I became a Dom Kennedy fan in college. After a long and stressful spring semester, my friends and I were ready to kick off our summer correctly. We made our way to a random cookout that had been talked about on campus. Only when we arrived, there was no food. As people started to grow aggravated, “When I Come Around” began to blast through the speakers. What was once an overcrowded backyard filled with tension and drunk and hungry college kids, almost immediately turned into a music video. Everyone started bouncing to the DJ Mustard production in unison and rapping the lyrics. “You ain’t my wife, please, I’m everybody type/ Girl, I got what everybody like.”
I can remember asking one of my friends whose song this was. She stopped mid bounce to give me the side-eye and quickly responded “This Dom Kennedy, girl. You ain’t know?”
I’m not sure what made me gravitate to him that day, it wasn’t just his production selection and definitely wasn’t his lyrics. But, Dom’s music just embodied that “carefree California” essence that I had always envied and was trying so hard to emulate. Most importantly, Dom Kennedy had his own sound. He wasn’t trying to sound like any other rapper out. His laid back flow was refreshing compared to the other rappers I was listening to who seemed to be in a “who can be more lyrical” competition. From that day forward, From the Westside With Love II became the soundtrack to our summer and I became a Dom Kennedy fan.
Dom Kennedy was the cool rapper. He didn’t try too hard. His intention wasn’t to get his bars to go over your head, but to make you groove instead. Hailing from Leimert Park, Dom frequently collaborated with his fellow underground California rappers during the mixtape era like Kendrick Lamar, Casey Veggies, Overdoz, Skeme and more. His connection with the Los Angeles Leakers helped to spread his growing buzz from outside the walls of California.
That weekend, I researched his older projects. “The Ways,” “Watermelon Sundae,” and “CDC” quickly became the most played songs on my iPod. Shortly after “My Type of Party” and the Yellow Album dropped, Dom became one of my favorite rappers.
I remember plotting on excuses to call out of work with my friends so we could travel to Howard University for one of his shows. We traveled from Baltimore to D.C. on a traffic heavy Saturday night all to see Dom, and he was worth it. His laid-back swagger and lackadaisical rhymes on record were completely different from his shows. The OPM rapper’s concerts were actually parties. The entire audience danced and smoked together, as if we weren’t in a school auditorium. We rapped his lyrics in unison right back to him. Dom would even pull girls up on stage because… well, who didn’t love an attractive rapper decked out in the latest streetwear? Girls wanted to be with him and the guys wanted to dress like him.
But, that was back in the day. The glorious days.
Fast forward five years and a couple bad projects later, Dom has taken a backseat in my musical life. There was a point in time where a beautiful, warm day would automatically be deemed as “Dom Kennedy weather.” His music was made for pool parties, cookouts, and just kicking it with your friends. But after hearing By Dom Kennedy and Best After Bobby Two in 2015, I was left wondering: what the fuck happened to Dom Kennedy?
2013’s Get Home Safely started the decline of Dom for me. The album had a few bangers like “Erica (Part 2),” “Still Callin’,” and my personal favorite “Let’s Be Friends.” But, I didn’t connect to it as much as I did to the Yellow Album.
Dom was quiet for about two years after the release of Get Home Safely. Most of his fans assumed he was in the studio preparing for the next “Dom Kennedy Summer.” But, summer came and went and we got nothing from him.
It was almost as if he didn’t know that his music had been the soundtrack to summers since 2009. When he finally dropped By Dom Kennedy, I was ecstatic— and I wasn’t alone in that feeling. The entire twitter-verse was excited, we had been waiting for new music from him and this was our moment…
Then we heard it and it was not so good. Not so good at all.
One of the lead tracks from the project was “Lemonade,” to which the hook goes “Water, sugar, lemon, squeeze/ Water, sugar, lemon, squeeze.” Seriously. “2 Bad” was the saving grace of the album and even that was just okay. I made the mistake of assuming that the music he had been working on for so long would actually be good. But instead it was as if Dom Kennedy had seen all of the tweets of fans begging for new music and said “Eh, here’s something. Don’t ask me for nothing else.” Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, he dropped Best After Bobby Two a few months later.
I couldn’t make it past the second song before I dragged the mixtape into the trash bin of my Macbook. I found myself cringing when I heard him say “I’m no Usher, but damn girl you really remind me.” It was as if all the things that made me a Dom Kennedy fan were the same things that were now turning me off. The once mellow and cool method of storytelling Dom had was now irritating and filled with pointless bars. Was it possible that a lazy rapper could get lazier? Did he get too comfortable in his spot as a standout independent rapper? Apparently so.
It’s been a minute since Dom Kennedy has dropped some new music. To be quite honest, I’m not sure if I’d even want to hear it. How many chances do you give your favorite rapper before you decide you’re no longer a fan? When you’ve witnessed the rise and decline of your favorite rapper, it tarnishes the way you see him and sometimes how you feel about his older music. Now, I listen to tracks like “Gold Alphinas” and wonder how the hell we let Dom get away with rapping “I rub it like a fucking genie/ I said I rub it like a fucking genie.”
I only refer to my favorite rapper in past tense now: “Dom used to be great” or “Dom was dope, he used to own the summer.” As a former fan who desperately wants to be one again, I’m secretly wishing for the comeback of Dom Kennedy.