Dom Kennedy is back & Summer can start,
Addicted to the Underground
Evan Dale // Jul 5, 2018
As the saying goes, Summer doesn’t start until Dom Kennedy drops a project. Well, just as indicative of sunshine and warm-weather vibes as the day he put it out, Dom’s July 4 release, Addicted to the Underground is here to kickstart peak positivity and signal Summer’s official inauguration. The veteran, or rather the godfather of the current West Coast scene, has, as he’s always done, delivered. Delivered a laid-back, pace-cadenced project whose contemplative approach only highlights his lyrical chops; Delivered a meaningful collection of tracks that unfold end to end as a vibrant story of the California aesthetic; Delivered a project produced in the long-storied Los Angeles tradition of classic hit samples, delicate chimes, and high-energy synthesizers; Delivered a project that, when every element blends into one, is as classic Dom Kennedy as The Yellow Album.
On somewhat of a nostalgic high of late, Dom, who recently held his first live performance of the storied mixtape since its release, seems to have unearthed a vintage texture not entirely present in his last few releases. It’s not to say that his trio of EP’s and a studio album with Hit-Boy under the Half-A-Mil banner haven’t been up to par. Quite the contrary, they have exceeded expectations and brought Dom Kennedy’s music into a new realm. But, at the end of the day, they weren’t his own projects – the projects that have, for a decade since his 2008 debut mixtape, 25th Hour – defined the Southern California auditory aesthetic.
Realistically, it’s silly how spoiled us Dom Kennedy fans are. He seems to release a full-length solo project so frequently, that when two years pass, we’re in desperate need of another to quench our positivist, groovy ear. It was only 2016 when Dom gave us the 15-track Los Angeles Is Not For Sale, Vol. 1 bubbling over with classic party anthems like California and slow-paced kickback soundtracks like The 76. Yet, it feels like the sun has grown dimmer in his two-year soloist absence. He is after all, the single greatest, shining example of positivism, mellowness, and Summer vibes across the hip-hop spectrum – something that leaves him a frequent feature not only throughout the California scene, but throughout all of hip-hop.
In recent years, the positivist movement and the laid-back approach have discovered newfound territory with a young generation of rappers employing the relatable, welcoming direction. From Skizzy Mars to Tobi Lou to KYLE, Dom Kennedy’s youthful successors are utilizing hip-hop in a way not entirely main stream and traditional. In light of recent releases from all three of the aforementioned artists – Skizzy Mars’ are you OK, Tobi Lou’s Tobi Lou and the Loop, and KYLE’s Light of Mine – Dom Kennedy, an artist most comparable to OutKast in his ability to blend positivism and traditionalism, new-age and old-school, still has plenty to teach. He has long been a bridge in the hip-hop world, an artist over which fans and rappers alike can connect because of his uniquely all-encompassing sound. And Addicted to the Underground is another shining example of that knack for connecting otherwise polarized audiences.
Quite minimalist in its list of collaborators, Addicted to the Underground features only a quartet of outside influencers: frequent producers Troy Nōka and John G, frequent collaborator Smoke DZA, and fellow California lyricist, Cuzzy Capone. Though all four certainly play their roles in the project, the lack of heavy influence is welcome as it allows for a full immersion into the sonic texture we’ve struggled without for two years. And, it does not disappoint.
Each track boasts that addicting, repeatable flow that we’ve loved about Dom Kennedy from the beginning. Spotted throughout with clever punchlines, comedic relief, genial adlib, and head-bobbing hooks, it exhibits Dom’s ability to somehow rap with the best of them even at such a relaxed cadence. The Resurrection is an impossibly lovable result of just such that talent.
But the project is also a vibrant display of Dom’s long-established dominance in exuding romance and sex. The Movies is essentially a 3-minute game-spitting undertaking that would leave anyone weak in the knees, and Oasis turns the romance up even higher.
But if there’s one standout track on the album, it’s got to be Liberation, a classic, comedic string of Dom Kennedy lines that bleed together as storylined verses, with a hook as unforgettable as My Type of Party, over a beat as energetic and bouncy as Still Callin’. It’s Dom Kennedy perfection that brings he and us back in time and back to California.
But through it all, Addicted to the Underground, like every release he has ever so effortlessly pulled together, is best when played in full over a six-pack with friends and a California sunset. Lovely to have you back, Dom.