Review: Dom Kennedy – Yellow Album

June 27, 2012 10 comments

Ay world, what’s the happy-haps? I’m back with my second review of the week (hustle hard), this time of Dom Kennedy’s Yellow Album. However, for this review I had to call in the big guns, so the homie Catfish will be delivering his own opinion of the album after I do my standard track-by-track evaluation. Please, read his version; it’s probably much better and fairer than mine is.

I’m going to share a deep, dark secret with you: I don’t know who the hell Dom Kennedy is. Before downloading this mixtape, I had two songs of his on my iTunes; the Kendrick Lamar track “She Needs Me” had a feature, and Nipsey Hussle got a feature from him on his tape The Marathon Continues (which I haven’t listened to either). So I’m perusing the Interwebz, thinking about what mixtape I should review, and I see a whole lotta buzz surrounding this tape. So I downloaded it, opened the ol’ Word document, and got to typing. Here goes!

NOTE: my opinions on this tape certainly do not reflect upon the rest of MJF. I’d never want to stick them with the stigma of “blog that hates good stuff” or “blog that loves crap”. That’d make me sad. Like this face, but with eyebrows and a nose: :(

The Tracks

So Elastic – First off, it just sounds like he’s talking over a beat. And he rhymed “girl” with “girl” three times. That’s supreme laziness. Jesus… I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it through this album. This beat is pissing me off with its random collection of snare hits and “YUH!” The hook is a welcome respite from the nonsensical gibberish I just heard. There’s tasteful ignorance (a la 2 Chainz or Waka Flocka), then there’s idiotic ignorance… this is really pushing toward the second category. 2nd verse is much more interesting than the first, but nothing substantial. This isn’t looking good. 1.5/5

Been Thuggin’ – This horn sample is chopped up beyond recognition, there’s no fluidity in it. Dom’s voice rides over this much better, though. I like the motivational message throughout the song, but it’s got nothing to do with Dom. An 8-year old could have written this hook, too. “[Insert cardinal direction]side 4x” won’t get you originality points, that’s for sure. Overall, the song is nice and short, and suits Dom’s voice, but I have no desire to ever hear it again. 2.5/5

We Ball (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Oh, dude got a Kendrick feature? Alright, let’s hope this doesn’t suck. Is he rapping or ad-libbing in the booth? I could care less about what he’s spitting; it’s about the voice, isn’t it? He’s saying the same old shit every rapper out says, except this is an imitation. Kendrick on the mic now… and even he sounds bad. Dom’s suck has rubbed off on K.Dot, as he delivers a completely forgettable verse. The beat is relaxed, and I LOVE the Ric Flair sample at the end (shouts to the OG Four Horsemen), but if this is the best Dom can muster, I pray this tape ends soon. 2/5

My Type of Party – I’m running out of ways to express my distaste for everything about this tape so far. It’s lazy, it’s boring, it’s recycled, and the hooks blow. I’ve heard this song 500 times before in different forms (the “got bitches in the lobby, weed in the hotel room, money on my wrists” braggadocio), but never once have I been this turned off by it. The beat’s boring, but I don’t care how great a beat is – you can’t save this song from mediocrity with these lyrics. 1/5

Girls On Stage – Let me guess, stripper pseudo-anthem. Oh, nope, it’s a “thick girl anthem” (self described). Wait, no, it’s both? Ah, who the hell cares, no one should pay attention to what Dom says. This might as well be a sub-par instrumental mixtape because he is doing NOTHING to make the songs anything other than average. Eight more tracks to go. 1.5/5

Don’t Call Me (feat. Too $hort) – Wow, this Short Dog feature is a HUGE change of pace. The way he’s rapping about liquor and busty dames is remarkably different from the way Dom does; that sounds like sarcasm, but it’s not, because I pay attention to Too $hort in a way I can’t be bothered to with Dom. In fact, can we give all these beats to him and pretend this tape never happened? And this was supposed to be an album that people would pay for? Dom is out of his goddamn mind. A not-crappy beat saves this song from the trash pile that has been this tape. 2.5/5

5.0 | Conversations – This song is 6 minutes long. “Swap meet, Venice Beach; you looking broke, not me.” “I slid it in, I slid it in, I slid it in.” Fuck this song, and fuck me for committing to this review. There’s a second half to this song but I’m so pissed off at the first half I don’t give two shits what he has to say about anything for the next 3 minutes. THERE’S A 30 SECOND OUTRO ON TOP OF ALL THIS MEDIOCRITY. 0/5

Gold Alpinas (feat. Rick Ross) – Alright, so far all I want to do is sac-tap Dom Kennedy for putting this tape together, but can a Rick Ross feature elevate my interest at all? The standard Big KRIT “repeat song title” hook already has me screaming “no” internally. The beat is smooth as hell, and I really like it, but Dom is completely ruining the song for me. His voice is altered to sound like he’s talking through the phone, and it completely distracts me from the smoothness. “I’m feeling like some Pac on this” – you wish, you sick bastard. It’s like he’s going out of his way to make me hate something I want to love so much. Alright, now we’re talking – Rozay spitting premium ignorance over this beat is pure gold. I want to cut the first 4 minutes of this song out and just keep this verse. “I couldn’t run a lap on the track, mane” – I’m a sucker for self-deprecation. 3/5

PG Click (feat. Niko G4) – This song is 7 minutes long. I was fully ready to dismiss it immediately, but Dom switched his lazy-ass flow for rapid-fire, a significant upgrade in making this listenable. Unfortunately, the hook is awful and the subject material is the same as every other song on this album, and the feature is virtually identical to Dom. There’s 30 seconds of silence in the middle of a goddamn song… words cannot express how much I absolutely loathe artists who do that. sksjfh FUCK THIS WEAK ASS SAMPLE OF BIGGIE. 0.5/5

Lately – This hook does not suck. And spitting about elevating his team along with himself is the first glimpse into something remotely resembling Dom’s soul. He’s. Rapping. Like. This. For. A. Really. Long. Time. And. It’s. Not. Acceptable. But shouts to the crooner on this and the producer for making this song the best one on the tape. 3.5/5

Hangin’ (feat. Freddie Gibbs) – I’ve heard this exact hook before, but 100x times better: it’s called “Posted” by Pac Div, and it’s phenomenal. Dom didn’t make me cringe for once, and Freddie Gibbs is doing his thing. The beat is a mix of ethereal synths and offbeat hi-hat, which I actually enjoy. Easily the second-best track on the tape because it sounds like the two of them gave a damn about the song. 3/5

1:25 – I was hoping this was the song’s length, but alas, it’s not. Again, it sounds like he’s adlibbing the intro, but I think those are bars. When Dom raps about his struggle, he connects with me on a much more significant level than he does when he’s on his idiotic “money cash hoes” steeze. The beat elevates this song from “meh” to “oh, ok.” 3/5

P+H – Last track, time to blow me awa– a robot is yakking at me. Fail. Oh man, this beat RULES. I wish the robot would shut up, but this beat… I don’t care what Dom’s talking about, his voice fits the beat, and that’s all that’s required. 4/5

Catfish’s Take

Before I give my final thoughts; Catfish, if you would do the honors?

We are entering a very weird time period in hip hop. Gone are the days of hardcore gangster rap and gangbanging on wax. Now, the most successful rap acts either sing or release dance music. Or both. I like to call this hashtag rap, in that most rappers seemingly pen verses and punchlines in order to see how many of their lyrics they can get fans to tweet. It doesn’t benefit to try to pump out verses such as Thee Tom Hardy, Skyzoo, Ab-Soul, etc because you can’t fit those best lines into 140 characters or less. This is where Dom Kennedy comes in.

Dom Kennedy is a rapper out of Leimert Park, California that walks the thin line between west coast nostalgia and the current landscape of music. He’s one of the top unsigned acts in the country but he’s still bubbling under the radar. He doesn’t have the benefit of being on the XXL Freshman List due to his lack of major label ties but that’s irrelevant. What he does have is an outstanding back catalog of work and a loyal fanbase that allows him to do shows across the country. Kennedy is also a realist though, who understands that he is now in the hashtag era of rap.

Allow me to place this disclaimer right here. If you listen to Yellow Album expecting quality lyricism, you will be greatly disappointed. Quite frankly, this is some of the most uninspired lyricism I’ve heard in a very long time. However, if you listen to Yellow Album for the vibes, this album is incredible.

One lyric that Dom Kennedy uses on “Been Thuggin” that summarizes the entire album is “How you gon’ win if you never wanna risk nothing?” Regardless of what you want to say about this album, Dom Kennedy can rap and can rap very well. He’s proven this on “1997”, “Locals Only”, and the entire “Best After Bobby” and “FutureStreet/DrugSounds” mixtapes. However, neither of those tapes has given him the acclaim and recognition on a mainstream level that his music warrants. It’s not about rapping circles around the competition these days, as it has become about creating sounds and vibes. And Dom Kennedy has been forced to adapt.

Another key stage on the album is the song “We Ball” featuring none other than Kendrick Lamar. A lot of rappers would use a song featuring Kendrick to try their best to outrap Kendrick or keep pace with him, which most rappers find an exercise in futility. Here, Dom Kennedy simply resorts to like a swag chant, which describes his approach to the entire album. The lyrics are about “I have more swag than you”, “I get more chicks”, “Chicks wanna party with me”, etc. That formula is winning on a mainstream level, so Dom tries to adapt this to his brand of California barbecue/cookout/summertime music. And the result comes out masterfully.

At the end of “So Elastic”, Kennedy repeats “Blue, red and green is the colors I salute”. He tries to distance himself from thugging/gangbanging and more along the lines of universal music all can enjoy while “hanging out”. Regardless of your background, it’s hard to deny the smooth sounds of “Gold Alpinas”, “1:25” with a dope Musiq Soulchild sample, and the lead single “My Type of Party”. The album flows well and this is the perfect soundtrack for cruising around at night or background music while you enjoy the company of family and friends. This is a classic example of understanding that music has different moods, and Dom Kennedy seems to have finally fully embraced his lane. We’ll see if he’s able to reap the benefits of taking this sonic risk.

LoneXionc’s Final Words

Wow, that makes me look like a pile of fail in comparison. Well argued, thoughtful, and persuasive. Still, I think it helps to see the issue from two camps: one being “it’s mood music,” the other being “are you listening to the words?” While I agree that mainstream hip hop has moved towards simplistic rhyme schemes and poppy or smooth beats, I don’t know if that’s what I want to hear, especially from underground artists. Evolution has to take place from lyrical emcee to inoffensive superstar, but what happens to artists who were never lyrical to begin with? Can you rise to the top by making mediocre music with a popular twist? I guess we’ll find out.

Now, back to the Yellow Album. I question why all the good joints are packed into the end of the mixtape. It’s like they’re to reward you for sticking it out through the storm of average that is the rest of the tape. I was about to say “screw it” and delete everything I wrote when Gold Alpinas came on, and from there the tape wasn’t great, but it didn’t suck. That said, I’m keeping one song, “P+H,” and deleting the rest of the tape. This is not worth your precious bandwidth.

Catfish: 3.5/5 – Hot

LoneXionc: 2.15/5 – Cold

Average: 2.825 – Warm

LoneXionc and Catfish