For many older music critics, witnessing the progression of an artist is vital to their overall stature. For younger audiences, like myself, it’s rare to see the phases reveal themselves so soon. But a slew of teens in the internet era are getting their first taste of that, as the many members of the now-defunct Odd Future go their separate ways. Some have fallen by the wayside, largely due to their lack of ambition, others have taken risks sonically, while a few have ventured out beyond the music realm. In other words: they’re growing up, and the kids who followed their every step are growing up too. Believe it or not, the rowdy kids known for causing a ruckus and stirring up the hip-hop scene have matured. Tyler, The Creator has continued to show off his range of talents in various fields, Earl Sweatshirt has let go of pressures to make raw artistry, and while we all wait for what Frank Ocean will do next, Domo Genesis, the stoner of the group, has finally released his debut album. It may have come too late, but the L.A. native is finally ready to show his worth in a city dominated by artists.
There’s no arguing that Genesis is appropriately titled. Much like Flatbush Zombies' recent debut, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, Genesis also acts as a platform for the artist to show off a large scale. It’s a declaration of purpose. This also, unfortunately, makes it nothing special. Simply another underdeveloped, self-titled autobiography, interesting to only those around him. Even his parents appear on the LP—his mother on “One Below,” his father, incarcerated, on “Questions”—both reciting ridiculously boring platitudes about “spreading your wings” and “going to get yours”. Not saying Genesis is bad, just unoriginal. Having one foot in the past, with recounts of memories with little context, and a foot in the future, with quasi-life lessons, has been played out. However what can’t be denied is the clear signs of maturity here, both in content and execution. I’ll take this form of penmanship over stoner rap any day.
The biggest question I had going into Genesis was: who exactly did Domo want to be? There were a handful of avenues he could’ve taken and the two lead singles, “Dapper” and “Go (Gas)”, only further stifled the cluelessness going in. And while the rest of the LP, excluding those two songs, define his sound rather well, that sound isn’t all that interesting. Those two are. I can't help but feel disappointed that “Go (Gas)”, a Wolf throwaway with solid Wiz and Juicy verses, and “Dapper”, a Malibu throwaway with Anderson Paak glazed over the production, are the best things here and it has almost nothing to do with Domo. That being said, his flow over Paak’s smooth production is excellent, and more in line with that, just less photocopied, would be welcomed. But for now we’re given an assortment of aspirational raps over smooth instrumentals that don’t plan to attack but soothe it. This is Domo’s safe space, where the beats are merely used as placeholders without venturing into the unknown. The little risks that are taken do pay off though, like Left Brain’s beat on “All Night” or the wonderfully organic foundation of “Wanderer”.
Unfortunately everything else isn’t all that compelling. “Questions” is a mischievous turn, with creepily sung vocals from Kendra Foster that compliments it’s surrounding tracks and their featured singers (“Wanderer”’s Tay Walker and “My Own”’s JMSN) with a darker tone. This acts as a little capsule to the album’s non-linear approach. While the overall sound feels circular, the mundane tracks are split up nicely, paired with songs that aim to deviate more than fall in line. Opener “Awkward Groove”, “One Below” (sans the last minute), “Faded in the Moment”, and the Mac Miller-assisted “Coming Back” all fail to capture any sort of imagination, falling on the same humdrum approach many Domo tracks have taken before. And while “Go (Gas)” and “Dapper” are good, they do the same, so that leaves Genesis begging for an identity when it doesn’t offer one. Thankfully, as was also the case with Flatbush Zombies’ 3001, the album feels like an album and not a mixtape. There’s a selection of 12 songs, with a definitive purpose, and a cohesion throughout. The transition from “One Below” to “Wanderer”, for example, is flawless.
It’s disheartening that the rest of the album doesn’t live up to that standard though. While Genesis is filled with hidden gems, and a bubbling soul-infused edge akin to Anderson Paak’s Malibu that I wish was more explored, the defining characteristics are all rather monotonous. Picture a canvas, with Domo acting as the lead artist, painting a rudimentary landscape portrait. It’s got a pristine sense of space, a blue sky with a few clouds, and a tire swing hanging off a tree. It’s picturesque but nothing original. When Genesis gives its guests the paintbrush, the landscape becomes vivid, chaotic, interesting. Juicy J’s sipping syrup flow, Tyler’s synth/horn mash-up, Paak’s west coast breeze, Tay Walker’s heavenly hook, Left Brain’s cinematic beat. The sparks of great art are there, but the brain behind the creation lays dormant. Time will tell where Domo goes, and honestly Genesis isn't a bad beginning. It’s an expected one, sure, but given his history and affiliation with O.F., the rapper gives off the implication that he’s ready to branch out beyond his roots. C PLUS
Read more of Brian’s writing at his blog, Dozens of Donuts.