[24 January 2014]
Dom Kennedy has never been a remarkable rapper. In fact, I was once lightning quick to dismiss him as a gimmick whenever possible due to his insistence that he figure out how to rhyme words with themselves as often as possible. It was a strange tactic, one that worked with his exceptionally clear diction on the microphone and yet made all his subject matter seem a little too simple. Since his first rap it’s been obvious the dude’s positioning himself as the Too $hort of a new generation, rapping merely to point out how pimpish his real life is. But until Get Home Safely, it’s been a little hard to fully invest in Dom’s persona when his One Weird Trick is so blatantly in your face the whole time.
It seems equally simple-minded to claim all that Dom had to do was stop rhyming “cop” with “cop” to make a fully enjoyable album, but here I am to say just that. Get Home Safely is different than Dom’s previous works in some other ways, too, it’s just that his recent decision to attempt even slightly more complicated rhyme schemes has allowed Dom’s subject matter to embrace imagery, cockiness and variety within his very narrow window in a way that just wasn’t available to him before.
He’ll likely always be projecting an aura of smugness through the speakers, but it feels more earned without the sneaking suspicion he’s trying to pull a fast one. It’s weird outlier tracks like “Tryna Find My Way” that put a bullet on it, as he limply sings about regretting all the boorish mistakes he’s made in his love life in a duet with an unnamed female vocalist that turns out to be both the highlight of the tape and sickly endearing.
That said, this is very much a Dom Kennedy album most of the time. If you’re not into raps about college girls (“South Central Love”, “All Girl Crazy”, “Erica Part 2”), fashion, pimping (“Honey Buns”, “Still Callin’”, “Nothin’ Like Me”) and Watts/Los Angeles nostalgia (“An Intermission for Watts”, “17”, “The 5 Year Theory”), Get Home Safely is not an album for you. But by teaming with the Futuristiks (perhaps best recognized for producing Jeremih’s “Rosa Acosta”) for the first twelve of eighteen cuts and embracing their dreamy, digital soundscapes that emphasize atmospheric, pseudo-cloud rap vistas, Dom’s made the rare sort of outwardly egoist album that’s awash in a feeling of navel gazing and self-reflection.
It’s a hard feeling to put a finger on considering not much at all has changed about Dom as a person, so a lot of the credit has to go that team for making him seem relatable even as he tries so hard to be the biggest presence in the room. Get Home Safely takes the momentum from Yellow Album and comes with a bit of a curveball, but this is still very much the spring/fall outdoors album you’d expect from Dom. That it’s his first release just as enjoyable removed from 70 degree weather and sunshine is a nice bonus that makes Get Home Safely his best release yet.