Odd Future’s dark horse shines on his stellar debut
The California-grown hip-hop collective ‘Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All‘ (shortened to ‘Odd Future’) is a name that’s grown to be one of the most powerful and influential movements in the game today. With it’s own TV show and radio station, not to mention the thousands-upon-thousands of fans all over the world campaigning for their success, it’s an understatement to say Odd Future are a well-known name. One of its few members who actually release music, Domo Genesis, has been an underground force to be reckoned with for a fairly long time now. With a number of mixtapes and collaboration projects already showing off his ability, it wasn’t long before he challenged for more appeal with his debut album. Two and a half years in the making, it was worth the wait.
When the first single off of ‘Genesis‘ was released, it peaked my interest. ‘Dapper‘ (featuring Anderson .Paak) was a much more mellow and easy-going track to what people tied to Odd Future usually put out. Whereas Tyler, The Creator takes you on a audio acid trip and Earl Sweatshirt lets you look into his own twisted mind, Domo Genesis simply finds his flow on a simple groove without really pushing any boundaries of the psyche like his label counterparts would. It’s a sweet introduction to the LP too, introducing new listeners to the tone of ‘Genesis‘ in a swift move. And that’s just what this album is; not trying to make you think differently or challenging the norms of hip-hop, just a guy telling his story on 90’s-inspired beats.
At a moderately short 12 tracks, the project has a clear sense of consistency (in terms of direction) from beginning to end. Starting with the intro track ‘Awkward Groove‘, which takes no time in letting Domo do his thing , we’re treated to a layered, soul-filled instrumental that encompasses strings, background vocals and an ardent piano . It may sound simple on the surface, but you can really tell that most of the beats on here have been meticulously crafted to maintain a constant level of familiarity with each song. It’s a reflective tune, the MC claiming “I got knowledge for every dollar made, so look at me now I ain’t scared of none of my flaws, that got ’em shook of me now“, a strange place to start for an album about his life’s journey. It becomes more clear however after this intro, as Domo seems to take us back in time to describe his come-up in ‘One Below‘. After an opening monologue from his mother where she describes her (unconditional) love for her son, the song breaks into this wonderful low-key jazzy instrumental driven by a recorder and a number of background vocals. Domo is in his prime here, commenting on his tangled and confusing journey to getting his name recognized, exclaiming that “if this what comes from being lost, then I’m proud of it“.
For the majority of the album, this quality is kept up, with Domo more than matching the tremendous instrumentals provided by the likes of Cam O’bi, Christian Rich and Left Brain. One track transitions smoothly into another, each cut embodying its own flavour while still managing to fall into the jazz/soul rap sub-genre at the same time. ‘Coming Back‘, which features frequent Odd Future collaborator Mac Miller, merges a heavy drum loop with a spacious falsetto-like melody to find a perfect balance between a groovy rap hit and a ‘smoke‘ song. Domo switches up his flow here to keep up with the heavier percussion, but still manages to spit some memorable lines like “It’s a cold world baby, but I’m a cold nigga, frostbite tryna take a chew of how I slither, my presence give ’em chills, like an Antarctica winter“. It’s mostly feel-good tunes across the LP too, even if the message the Odd Future member brings is of his lack of understanding. ‘My Own‘ and ‘Faded in the Moment‘ capture the laid back atmosphere most effectively, with drawn out electronic keys and soulful vocals from JMSN and Cam O’bi complimenting the backing tracks well. The delicate and precise use of percussion on these tracks shows the care that Domo and his team have on avoiding making this thing sound like some cheap demo tape.
Even when the LA born rapper strays from the illustrious instrumentals in favour of more murky/serious beats, he still manages to maintain a sense of control and authority, convincing me that he’s chosen his beats well. On the what was the second single of the LP; ‘Go (Gas)‘ he employs the help of Wiz Khalifa, Tyler, the Creator and Juicy J to reinforce the notion that this is most likely the ‘smokiest’ track on the list (you know what I mean). On what Tyler describes as a “kill bill guitar” melody and a church tambourine, each adds their own signature feel with their contribution to the track. It might feel a little out of place on the record as a whole, but to an Odd Future fan its a dream team and the backing track manages to hold up throughout. Domo is given a little more freedom to flex here too, commanding those that hate on him to “suck a dick while I selfie with the Eiffel Tower“. Another show of Domo’s more darker side is the track ‘Questions‘, featuring a eerie set of keys and a bass guitar straight from a 70’s buddy-cop TV show. The rapper himself (true to the tracks title) proposes a lot of questions during the run time, asking both himself and those around him about successes, and how he’s going to handle things in the future; whatever it brings. He sounds convincingly frantic and baffled, a fragile and innocent side of him he’s not afraid to show.
Admittedly it’s not cohesive and perfect all the way through, as there are a few poor decisions made here and there in terms of hooks and beats. The track ‘Wanderer‘ has some initial flair in the form of a piano riff and a slow drum loop, and Domo does well to accommodate to its slower pace, but the second half is nothing but an ad-libbed hook-esque vocal portion and takes away from what could have been a solid song. It’s the last quarter of the record that ultimately lets it down though, as 2 of the last 3 tracks are pretty forgettable. ‘Brotha‘ has a bland instrumental and a generic hook the MC himself sing-raps: “still smoking on that, la-la-la-la-la-la-la, I promised God I’d never work at a 9 to 5” while ‘All Night‘ suffers from the same drawbacks, plus a rather pointless feature from King Chip who only appears in the outro. It’s all but of saved by the enjoyable final track; ‘Lost and Found‘ (which has a sweet guitar/sax combo), but overall the ending doesn’t live up to the rest.
Although I knew of Domo Genesis before this album, I certainly didn’t know of his potential. Thankfully, he shows almost every ounce of it here and comes through with a host of laid-back sounds that resonate perfectly with his flow and delivery. Poor hooks and a couple of lack-luster instrumentals aside; Domo manages to consistently match the wonderful craftsmanship of the production, his wordplay itself even becoming the highlight at times. ‘Genesis‘ shouldn’t go unnoticed, as it’s a thoroughly enjoyable record for the most part, and a surprisingly chilled addition to the always-unpredictable and crazy Odd Future label.
Highlights: One Below, Faded in the Moment, Coming Back, Dapper, My Own, Awkward Groove