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Review: The Bittersweet Nostalgia of Domo Genesis' 'Red Corolla'

'Red Corolla' is proof of Domo's growth as an emcee and storyteller through a tale of paranoid reflection in the face of an uncertain future.
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I take my friendships for granted. Bonds formed on house porches, in movie theater hallways and in the shadows of greasy Jersey food trucks remain tight but distanced thanks to this little thing called adulthood. Every 12-hour work day and every new bill that pops up serves as a reminder that, at one point in my life, my biggest stressor was arguing with friends about Tarantino movies and Dragon Ball Z over mixed bowls of popcorn chicken and fries. There were once days when time was the one thing we always had. At present, work and general adulting keep those moments few and far between, and coupled with the anxious sea change that comes with turning 25, I find myself leaning harder on moments past now than I did when I was actually living them.

2017 has provided no shortage of music to help me sift through this particular existential crises. SZA’s lovelorn past is the blueprint to maneuver her self-care on Ctrl; Lil Uzi Vert’s biggest solo hit to date is a reminder that at 22, he’s the only one of his friends left standing; Quelle Chris embraced self-doubt as a step toward acceptance on Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often. Vince Staples is Black and proud yet dealing with survivor’s guilt as the walls of fame close in around him on early cuts from Big Fish Theory.

Most recently, Domo Genesis took me on a hazy, boom bap trip down Memory Lane when he dropped his suprise project, Red Corolla, this past Friday (June 16).

On the opening track, Doms also remembers a time for friends and love before “minutes turned to days” and guest lists always read his name. " “Live it the way you like it, but never play with time / Feel it in the spot on my own cause I never stay in line / Things change but niggas get stuck in ways sometimes,” he admits over goofy kazoo and drum samples from fellow Odd Future alum Left Brain.

These are the kinds of thoughts that come with seeing the same trash cans under looming tree shadows while driving down your old street on your way out of town again: “Found a way in this maze / Pray the vision out the way / I see the shit in my brain / While I'm gripping grain down memory lane / In my Red Corolla.” Doms’ past is a quick pit stop on his way to the future.  

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Arguably the least showy member of OF, Doms’ straightforward weed rap persona was bound to be overshadowed by his more radical peers when the group first caught eyes in 2011. The paranoia that followed coaxed brash bars out of him on 2012’s No Idols, a collab with The Alchemist that proved his voice was worth hearing and his stomach growling. Three years later, he carried the isolation of songs like “All Alone” over to his debut studio album, Genesis, which blended his still growing skills on the mic with soulful production and an increased sense of purpose. While Tyler, Earl, Frank and Syd reached the stars, Domo’s Hyperbolic Time Chamber gave him time to find himself.

If Genesis was Doms coming to grips with his place in hip-hop, then Red Corolla is the homecoming trip that reveals his suppressed layers of stress. “Sometimes my friends be like my feelings, they come and go,” he spits over Evidence's gloomy production on “Deez Nuts” before heading to a party with friends at the end of the next song. Skits throughout the album reveal a day that starts with grinding herb and roasting friends and ends with Doms dumping those same friends on some poor soul to make way for the mental breakdown of “Self Doubt: The Interlude” on his way to the studio.

Having been both the dude forced to drive five guys gone off various drugs home with nothing but a learner’s permit after midnight and the dude who missed the end of the party to freak out about the future, I confided in Doms’ fear and the regret you can hear in his voice when his homeboy asks what’s taking him so long. I’ve never felt confident telling my friends about my anxieties, but Doms managed to sum it up in two bars: “I rap ironically / Constantly contradicting everything you just thought of me.” It’s confusing and unfair, but accurate.  

Domo is simultaneously reaching into the past and the future to give his present anxieties weight, and the production is an alley-oop off a sound bed. Hi-Tek, J. Rawls and Stoney Willis all bring a no-frills boom bap edge to match Doms’ hard-nosed flows. The rollout was even pulled from the past: the cover is a flattened cassette booklet, while the MP3 files were dropped via a Mediafire link; the old school leaker’s hosting site of choice. King Chip gets a good verse in to compliment the party of “Honestly, Just Wanna Have A Good Time,” but it’s Styles P who meets Doms halfway on “Overthinking”: “Talking to the sky, hoping it talk back / I done drove through hell, ready to walk back / You stunting on broke niggas, get off that / I'm the lone wolf from the lost pack."

Domo Genesis has come a long way from being Odd Future’s lone wolf and etched out his own solo space. Red Corolla is proof of his growth as an emcee and storyteller, but more importantly, its tale of paranoid reflection in the face of the future reminded me just how precious all of my relationships—new and old—are to me.

It's a reminder to lean less on old memories and use the little time that I have to create new ones.

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