After having been on the 7th and 8th seasons of the Korean hip hop TV show “Show Me The Money,” Slick O’Domar marked a turning point in his career by getting rid of the first part of his name and releasing Field. In this album, O’Domar extracts key parts of his past two years as a member of the Ilsan-based crew OSAMARI (led by rapper Qwala), staring relentlessly into himself and hiding nothing in his storytelling. He has always favored well-delivered lyricism instead of trying to show off his rap skills.
It doesn’t take a genius to make the analogy of life as a field of roses and thorns. But the fidelity of the analogy’s delivery is what sets this album apart. The album’s first track “Rose Fields” covers the Beatles’ classic “Strawberry Fields Forever.” O’Domar then moves on to make a bold visual connection between rosy naivete and the “Red-Light District,” likening himself and his fellow rappers to prostitutes.
The narrative within each track is intricately crafted. “Irregular Worker” features ambience from 90wave, Qwala’s streetwear store, followed by sounds of O’Domar playing PlayStation with a friend. “Insult” includes a scene in which the narrator vomits in a public restroom. Lyrics in each track set the context for these spaces.
“Irregular Worker” mentions O’Domar’s frustration when a rapper acquaintance failed to recognize him at 90wave, and then expresses a sense of self-loathing for procrastinating (playing games) instead of writing lyrics. “Insult” is about performing with people he calls “rap stars,” an awkward encounter that leads to over-drinking. The restroom is where he throws something close to a drunken tantrum about the authenticity of his success. All of this is a far cry from self-pity. It’s an honest expression of a tormented young soul.
The twofold narrative structures in tracks like “Grade” and “Suspect” are also worth noting. In the first part of “Grade,” O’Domar talks about his contempt at rappers of a “lower grade” being disrespectful by thinking they could rap with him. He then presentes the hypocritical feeling of indignance at other more established rappers who brush off his requests for collaboration. He wraps up both feelings with the same answer: “내가 뜬다. 꼭.” This roughly translates to “I’ll make it. I will.”
“Suspect” would have been less interesting if it had stopped at the first verse, in which O’Domar expresses frustration at how little progress he seems to be making in his career as opposed to his more established peers. The Quiett, literally a more established peer, then offers a verse of encouragement, putting everything into perspective.
The maturity of the persona that appears after “Insult” completes the larger narrative arc of the album. It is fitting that “Field” is set as one of the title tracks of the album, because it showcases how he came to accept pain as an essential element of life after explaining the process of how his rose-colored vision of being a rapper was initially shattered by reality.
Saxophonist Kim Oki’s solo punctuates the introspection in “Age of Loss,” in which O’Domar goes soul-searching for the source of his pain. The following track “Thorn Bush” is where O’Domar is able to abandon his exclusive attitude towards other people and offer solidarity and respect by using the word “우리,” or “we,” for the first time.
I will say that not every metaphor works in the album. I’m especially concerned about the violence implicit in likening his experiences to those of prostitutes in “Red-Light District.” Without establishing a convincing case of personal relevance, the metaphor risks essentializing a much more complex experience. I point this out because it doesn’t match the higher level of self-awareness present in other parts of the album and therefore suggests room for actual improvement.
All rappers sell a brand of honesty. But façades of machismo are easily foiled, because the depth of expressed narratives is a proxy for how compelling and attractive an album is. O’Domar’s work in Field is highly produced, without a doubt. But it’s not in a way in which the persona or the narrative itself feels artificial. It feels more like a lot of work went into delivering the story. This kind of honesty is a breath of fresh air. It’s definitely a strong contender for this year’s KMAs.
You can crowdfund O’Domar’s physical album release here.