Dom Kennedy remains a polarizing underground staple. Once considered to be the “next big thing,” albums like The Yellow Tape and From the Westside with Love II established his buzz. The arc of his career can be — and has been — debated amongst fans, but as many chased another hit of that first high, sleepy, underwhelming releases like By Dom Kennedy and Los Angeles Is Not For Sale, Vol. 1 did little to break any new ground, let alone keep his on-the-fence fans from completely falling off.
The Billboard numbers from By Dom Kennedy and Los Angeles Is Not For Sale, Vol. 1 are a great indication of wavering interest — the latter didn’t even register.
2017 was redeeming, as his multiple EPs with “Niggas In Paris” producer Hit-Boy once again gave fans something to celebrate. But on July 3rd of this year, he (very) quietly dropped a surprise project in Addicted To The Underground. With a soundscape crafted by Troy Noka and John G, the album has a balanced amount elements have made him so revered, with some of the qualities that made his last few solo efforts incredibly mediocre.
The project reasserts one of the most endearing things about Dom: he never makes music for anyone but himself. Though it may have cost him mainstream expansion, songs like “Popular” see him proclaiming “don’t change who you are for popularity.” Keeping it a buck has been a theme thus far in his career, and throughout the LP’s nine songs, he does little to appease anyone outside his core.
At it’s best, his flow over the consistently airy Cali-honoring beats — infused with soulful samples — are worthy of repeated plays to catch the nuances. “Traveling” is a great example, where he exclaims “I’m the best never to sign and get away with it.” The vibed-out “The Resurrection” is another excellent example of Dom barring out all the way in the pocket.
At it’s worst, this project is lazy and uninspired. It’s no secret that Dom’s relaxed tone and flow walks a fine line, and without the proper attention paid to his lyrics, he risks his songs coming off as freestyled snoozefests. “The Movies” and the ultra-lame “Liberation” (overflowing with clichés and predictable punchlines) could have stayed buried in the underground. Then there’s “Oasis,” which simply feels like a track he forgot to finish before uploading the album.
The highlights here happen to be the tracks with features — especially “Free Breakfast” with Cuzzy Capone, which is easily his best lyrical performance.
With a year that has included high-profile features on Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap and Eric Bellinger’s Easy Call, it’s unclear what he was ultimately aiming for with Addicted To The Underground. The vibe is there, but Dom is wildly inconsistent on songs without guests. (“Free Breakfast” with Cuzzy Capone is easily his best lyrical performance.) There are glimmers of his arguably best work, but of course, this isn’t it.