Back at the start of this decade, when the now-defunct hip hop collective Odd Future ruled over the blogosphere with its occasionally sophomoric but always forward-thinking antics, there wasn’t much room for its fringe members to stand out as individual artists.
There was Tyler, the Creator, the enigmatic, visionary powerhouse that the whole collective seemed to revolve around; there was Earl Sweatshirt, the firestarter of a rapper with a particularly poetic touch; and there was Frank Ocean, the universally beloved R&B crooner.
With those three occupying the limelight, it was difficult for the other members of Odd Future to shine, but rapper Domo Genesis always seemed to make himself noticeable. Domo, who released his debut studio album “Genesis” on March 24, rapped with a determined aggression to his words, the kind that demands listeners sit up and pay attention when his voice popped up on a track.
Unfortunately, “Genesis” fails to play on this strength. It boasts a polished suite of soft, often gorgeous production, which does not marry very well with Domo’s overflowing notebook of struggle bars. He barks endlessly over these tranquil beats, creating an end product that is neither uplifting nor mellow.
Domo’s lyrics don’t spend that much time detailing the struggle, but rather sketch out the specific place his life seems to be at. He’s made it past the Odd Future stage, matured and released his first album, but there is still quite a long way to go. This career limbo drives a large majority of his verses on “Genesis.”
There are moments of supreme confidence. On “My Own,” Domo is “calling shots, star in this league, like Moses parting the seas.” On “Coming Back,” he’s “having artists for dinner.”
But these are balanced by the internal questions that haunt Domo – he clearly doesn’t feel entirely secure with what he has accomplished. On “Wanderer,” he’s “just a fly, getting blinded by this light.” On “All Night,” he puts it bluntly: “If you don’t like this song, then go and turn my lights off.”
Now, this is a perfectly fine subject to explore, but it’s hurt greatly by the aforementioned clash in tone. A rapper with a more relaxed flow may be able to excel on these sleepy instrumentals, which are strong throughout “Genesis.” Just imagine Isaiah Rashad or Mac Miller gliding over the top: it would be excellent.
Domo is a fine technical rapper, but he works best when he’s snarling and shouting, and this isn’t his scene. He also doesn’t help his cause by forgetting to bring many memorable lines or particularly stunning verses. He occasionally turns a nimble, head-turning phrase, but those moments are far and few between.
Also, there aren’t many catchy hooks or melodies here. The guest hooks, for the most part, fall flat (more on that in a second), and Domo really needs to work on his own hooks. “Faded in the Moment,” which is probably the weakest link on the album, is an egregious example.
Oddly enough, the two best tracks on “Genesis” are peculiar in two ways: they don’t fit in with the album’s aesthetic, and Domo doesn’t really contribute to them. “Go (Gas)” calls upon Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J to turn a dusty Tyler, the Creator beat into scraps, and Domo recedes into the background with the track’s weakest vocal turn. “Dapper” flips an infectious rhythm and another one of those lovely Anderson. Paak hooks into a killer dance anthem, while Domo struggles to adapt to a more laid-back flow.
There is a scenario where “Go (Gas)” and “Dapper” anchor other, stronger albums, and it’s pretty obvious; these tracks would fit right in on Tyler’s “Wolf” and .Paak’s “Malibu,” respectively. They definitely don’t fit here, making this project even messier.
While “Genesis” is definitely a disappointment, there is potential for Domo to improve. He shows real maturity as an artist on this latest album, and he’s proven on previous mixtapes that he can anchor a project by himself. If he can find the right production, and hammer out some of his peripheral issues, we could see something greater in the future.
But this isn’t the album where it happens. “Genesis” occasionally sounds assured of its direction, but there’s not enough polish or artistic conviction. Hopefully, the album title’s forecast turns out to be true.