Dom Kennedy's Long-Awaited Volume 2 is a Thesis on West Coast Hip-Hop
Evan Dale // Oct 4, 2018
Lord of the West Coast, Dom Kennedy is back with a sonically traditional project built upon a collection of vintage Los Angeles ideologies. Volume 2, a project that could seemingly be the follow-up to this Summer’s album-worthy mixtape, Addicted to the Underground, is in fact the second album in a series following his last full-length studio, 2016’s celebrated Los Angeles Is Not for Sale, Vol. 1. In typical Dom fashion, the well never ran dry between that release and this one – giving his cult fans Courtesy of Half-A-Mil, Addicted to the Underground, and a barrage of singles and features in the interim – but there is always something particularly special and congruent about a proper Dom album.
Failing to cave into the short album trend – failing to ever cave into any gimmick – Dom Kennedy delivers the anthemic late Summer gaslamp as a 16-track, 49-minute marathon of West Coast synthesizers, meditative flow, and humorous punchlines. As with any Dom release, the sunshine is present, but it’s not all fun and games.
Much of the project’s length is dedicated to a preservation of the classic Los Angeles hip-hop aesthetic, even diving deep into its established and sacred roots. In accompaniment of the project, Dom released a particularly raw and West Coast gift with his leading single and video.
Brenda’s Baby could have come from very few other proponents of the West Coast hip-hop tradition. And no one could have done it justice like Dom. The mini-project feels like The Yellow Album version of the artist that long ago established his crown over Leimart Park and beyond.
A brash audacity to even run a follow-up to Tupac’s famed debut, Brenda’s Got A Baby, Dom takes it a step further by making Brenda’s Baby an object of LA’s affection. But as it goes, she grown now and so is eternally youthful Dom Kennedy. Built upon a beat of synthesized voice box explosions and a murderous bassline, he lays down his methodic flow and lovable lyricism, letting the rest follow suit and doing modern justice to Tupac’s ’91 hit. Brenda’s Baby, which now finds itself batting fifth in Volume 2, is proof that no one is a more creative and schooled product of Southern California’s sonic environment.
And yet, it’s only a small fraction of what the greater project has to offer. Dom always makes it look easy, but with Volume 2, he has delivered for the first time in a long time, the kind of project that, along with The Yellow Album and his From the West Side With Love series, will come to define his illustrious career and help to shape West Coast hip-hop for generations to come.
It is after all one of the more distinct sonic textures in music, fluidly integrating artists as varied as Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Nate Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and YG. And yet, its foundation has been built from the beginning on a specific collection of sociocultural audio-visual material. Dom is the most vibrant example of that material’s expression in the modern light, and Volume 2 is his thesis.
There are no throw-away tracks, no undercooked concepts, and no bad verses. There are occasionally bad jokes, bad attitudes, and bad feelings towards the rest of the game. The feelings, the vibes and the mood are strictly Dom and by association, fervently Los Angeles. And Los Angeles, as evident as can be made from Dom Kennedy, his West Coast collaborators, and Volume 2 is most definitely not for sale.