It’s hard to believe the Odd Future hype beast reached its apex nearly three years ago from the outside, but the collective’s projects in 2012 all seem to point towards a certain self-awareness. Partially because their release avalanche appears to have finally halted – No Idols marks just the third Odd Future release of the year. And much like the other solo release, Hodgy Beats’ Untitled EP, No Idols is a project that would seemingly have as little to do with what the group is known for as possible. Where Hodgy teamed with various L.A. beat scene producers to showcase his ability to rhyme over unconventional tracks and mostly succeeded in proving he could make a living outside the OFWGKTA bubble, Domo Genesis has made an extreme miscalculation by following in Curren$y’s footsteps and cutting a free LP entirely produced by underground hero Alchemist. Domo was previously known as Odd Future’s weed rapper, a fact that started a short-lived beef with Wiz Khalifa over the title of his major label debut (Rolling Papers, the same as Domo’s tumblr release) that remains Domo’s most notable contribution to pop culture.
Domo’s first problem on No Idols is one that anyone who heard Rolling Papers could have been prepared for: the kid is totally unengaging. While his delivery worked to some extent in the THC-fog of Rolling Papers, thanks to Tyler the Creator’s guiding hand behind the boards, he becomes increasingly exposed when no longer protected by the barrier Odd Future used to build around themselves. Atop more conventional production, Domo appears to have a hell of a time figuring out where the rhythm of the beat is, or how to make himself feel like more than an afterthought to the proceedings. “Fuck Everybody Else” is the sound of a rapper completely lost in his environment, rhyming for the sake of it while failing at nearly every moment to feel like he’s in pocket or engaged with the beat in any way. “All Alone” is even worse, as a pretty Venusa sample is shrouded by Domo’s dull, ambivalent delivery and a weird choice of sampled grunt that repeats atop the sample loop and distracts from everything around it. During the instrumental fade you can hear where Alchemist might have thought that choice a good one, but as it exists to the public “All Alone” us pure disaster.
It’s an early warning sign that, in the now-infamous words of Lil’ Wayne, “you know he can’t save you.” Alchemist has had a pretty refreshing little boost in the quality of his output since 2009’s Chemical Warfare, but he can still be a dangerous man to bet on when he’s not putting his best foot forward. The production here appears determined to match Domo’s lethargic, ignorable presence at most every turn. “The Feeling” feels like one of the more enlivened pieces at first listen, but attentive ears will quickly notice that wandering bassline, funky brass and stilted drums are locked into one two bar groove. The fact that this can be considered one of No Idols’ most engaging tracks should be troubling, because when Alchemist’s choice of sample or chop approach isn’t up to par with even that simplistic approach there’s truthfully no reason to pay any attention. The title track at the end features a beat switch that suddenly awakens the entire release, not just because it’s full of excitement and adventure but because Domo and Tyler actually feel somewhat at home there, in that place that feels out of step with everything else on the project.
Even the guests are a letdown: Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples do poor impressions of Prodigy while Prodigy remains a poor facsimile a legend, Freddie Gibbs and Action Bronson coast on their reputations and Spaceghostpurrp may very well have been inspired by actual ghosts his inclusion is so transparent and unnoticeable. It’s only Smoke DZA, surprisingly, who looks at his guest star credit as anything other than token, and he easily steals the show on “Power Ballad” like he was mad he didn’t get these beats to himself. Like Hodgy, Domo came off as the Odd Future member who was least entrenched within the aesthetic culture of the group. But given the chance to play at being a regular rapper, it turns out that he can’t hang with the rappers he looks up to and his taste in regular production is as bland as his own artistry. Domo clearly has a variety of idols in the rap game, but the title appears to imply he hasn’t learned a thing from any of them.