The calendar might read October, but summer ain’t over yet. Yes, the solstice has long passed, and the sure signs of winter’s gradual arrival have begun to materialize, but the definition of the sunny season—characterized by longer, beach-filled days and eventful nights—is a loose one.
After all, in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, the place that 29-year-old Dom Kennedy calls home, the weather is still looking bright. From the perspective of a Leimert native, then, summer is ongoing. Or perhaps, fall is far milder than it is here in the Northeast. In any case, the musical components and warm textures which compile Dom’s sophomore album, Get Home Safely, make perfect sense as the sun still shines over L.A.
Unsurprisingly, the subject matter and flows here resemble the overall vibe of Dom’s past projects, which is to say laid-back. Eighteen songs deep, GHS could serve as a standalone summer playlist. Not unlike last year’s fan favorite mixtape, The Yellow Album, and debut album, From the Westside With Love II, both of which dropped in June of their respective years, Kennedy continues to exhibit an ability to create cohesive projects that all tap into a similar energy.
Much of his music is simple. The topics addressed often encompass female-inspired lyricism and recaps of past, relatable experiences. His linear description of a moment in "After School" is rarely thought-provoking, but always enjoyable. Furthermore, plain lines hold a tremendous power in that they effectively put the listener into Dom’s world, while also establishing the time period during which this music is best consumed: “When it’s 91 outside, bet it’s 69 in my coupe / ...AC blowing strong.” On the track "Dominic," a girl is described as looking like something that a “n***a might do.” Later, album closer Nothing Like Me sees Kennedy discussing his come up, wanting hoes and how his cars are all black. Much of what’s shared is pretty trivial, yet it’s overflowing with this vague, cliche thing that we call realness. Short-but-sweet lines—“I’m like Russell Simmons but he don’t fly couch much”—and a nearly indescribable authenticity pervade all aspects of the emcee’s work. He does not attempt to be anything greater or lesser than his own self, and he enjoys this truth.
Technically, Dom is unremarkable. His lyrics are rarely if ever jaw-dropping, nor is he throwing syllable-packed, quintuple-meaning, internally structured metaphors or stories at the listener. But he is curating a sound, and that sound is incredibly appealing, smooth, and easy to ride out too. His personality glows, and the smile oft-worn in interviews can practically be heard. It’s an interesting paradox, in which Dom’s strengths and likable characteristics also cast a box of critical limitations which imaginably surround him.
On a nearly-literal level, what surrounds Kennedy is what partially allows for the overarching vibe of his music to exist: the production. Whereas The Yellow Album was largely helmed by THC, the soundscape of Get Home Safely is provided by The Futuristiks and a slew of supporting others. Warm textures ranging from melodic, sweet bass lines and shimmering string sections (album opener "Letz Be Friends) to atmospheric, widely panned tracks that retain hard-hitting snares ("17" and "After School") complement each other well. Soulful vocal samplings and guitar implementations ("All Girl Crazy," "Erica Part 2" and "Dominic") and jazzy album breaks ("Honey Buns Interlude") bring old-school elements into the mix, and subtly Caribbean-inspired progressions ("Nothing Like Me") top it all of with a sprinkling of variation. Without question, the production allows for Dom’s music to be as entertaining and solid as it is, which speaks for his fantastic ear as much as it does the arguable sense of those producers carrying the project.
Whether one factor outweighs the other in the success of GHS, it is still a favorable outcome. No matter the month summer is still here as Kennedy and his producers create a body of work that acts as a time capsule of sorts for a certain feeling, mindset and period of experience. This special gift is given by an artist who compensates for what he lacks in technical impressiveness with what he innately possesses in character. And Dom’s character is real.