DOMi & JD BECK started accumulating likes on YouTube with their incredible covers of Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and MF Doom. The prodigious keyboard and drum duo procured a sound that only seemed possible by way of a talented hip-hop producer–an incredible time feel, unconventional beats, not to mention neo-soul and gospel-stretching harmonies. Their skills didn’t go unnoticed, and the two soon joined the Thundercat and Anderson Paak creative circle, performing alongside Thundercat and Ariana Grande for a special Adult Swim performance. Now, as the flagship for Paak’s new record label, Apeshit, the duo prove their worth on their impressive first full-length album, NOT TiGHT.
Highly anticipated by YouTube-obsessed musicians everywhere, NOT TiGHT is a barrier-bashing blend of jazz, hip-hop, and R&B. The musicianship DOMi and JD BECK showcase here is phenomenal, and their age only compounds it. The musicians are both in their early 20s. With such a short time, it’s remarkable how many practice hours the two have logged. DOMi’s blistering keyboard solos are jaw-dropping, and JD BECK’s unconventional breakbeat grooves are head-scratching. And the chemistry between the two is electric and youthful.
We glean a sense of the Zoomers’ playfulness in the music video for their single “SMiLE”. The premise lies in DOMi & JD BECK and their attempts to cheer up an old, craggy jazz musician played by Mac Demarco. Having lost his hearing, the old man is not amused by the sushi, paper decorations, or party the two prepare for him on his birthday. That changes when he is gifted a new pair of ears. When he tries them on, he hears DOMi & JD BECK jamming. A smile creases across his face. The melody DOMi plays on the keys is catchy but off-kilter in its phrasing, and JD BECK masters it with a groove on the drum kit. By the song’s end, the man isn’t the only one wearing a smile.
Even though it is clear the two have light years of musicianship between them, the album gets blessings from some of the music industry’s biggest names. On “TWO SHRiMPS”, Mac Demarco (with hearing in-tact) lends his slacker-boy vocals, reciting bizarre lyrics about shrimp and cowboys. Elsewhere, the R&B-tinged single “TAKE A CHANCE” with mentor Anderson Paak proves a highlight on the album. You can watch a wonderful performance of the three performing the song on a previous episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live.
On “PiLOT”, the most star-studded track, we get feature verses–lustful lyrics–from veteran rappers Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg. The great Herbie Hancock even breaks out the vocoder for an amazing piano solo on “MOON”, later trading licks with DOMi. DOMi clearly hangs. It’s comforting to know that not all aging musicians are curmudgeons and are willing to support young talent. Not that it’s needed, but the guest list stamps them with a seal of approval. Their good friend Thundercat lays down a funky bassline and a tender falsetto for “BOWLiNG” and “NOT TiGHT”. His solo on the latter is fantastic, boldly reminding us that the bass can still be played at the level of Victor Wooten or Jaco Pastorious.
Later on, while DOMi and Thundercat trade bars, JD BECK keeps the pocket with a tight, yet somehow incredibly loose, breakbeat–sure to become his trademark. What’s unique about his drumming is how precise he is without being precise. The drum hits lag either in front of the beat or behind the beat, emulating the button-pressing of a 1990s hip-hop drum machine. In fact, one of his idols is the influential producer J Dilla, who revolutionized how a hip-hop drum beat could feel. Coincidentally, the track ends with one of his samples.
Their musicianship throughout the album is incredible, and the energy between the two is magnetic. Both DOMi and JD BECK began playing music from a young age. DOMi studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and Berklee College of Music in Boston. JD BECK cut his teeth around Dallas before logging time with Erykah Badu. The two eventually connected at a NAMM convention, and since then, DOMi and JD BECK have become incredibly close. JD BECK openly admits to creating the melody for “SMiLE” on the toilet. DOMi later added chords after JD BECK washed his hands, of course.
Thanks to YouTube, it seems like a new prodigy breaks out of relative obscurity every few years–Jacob Collier, Pentatonix, to name a few. DOMi & JD BECK are not without exception. With NOT TiGHT, however, DOMi & JD BECK take their impromptu jam sessions and make a greater leap toward notoriety with support from some of the hottest musicians on today’s scene. The duo has achieved high-flying musicianship status at a break-knit speed, similar to the tempos they traverse. Under the right influences and mentorship, DOMi & JD BECK could have long and fruitful careers ahead of them.