If Domo Genesis’ 2016 studio premiere, Genesis, seemed eager to please and to cement the Odd Future member into a breakout star, his latest mixtape, Aren’t U Glad You’re U?, appears indifferent about such matters. Instead, it’s a deeply personal record steeped in stoner swagger by an artist salivatingly close to mainstream success, yet concerned about falling into permanent vanguard status.
Look no further than the chorus of “Me vs Me,” the lead track, for a sense of his anxiety-tinged frustration over his career trajectory: “And I reiterate the shit I have to say too often/ I get way too complacent in my ways too often.”
Domo, however, doesn’t merely approach his lyricism with honesty. “You’re U?” is dense with cerebral metaphorical language, like how he was a “Son of a gun out the holster” (“BBB”) or that he and his “dogs” are “flirtin’ with euthanasia” (“Shaq Carried Kobe”). Domo weaves this language seamlessly throughout the mixtape at mind-swelling pace.
It’d be a mistake not to credit “Evidence” and his bare production for helping the polished lyrics shine. Short loops of 70’s soul and funk samples are punctuated by simple drum beats. The slow rhythm of each track contributes to the record’s pensive aura. When the samples feature echoing vocals or feature creeping guitar riffs (see: “Sing Me a Song” and “Brake,” respectively), it underscores Domo’s thematic angst. It is refreshing to see production in line with his voice on this mixtape; production catered too much to Domo’s guests on Genesis. (In particular, “Dapper” seems more at home in Anderson .Paak’s catalogue.)
Naturally, some listeners will be disappointed by this offering. It is, after all, quite short (20 minutes) and made shorter if you dismiss “Fuck a Co-Sign,” which Domo leaves for Evidence to rap on. Whereas old-heads will hear craft lyricism bolstered by simple, melancholic production that would make Infamous-era Mobb Deep proud, new-heads will hear a mixtape that fails to excite or innovate. (Full disclosure: your reviewer falls firmly into the former camp.) Perhaps this legitimizes the dear Domo possesses about being too stubborn to adapt to a rap game that’s outgrown his style.
Of course, hip-hop heads of both creeps love to tangle with the context of the genre’s works at the sake of the works themselves. Furthermore, to consider this mixtape’s critical reception is to miss the point. Aren’t U Glad You’re U? isn’t concerned with critics or fans, it’s concerned with Domo himself as he wrestles with the titular question.