Dom McLennon- The Changing of the Trees


“The hardest chapters close to open up a new beginning” – Dom

“The Changing of the Trees,” is the newest EP by Connecticut rapper Dom McLennon, and his first album since the dissolution of “the greatest boyband since One Direction,” Brockhampton. Insinuated by the title, McLennon is putting the past behind him. On this project he is focusing on finding and refining his sound by embracing elements of jazz, neo-soul, and hip-hop in tandem with his voluminous lyricism.

Rounding up to 26-minutes of material, this eight-track album sees McLennon establishing his newfound status as a solo artist and “the man-behind-the-wheel.” He spends most of the album flexing his footwork by demonstrating that he is informed of hip hop culture, embedded within the evolution of the genre, and ready to make his voice heard among the myriad of other talented rappers with things to say.

A month before “The Changing of the Trees,” McLennon released a four-track EP titled, “Prologue,” that despite being marketed as a prologue for this newest record, doesn’t sound anything like it or stand up to any comparison of quality, so I will refrain from commenting on it. While it was marketed as “a collection of thoughts, ideas, and creations,” “The Changing of the Trees” does it much more effectively and renders the “Prologue” unremarkable.

What McLennon gets right on “The Changing of the Trees” is illustrating his ability behind the mic and in the studio, and displaying his excellent taste; this album feels like a text-book example of hip hop. If anyone ignorant of the genre were to ask, “What is hip hop?” you could play this EP for them and they would be well-prepared with the foundational elements of the genre.

On the production end, the beats are well-produced and well-mixed, they feel dynamic and creative, but rigidly affixed to the formulas of new-school hip hop. The eclectic beats seem to pull from jazz, lo-fi, early 2000s Kanye West, and some elements even feel Brockhampton adjacent. The project is noticeably absent of any hooks, which is fine and complements the “jazzy” style McLennon has attributed to characterize the album, though I wouldn’t go as far to call the album “jazzy,” with the exception of “River,” which features some tasteful samples of piano and saxophone.

On the lyrical side, McLennon proves again that he is a fire lyricist and rapper, filling up his bars with tasteful rhymes and busy stanzas that are reminiscent of Wu-Tang Clan, or more recently, Freddie Gibbs’ “Pinata” or “Alfredo.” The way he combines an academic, literary vocabulary with approachable, conversational lyrics, “I’m known for speaking in real-n***a pentameter,” exemplifies the theme of this record: he’s being his most natural self. He has an intellectual “realness” in his lyrics that resonates with his desire to create something reflective and lasting, rather than showy and attention demanding, “we play for legacy, it’s deeper than recognition.”

What this album is lacking is a deeper, more thorough dissection of the emotions in, and microscopic elements of, the thematic substance. The marketing material for the record declares a lot about what inspired and drove the concept of the record, but ultimately, the marketing material goes more into detail than the actual project. The project should be celebrated for being such a competent work of hip hop, but it’s not the artistically depthful exploration of personal evolution that it COULD be. The lyrics are undeniably about change and growth, but never expound into them in detail; it does the opposite of “show don’t tell.”

Because this album is incredibly competent, it should open the door for McLennon to explore himself more in depth on a future project. now that he’s shown the world just what he can do. He’s played it safe on this record, spitting fire bars with a variety of voice and delivery, proving to detractors and nay-sayers that he has a right to be in the fold as a solo artist, and if you value hip hop informed by its tradition and culture, you’ll appreciate this project. Now that McLennon has established his foundation, shown us his excellence, set up his brick and mortar, the only thing to ask is, “what’s next?”.

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