Stupid-lookin’ ass cover be damned, I really like By Dom Kennedy. I had basically no expectations coming into this album, only being barely aware of who Dom Kennedy was: some new West Coast rapper who featured on a pretty good song from Kendrick Lamar’s early mixtape, Overly Dedicated. The song wasn’t super impressive but it caught my attention enough to bring me here, so shout out to Kendrick for helping to make this happen.
What I first noticed about Dom Kennedy was his relaxed flow and LA accent. And by relaxed, I mean relaxed. This dude is not a spitfire in any way, but his unassuming style hides a lot of skill on songs like Fried Lobster:
And my son like his father, he don’t play that shit/
West Side get the money bitch, say that shit/
You got one set of keys, and, one nigga to please/
So you could be league, c’mon play that shit/
The use of a multi-syllabic rhyme for lines one and two, then switching to a different an internal rhyme for the the third line and the first half of the fourth (keys, please, league), and then going back to the same rhyme from earlier to end the fourth line, are tricks that aren’t monumental but transform his bars from basic to very pleasing to the ear. Dom does this kind of stuff often, and he always picks great beats that compliment his flow. They’re pretty typical of the new West Coast middle-ground sound, meaning more melodic than boom-bap, the bass always thumps, and there’s no shortage of the laid back energy that everyone from this coast seems to have. There’s not one bad beat on this whole album, in fact, I actually like or love them all.
My only complaint about Dom Kennedy would be that he doesn’t say very much. Meaning, a lot of his songs are general braggadocio or they have a loose topic that seems to serve mostly as an excuse for Dom to spit on the chosen instrumental. What I Tell Kids is a perfect example. It seems to want to be advice for kids, but maybe Dom couldn’t bear the topic so instead of he tells kids his truth: “get your money ’cause I’m surely gonna get mine, just don’t get robbed being flashy in the hood”. It’s honest as hell, and a little funny, but a little tiresome because Dom’s already talking the high life on the rest of the album. Sticking to the topic a little more, even continuing the joke, would have been very welcome.
That said, By Dom Kennedy is one of my favorite recent discoveries. It’s lack of topical depth makes it better for driving and chilling than deep listening, but that’s probably artist-intended anyway. Stream it below and have a good time.
- On My Hometown/Nobody Else (Excellent Summer Madness sample in the second half)
- What I Tell Kids
- Fried Lobster featuring Bonic