Written by DeRa Brinson
This Sonic Breakdown features Dom Kennedy’s self-titled album Dom Kennedy. I have to thank my friend Criselda, who told me about Dom Kennedy several years ago. This is the first album of his that I have really sat down and listened to. As usual, we will follow the same format of breaking down each song followed by a conclusion on the album as a whole.
The album starts with production that sounds as if it was made by the legendary producer Alchemist. The atmosphere that is set up by the production is a laid-back reminiscence on how he used to see LA and the world. Dom Kennedy expresses that he wants to be a legend with his skill and longevity, as evidenced by the line in the first verse, “I hope I’m on that shit like Eric B. and Rakim, sucker.” Several different California references, from Black Hippy and DJ Quik to Suga Free, can be found to clue the listener in that he is from LA.
“My First Reply (Till It’s Over)”
The beat has a Suga Free or early 90s type of sound with Kennedy’s voice emoting a Tupac Shakur air of confidence. The “all eyes on me” line adds to this emotion, compounding the spirit of Tupac in this song.
“On My Hometown/Nobody Else”
A very Bay Area-type beat, taking me back to the days of driving to clubs with my friends from high school, listening to E-40, Keak da Sneak, and Frontline. In the second half, the beat changes to a darker feel with the chorus, “I don’t need nobody else,” stating that his team is strong as it is and can achieve his goals with them.
“Represent (I Like That)”
The production is the most R & B-like song I have heard from Dom. He is talking to a girl about what he wants and the things he’d like her to do. The bass line really draws you in as it oscillates.
“What I Tell Kids”
A retro feel with a modern twist emanates through the sonic properties that are found here. Kennedy is informing us of the struggles he had as a poor youth, allowing him to be able to relate to the impoverished children of today. He is also educating everyone that they can rise above their negative environment, as he did, which provides hope to keep striving for greatness through positive channels.
Bionic is on this track with a nice featured verse that somewhat overshadows Dom Kennedy. Bionic’s verse fits so well on the production that it gives the impression it is his song.
“Thank You Biggie”
A nice, stripped-down piano chord begins the track with Dom Kennedy using a slightly softer tone. As the production builds, so does Kennedy’s intensity. The track has some tones that resemble those from the more introspective Biggie Smalls tracks that are expanded on by several different lines of Biggie’s that Dom uses to create cohesiveness.
A slower, lighter feel features a chorus giving a recipe for lemonade, which is a metaphor for success. Dom Kennedy informs us that he might not be a millionaire, but through his hard work and consistency, he has built a fan base that will keep him comfortable for years to come. He also brings attention to the fact that he is a family man to a certain extent and wants to provide a nice quality of life for them.
Neo soul with an “oh well, I’m gonna do what I wanna do” attitude. The singer Tish Hyman helps reinforce the neo soul aspect by way of the chorus. The concept of this track is a woman that is so attractive Dom has a hard time explaining his want for her. He also intimates how he could treat her if she decides to be with him and enter his world.
This song’s title is referring to a palace in Granada, Spain, that I was fortunate enough to visit. The palace is beautiful and was only outshined by the amazing people that I met, combining to give me one of the best experiences of my life, and one that I will never forget. Dom is relaying that he wants to live a life that will make people remember him like Alhambra is still remembered. The beat provides a nice, peaceful environment of reflection.
“Posted in the Club [Extended]”
This track has a slow progression before the beat comes to fruition. Dom Kennedy ends the album speaking of the demands that fans place on him of always wanting new music and him wanting to keep moving forward, getting better at increasing his success. By doing this, it allows him the opportunity to see new places like Alhambra and experience new things. He also touches on wanting or having a woman that understands and accepts the rigors that come with loving an artist that has to promote themselves through club appearances. Dom is in essence is saying that he needs a strong, secure woman to handle these circumstances.
I would like to see Dom Kennedy be a little more diverse in his cadence over different productions. A portion of the album feels a little monotone in his delivery, while in other areas it adds to the feel. This is a decent-to-good album and the best lyrically that I have heard from Dom Kennedy. I do like the length of the album, which isn’t too long or too short; it seems like the prefect length for the content presented. This album has made me a fan of Kennedy, but I am not sure about the replay-ability of the album.
Over the next two weeks, we will recommend six albums from the last twelve months that we have not yet reviewed but that we feel are worthy of a listen, providing an overview of each album. Stay tuned to see who made the list.