Music Review: Dom Chronicles' 'Reality Makers'

May 10, 2016

Dom Chronicles
Credit Courtesy Dom Chronicles

Dom Chronicles
Reality Makers (IndyGround)

The cover of rapper Dom Chronicles’ latest album is like a 1980s neon dream in which he's driving through a fantasy vision of the Kansas City skyline.

Though the album title refers to making one's own reality, bringing one's vision of the world into fruition, the album isn’t a fantasy trip. Sometimes he drifts off in a mystical direction and the atmosphere has a bit of that g-funk vibin’ tone that can feel like a daydream, but most of the time, in his subject matter and in his approach to rapping, he’s on the grind, pounding every bit of pavement to make a name and a life for himself.

When he raps “money is the only thing on my mind,” on "Suicide," Dom wants us to think not of the stereotypical luxurious mansions and cars but of a young man driven to succeed at whatever level he can — touring constantly, hoping to make enough money to keep on rising. He has “Acura Ambitions," the next track tells us, but he also wants money so he can help his mother and brother.

Both “Suicide” and “Acura Ambitions” make references to “doing everything you’re supposed to.” But this doesn't seem to mean playing by the rules; Dom seems to be talking about following a business plan for success, throwing everything he can into the craft of hip-hop.

Dom Chronicles isn't trying to twist rap in a new direction. He sometimes shifts into singing lightly, but he’s not out to blur the line between genres or surprise listeners with a left turn. He’s staying in the zone, remaining focused, putting himself within the flow of hip-hop history.

The record's opening track, “The Metro,” begins with an often-used sample that’ll be familiar to all hip-hop fans, whether they know the source or not. It’s the “You out there? Louder!” spoken part from Mountain’s “Long Red,” used by easily a hundred well-known artists over the last few decades. Its use here is an instant sign of where Dom's coming from, letting us know he’s going to be channeling forebearers with a purist’s passion.

That opener is a strong declaration that colors the album. After the Mountain sample, he memorably begins: “It’s been about five years since I cried any tears.” He has no time for tears, no time for haters, no time for anyone who’s going to question him, hold him back.

And he has a chip on his shoulder. On “Debt Free,” he just about yells that he doesn’t owe anyone anything. He’s ready to move upstream, prepared for domination. “We know the universe is with us,” he says, “because everything we got we smoked that shit into existence.”

There are smokers’ anthems here, for sure, plus a love song, and a song about fuzzy ethical lines; there's some partying and plenty of straight-ahead boasting. But mainly Reality Makers is about survival and progress, about the struggle to make it — in hip-hop and in life.

Within the intensity of his drive, there's hope. The album sounds like someone who is ready to emerge from the shadows and step into the spotlight. As he puts it on “Suicide,” “I’ve been climbing mountains in the city of Fountains.”

Kansas City-based Dave Heaton writes about music for PopMatters. He can be reached at erasingclouds@gmail.com.