“We ain't dropped in a minute, yep / And that is not a coincidence”
In 2011, the Los Angeles native dropped the superb The Original Dom Kennedy mixtape, which sounded simultaneously fresh and classic; “Goodbye” and “Designer Shit” were among my favorite records that year. By then, I had Kennedy pegged as someone to watch, alongside Lamar and J. Cole.
Later in 2011, Kennedy was joined by Big K.R.I.T. on “2 Mph,” a track filled with an energetic and hilarious Kennedy at his best:
“Call me the banana boat / Let me see your cantaloupes / Don't invite your homegirls / Them hoes look like antelopes”
Listening to early Dom brought me back to the Golden Age days of G-Funk, a new-school cat flowing like Warren G over beats reminiscent of DJ Quik, Daz Dillinger or… Warren G. Even though Kennedy has steadily dropped tapes and albums since 2008 - his most recent album By Dom Kennedy was released in June of 2015 - I can't help but feel like the cover art for his next release should be on a milk carton.
How hasn't he blown? Are people still checking for him?
This past weekend, Kennedy returned with “96 Chris” (itself a somewhat dated reference), a new single with the same ingredients of dopeness: smooth flow, witty punch lines and a classic West Coast beat provided by previous Kennedy producer Jake One.
While “96 Chris,” which arrives on the heels of “U Got It Like That” featuring Niko G4, the first single from Los Angeles Is Not For Sale, Vol. 1, Kennedy’s forthcoming full-length release, is a welcome return to form for Kennedy - lyrics still humorous, weed still abundant - the underlying theme even acknowledges his missed opportunities within stream-of-consciousness freethought.
There’s an undeniable air of despair and regret mixed into the braggadocio and jokes, with lines like:
“I'm grinnin' hardly as much as when I was younger / Thinking they would acknowledge me / I couldn't have been dumber”
“Truth be told: I'm tryna find me”
“Y'all gonna have to take this ass-whopping gracefully / Hey, Bobby Womack / Save a place for me”
In a 2015 interview with The Hundreds, Kennedy remarked on his motivation to perfect the craft he grew up admiring:
“My progression starts and ends with the music. You are what you know. I would say when I first started rapping and putting out music, I was just a fan. Now I am still a fan and also one of rap’s most important contributors. That was a choice I made to progress as a person first, then naturally it will show in my art.”
I wonder what motivates Kennedy today? Is he still a fan of hip-hop? Is he still a fan of himself?
The sneakily despondent "96 Chris" displays a Kennedy struggling with his "now," hastily covered with non-sequiturs and funny lines about Bossip. While I stand by his talent and the music he makes - I want more from Dom; not in quantity, but in a quality, cohesive album.
"96 Chris" is proof that Dom Kennedy’s potential greatness, which was teased on his two best works, The Yellow Album and From The Westside With Love II, has been found, if it was ever lost in the first place.
By Matteo Urella, a Boston-based writer. Read more of his work at Medium.
Photo Credit: Instagram