There’s one specific type of character that rest below the palm trees and Spanish roof tiles of Los Angeles. He’s always relaxing on the porch (or backyard), yet always manages to stay fresh and have a plethora of women. Most notably, this person is normally decked in fresh t-shirt, basketball shorts and Jordan Hydro 3s with pure white socks. Everything around this human is chill, relaxed, smooth and displays a slick cooler than all attitude. Despite never really growing away too much from his surroundings, having this type of friend around makes life a lot less lame. This is the perfect description for the average Dom Kennedy album. Sure, the Leimert Park-native has managed to build a solid national and international fanbase since releasing his breakout mixtape Future Street Drug Sounds and subversive West Coast classic From Westside With Love. However, Dom has always remained consistent in presenting a very specific view of L.A. that’s just as about Louisiana Fried Chicken as it is Ocean Prime. That continues in his third purchasable album By Dom Kennedy. At face value, the OPM head still has his ear for vibed-out production and bars that are loose with a keen eye for detail.
Last time Dom put out a full-length project, it was 2013’s Get Home Safely, a minor concept album that took cues from iconic 70s gang film The Warriors. Though ambitious, the project suffered from feeling bloated. Trimming the fat down to a solid eleven, By Dom Kennedy feels more closed in and intimate. There isn’t a better example than “From My Hometown / Nobody Else.” Dom literally provides the best homie shout-out one will hear all year and begs a very serious L.A. question: Why yall let World On Wheels close down? After transitioning to “Nobody Else,” his tone gets a little bit more serious where he proclaims, “I don’t nothing else, OPM had my back when I didn’t have nobody else.” That’s always been Dom’s gift, making things personal and relatable through his point-of-view. Even when he’s flexing on “My First Reply,” it’s more reflective on his time from struggling rapper questioning whether or not he should fill out the dreaded TSA application (another highly sought after and hated job in L.A.) to eating two lobster tails for dinner. Bonic of Philly’s Most Wanted joins the conversation over luxurious crustaceans on “Fried Lobster,” in the project’s only guest feature. Both spit adequate verses over DJ Dahi’s production which also highlights another win for By Dom Kennedy.
By Dom Kennedy features streamlined production that’s the most atmospheric and dense of his catalogue. While The Futuristiks handled a large portion of Get Home Safely, producers including Jake One, LDB and DJ Dahi join frequent collaborator J. LBS. Thankfully, there’s a sonic cohesion that allows Dom to essentially lyrically stroll through tracks comfortably. DJ Dahi does a great job matching Mr. OPM’s thoughts on the future that has him viewing retirement in L.A. favorite new retirement spot “Alhambra.” Yes, Dom never was considered a lyrically proficient emcee or elite wordsmith and By Dom Kennedy won’t change the minds of those preferring those more rhyming mechanics. Then again, Jake One allows him to spit some of his best yet most introspective verses to date on “Thank You Big” and “What I Tell The Kids.”
Potentially a song for the summer, “Lemonade” has Dom proclaiming: “I may neverblew the chartsout but girls wear they OPM shirts with theyhearts out.” At this time in his career, he totally understands his place within West Coast Hip Hop and really doesn’t have to prove much anymore. The fan-base he’s spent nearly a decade establishing isn’t going anywhere. There are moments wherealbum falls into thematic complacency, most notably on “2 Bad,” but, his growth is more than evident. Regardless, Dom Kennedy once again makes another solid effort that’s perfect for the mid-summer kick-back.