As it stands right now, the West Coast is dominating the hip-hop scene nationally and internationally. Whether it be Game signing with Cash Money records, Kendrick Lamar destroying every rapper in a single verse, Nipsey Hussle selling mixtapes for $100 apiece or the rest of Top Dawg Entertainment gaining the interest of rap enthusiasts everywhere, nothing seems to be able to top the West Coast movement. The next domino to fall in the Westside invasion of 2010’s hip-hop is Dom Kennedy’s newest independent LP, Get Home Safely.
Dominic Hunn grew up in a neighborhood encompassing the Crenshaw district of South Los Angeles called Leimert Park. As a kid, he got involved in sports like baseball and basketball to escape the turmoil of the inner city. After high school, Dom enrolled at a two-year junior college to major in business management. Eventually, Dom’s passion for the music of Biggie, Outkast and LL Cool J kick-started his musical career.
Listening to his music, one gets a sense of Dom’s upbringing. Get Home Safely puts you in a nostalgic dream state of summer days that passed as a child. One can almost imagine the entire concept of the album as a ride home your parents once gave you: the sun hiding behind the other side of the world as the car resonates with the sounds of yesteryear. Dom Kennedy isn’t trying to wow you with his wordplay. That’s not his style. Get Home Safely wants to bring you to a place, a time, a moment in your life.
Get Home Safely is a quasi-concept album with the message of getting home free from danger. It takes the listener back to better days in “After School,” in which Dom speaks about people he once knew, the bus ride after school and his take on the future as he saw it as a child. On this downbeat track, Dom raps, “The L.A. niggas I knew, some no longer exist / And they got moms just like me, if I could grant them one wish / But that’s a dream deferred, they don’t always come true / Four minutes to four, on the bus ride after school / If I make it to heaven, I hope it comes with a view / If I make it to heaven…”
“Erica Part 2” comes off like the memory of a girl who Dom once had a one night stand with as he drives through an old neighborhood of his. Dom explains how things were done back in his day when he delivers a description of past experiences: “Rollin’ up tight reefer sticks twist with both hands / I’m from the era of freakin’ on the floor to the slow jams / Wake up, do a song, smoke, that’s the program / Put a nug in nigga we can smoke more strands.” This song makes it easy to picture a typical Friday night for Dom in his younger days.
What would a great album be without a love story? “Tryna Find My Way” couples a jazzy instrumental with a slow jam beat to the thoughts of Dom speaking on a past love. “I know it’s overdue / Just hope it ain’t too late / So let’s stay up all night / The day might come, we can’t / I’m always here for you / I won’t forget your face / When I first saw you / I didn’t know what to say / I didn’t know what to do / Tryna find my way.” His lyrics evoke not only his memories but also the listener’s memories.
As a whole, Get Home Safely has the power to transport the listener to a time when your parents told you, “Get home safely,” before you left the house. The dreamlike instrumentals combined with Dom’s stories of old haunts and harks back to the early ’90s in South Central L.A. Dom doesn’t do this in the “everyone was in a gang in my neighborhood” type of way; he does it through common themes and relatable lyrics. This isn’t music that you show your friends at a party. Get Home Safely is more personal. This is the type of music you keep for yourself when you’re on a run, a drive or just lost in thought.
4 out of 5 stars