I miss the old Dom K... respectfully
West Coast rap and East Coast skateboarding both make me nostalgic.
Welcome to Low Impact, where I write about music and a skate video every other week.
DOM KENNEDY, From the Westside With Love Three
I first saw Dom Kennedy perform at a church in Boston in 2012. The show was small enough that he was just hanging out on stage after he finished rapping, indulging members of the audience who asked for autographs and photos. He even obliged when I asked him to sign my forehead, although halfway through the signature his Sharpie slipped down toward my eyebrow and he recoiled slightly. “Eugh,” he said, in the exact same way he said it as an adlib on “Platinum Chanel,” “Kinda sweaty.” I was overjoyed.
The next time I saw him was on my college campus in 2016. “Did you see they announced the performer for Spring Fest?,” someone had asked me a few weeks before the show. I responded that I had, that he was one of my favorite rappers, and the person thought I was joking. The concert was one of the most unreasonably horny events I have ever been to, but while my peers perspired and grinded around me, I was beaming up at the stage, alone, rapping along to “When I Come Around.”
I had spent so many hours listening to Dom’s music — on the family computer, on other people’s iPods, in the car, walking home from school. I had argued for a year with my friend Emmett about which was the superior From the Westside with Love project: the original (2010), a mixtape, or the sequel (2011), an album with production from DJ Mustard and features from blog rap stars like Big K.R.I.T, Casey Veggies, Asher Roth (lol), even Schoolboy Q.
And so I was apprehensive when, after a series of forgettable albums, he released From the Westside With Love Three earlier this month. I went in with low expectations — Dom had sounded bored on just about everything he’d released since Get Home Safely — and I was right. It doesn’t hold a candle to any of the music he made while I was in high school.
Compare the honesty on “Locals Only,” the emotion on “Me Again,” the energy on “2mph” with their counterparts on the new album. Compare the attitude — Dom is hilarious on the early projects, having fun, not taking himself too seriously:
She want me to ram her though/ Right on the pia—no/ I was like eh—no/ Fuck am I, D’Angelo?
But on From the Westside With Love Three, he sounds like he’s trying to convince the listener that he’s still relevant. At times, it almost sounds desperate. No longer is he describing his lessers as “dingos” or himself as “disrespectual.” No longer is he giving flippant style tips (“Don’t wear Lebrons to the club, them shits ugly”). Instead he is listing luxury accoutrements and detailing his dinner order. And I’m happy for him! But it doesn’t make for interesting music. “I do this shit so easy, sometimes it hurts,” he raps on the album’s title track. Indeed.
There are bright spots though, where the humor and organic lifestyle rap of his early work shine through. He talks about being aroused by capital and on LAX, the album’s standout track, boasts that he has “two of everything like Noah’s Ark.” And listen, the old tapes have stinkers too (Carter’s guest verse on “The Hotels,” where he raps about staying in on tour to get high and Skype with his girlfriend, always makes me laugh), but they feel more like endearing rookie missteps than the skips on the new album, which just feel lazy.
I don’t fuck with you like Sean say/ I’ma still do it Ariana Grande 🙄
On the outro, Dom lists all the cities he’s played over a vocal loop: “I love, I love, I love you.” And he loves various cities in the Bay, he loves Denver, “Arizona for sure,” Portland, St. Louis, Nashville. He bought his black mink in Detroit. And then near the end: “I been to Boston before.” And that made me laugh too.
Chase Walker, RESPECTFULLY
Yes, the early 2000s are back, but there’s more than revivalism going on in Chase Walker’s new NYC full-length RESPECTFULLY. Between the hot pink shoelaces, the unpinched crooked grinds, the dirt bike attire, and of course the darkslides, this video feels like the culmination of a movement that’s been percolating for years. It shares influences with the Homies Network and Fuck This Industry crews, with Ben Kadow and Aidan Mackey, with some of the kids in the Noah video, but even compared to them this one pushes the envelope. These are skaters who have nailed the balance between tasteful and illegal.
Paul Rodriguez, PJ Ladd, even, I might venture, Mark Suciu — these guys are just a little too good. Does that mean I don’t still get excited about new PJ footage? That I haven’t already watched “Blue Dog” upward of five times? Certainly not. But as they’ve scrubbed their styles of any blemish, these celebrated pros have lost some of their flavor. Uniform perfection so often feels sterile.
Which is why RESPECTFULLY is so fun to watch. Here’s a group of relatively unknown skaters who can do, it seems, whatever they want, and they’re choosing to do nollie 5050s and construct Tompkins-style deathtraps in the streets. And unlike the normcore skaters of yesteryear, it doesn’t come off as especially ironic — these kids are just skating the way they want to skate — because really, what is ironic style but a defense against self-consciousness?
Trung Nguyen, the Texan with the ender, gives us both ends of the legal spectrum. Less than a minute after landing a 5050 nollie flip on a fallen signpost, he’s rifling off tricks at BAM 2: back tail 270, back tail bigflip, back noseblunt. Clearly an LTM disciple, he firecrackers at the Pyramid Ledges and figures out a new way to skate the Canal Fountain. He wallrides the red sombrero in a hat that could have been purchased in an airport gift shop, its strap dangling on his forehead like a single bang.
Nostalgia is definitely a factor too. People say social media is making the trend cycles accelerate, and that’s probably true, but I think part of it has to be that young adults just find comfort in the styles of their childhoods — sometimes a backpack or a fragrance or a song can bring back a time when you didn’t have to worry about the future. Maybe that’s why the final darkslide, on a spotless Element deck and with Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” playing in the background, made me feel a pang of emotion, and why this video resonates with so many young people: it returns us to a carefree world where nothing is against the law.