Bryson was still missing and, according to buhbuh, there were no developments in the case. A reward of $10,000 has been offered for information.

“I’ve been trying to focus my energy on my music,” buhbuh tells me over the phone.

Although none of the material related to Bryson’s disappearance made it on buhbuh’s latest release, NORTHWESTSIDE, out now on all major streaming services, music as a form of personal therapy is nothing new for the rapper. 

The album track “OVERIT,” featuring California hip-hop artist Brío, is about the breakup of a long-term relationship. On it buhbuh raps over a trap-inspired beat, “Sit here and I stress about you, I can’t be the best without you.” Later, he adds, “I put in all the work to make it work.” 

“It put me in a dark place,” buhbuh recalls of that difficult time. “I used music to pull myself out of that. Music has been a really healthy outlet for me.”

None of that’s to say buhbuh’s stuff is anything like the hip-hop style called emo rap, popularized on Soundcloud in the mid-2010s. On the contrary, much of NORTHWESTSIDE draws on ’90s era, golden age hip hop like A Tribe Called Quest and Big Pun, both referenced by buhbuh as influences.

NORTHWESTSIDE track “IMNOTPLAYIN,” featuring $wank Gretzky and produced by lil buhbuh, rolls along on the low-slung suspension and humming motor of Atlanta-influenced hip hop from that same period — buhbuh’s flow both ostentatious and playful.

This backward-looking tendency could be an homage to buhbuh’s older brother, who provided a gateway for buhbuh to rap and hip hop. Buhbuh also credits the rap-heavy Tony Hawk video game soundtracks popular in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

“Hip hop has always been the thing that I was drawn to,” buhbuh says, especially the lyricism of rap music from that era.

Buhbuh started making music of his own in high school — just messing around with friends, he says. “I hadn’t really found my style yet,” buhbuh  recalls. A couple years ago, buhbuh started taking music more seriously. 

Over the years buhbuh’s drawn from new styles in hip hop while also starting to develop his own sound. “I like to have fun with it but I also like there to be something behind what I’m saying,” he says. Sometimes he freestyles over a beat, while other times he writes his lyrics in advance. 

“I like to blend those two,” buhbuh says of the classics, but also toward more contemporary artists such as JID and EARTHGANG. “I like to be a little ridiculous sometimes but still have catchy wordplay,” he continues, “and be somewhat lyrical even when not touching on the most serious subject matter.”

Buhbuh’s also recently begun producing, and although he’s still getting his legs under him as a performer, he opened for the hip-hop artist Afroman at a recent WOW Hall show. He also performed at the Whiteaker Block Party and last spring performed a set at the Virtual Valley live streamed music festival.  

He also had a hand in founding the local hip-hop collective Fifth Deep, which is where most of NORTHWESTSIDE’s guest appearances come from.

Even though buhbuh’s debut full length has just come out, he’s already working on the follow up album called Bad Trip. 

When the rapper speaks of music, he speaks of hope and opportunity. Through music, it seems lil buhbuh is finding himself. “I’m keeping plenty busy with music things and hope to see it go somewhere,” he says. ν

Lil buhbuh’s debut full-length NORTHWESTSIDE is out now on all music streaming services. Buhbuh hopes to have CDs available sometime in the future. For more information on Michael Bryson’s disappearance, see the Facebook group Let’s Find Michael Bryson!

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