For anyone paying attention to hip-hop music today, you cannot help but to feel that we are on a precipice of a West Coast Renaissance. A region that became (in)famous for the irreverent, audacious rhymes of life on the outside in the Golden State, the past two decades have seen the state lay dormant. That is until now. Of course there is the unmistakable arrival of the God MC Kendrick Lamar and his comrades in Black Hippy leading the vanguard. Then there is the more slanted and esoteric presence of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, the hip-hop collective challenging ideas and norms of Black LA. And, lest we be remiss, we cannot forget the undulating, temporal, carnal beats and flows of Tyga. And with this colorful landscape, it might be easy to over look another more subdued but notable figure; Dom Kennedy. Dom Kennedys independently produced sophomore album Get Home Safely is at once a tribute to all things Los Angeles while still showing his role as a capable MC. And while the album is not an instant masterpiece, it has an endearing quality that makes it an easy listen.
The best way to describe Kennedys style is California Casual. Its a lazy cadence, that really does just seem to flow. Kennedys album is not one full of clever lines or those one liners that you want to hit on repeat. To be sure, his lyrical subject matter is by no means trite, but his rhymes come off as more a stream of consciousness than anything else. In fact, one of the best examples of that is the mellow Intermission for Watts in which Kennedy really does take a break in the album to hail Watts, the Mecca of Blackness in the great bastion of Los Angeles. It follows with the whirring South Central Love, which is his salutation to his slice of the Southern California Ghetto Paradise.
Complimenting his easy flow are the low key sounds. In a field thats dominated by heavy beats, this album is decidedly light. He features whining synths (typical of West Coast) with occasional drops of the bass, and electric drum snare rattles. Because of this almost one-note sound of the music, the album gets slow to churn through at some points. However with the help of some features, it prevents the album from being too monotonous.
Particularly, the song Still Callin featuring fellow LA native Teeflii is a fresh record that melds the two artists talents well. Pleeze is another standout track that features a strong beat and juxtaposes Kennedys natural easy pace with the more biting Nipsey Hussle. This makes for a song that sounds balanced. And in a moment of saving the best for last, Kennedy brings a new verve with The 5 Year Theory. With a repeating trumpet blare and drum major whistle blowing throughout the song, this is definitely the most energetic track on the album. But more exciting than that, in the last 45 seconds of song, we finally get a Kennedy thats stripped down and raw with his delivery. Those final carefree moments cant help but to leave you wondering what would the album had been like had he interwove this rhyme style in with other numbers on the album.
Get Home Safely is an album that is slow but steady. Like many other rappers before him hailing from the Golden State, listening to this album gives you a feel for Kennedys landscape and everything about it, from production to rapping cadence, situates you out west. And yet for all of its regio-specific glory, Kennedy still has space to develop as an artist. To be sure though, this is a smooth album, ideal for Indian Summer cruising.
Tracks We Like: “Still Callin”, “Pleez”, “The 5 Year Theory”
Dom Kennedy Get Home Safely Track 14- Still Callin
Dom Kennedy Get Home Safely Track 15- Pleez
Dom Kennedy Get Home Safely Track 16- The 5 Year Theory