When writing on a Dom Kennedy album, or any Dom Kennedy release in general, its particularly challenging because you will never be writing about some big change in sound, a transformation in style or some unforseen addition to lyrical style. In fact, if you are looking for a new sound from Kennedy on any subsequent release, you are sadly mistaken. Kennedy has one of the strong stylistic consistencies in delivery, production and presentation of any hip hop artist that is currently out. So when listening to his latest release, By Dom Kennedy, I had to take a keen ear to little for the sublieties and nuisances that could possibly differentiate this album from any of his previous releases. The first sound of the album, “Daddy” seems to have near perfect place to set the tone for the rest of the album. It is strikingly grandiose in sound but as usual, Kennedy carries a freestyle form of lyrical delivery, speaking on reminiscents of the past involving his life growing up in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, but with no particular intention, mostly scatterbrained bits and pieces of recollection. Kennedy has a nice plethora of productorial features with this very short album, including Jake One, DJ Dahi and J. LBS, a fellow Californian also referred to my Kennedy on many of his other tracks as “J Pounds”. Pounds delivers the perfect Dom Kennedy signature beat on the track “On My Hometown”, with the elemental 90’s West Coast Gangsta rap vibe. The track cleverly switches midway to a more slow paced beat, with the interpolation of “Summer Madness” by Kool and the Gang, to subsequently solidify the songs summery feel. Other standouts on this album include the track “Thank You Biggie”, a particularly ironic title track in the battle of Tupac vs. Biggie, with Kennedy being a West Coast native. The track features semi sentimental lyricism, the rapper professing “Things change when you grow up/now everybody wanna show up/talkin bout, I always knew that you would blow up/when I was young, my favorite song was “get money, get money”/birthdays was the worst days/now we sip champagne cause we thirsty/that’s forreal”, in a passable reflection to on his past struggles transformed to triumphant. Other songs of meaning include “Alhambra”, where Kennedy talks about the death of friend Phillip and his inevitable confrontation with his own eventual death. The track though one of the more denser of Kennedy’s track on this album still has the potential to be light with lyrics such as “I might just retire and move to Alhambra/fuck my old lady til I need to us Viagra/big nice cars them help you drive faster/but in the long run what does it really matter?”, very charismatic and joking in manner. Some of the more passable tracks on this release include “What I Tell Kids” and “Lemonade”, with no true intention in style and a very unmemorable feature from rapper Bonic, and almost unnecessary. The album overall follows the criteria for a typical Dom Kennedy summer release, all about nostalgias of growing up in LA, women, cars, clothes and food. Kennedy’s level of self-branded creative style has brought him a singular standard of current independent hip hop artists.
Best Song: “Thank You Biggie”
Best Production: “On My Hometown/Nobody Else”