DOMi & JD Beck’s debut album might have the most stacked line-up of the year. ‘NOT TiGHT’ – their formatting, not ours – boasts a breathtaking array of current stars (Thundercat, Mac DeMarco), hip-hop royalty (Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes) and one genuine jazz titan (Herbie Hancock). Only the cast of Calvin Harris’ upcoming poptastic ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2’ record can feasibly hold a candle to this collaborative ensemble.
This isn’t exactly an underdog story where the big names have come tumbling in for a trendy co-sign, though. It’s instead a shrewd move by their label boss Anderson .Paak, who signed the pair to APESHIT, his newly-minted imprint on the legendary jazz label Blue Note, and has already collaborated with them on ‘Skate’, which featured on .Paak and Bruno Mars’ wildly successful Silk Sonic debut. Speaking to NME earlier this year, DOMi and Beck detailed the relationship: “[.Paak] sat us down with a whiteboard and was like, ‘What do you want your album to feel like, what do you want to accomplish, and who do you want on it?’. He just made everything happen.”
It may seem dangerous to hand your contacts book to a pair of rising artists whose playful streak sits front and centre, but ‘NOT TiGHT’ succeeds as a result of the pair’s sense of restraint and balance. Keyboardist DOMi and drummer Beck – who met in 2018 having both been musical prodigies while growing up in France and the US respectively – stay delicately in tune with one another throughout, remaining approachable for the jazz newbies and thoughtful enough for the diehards.
They utilise their guests smartly and sensibly throughout the album, encouraging each collaborator to enter their world instead of cowering or pandering to reputation. ‘Moon’, which stars Hancock’s trademark vocoder from his jazz fusion heyday, meets somewhere in the middle; DOMi and Beck’s trademark sound of propelling bass and beats and unlikely key changes nestling up nicely to Hancock’s piano playing. DeMarco’s vocals on ‘Two Shrimps’, meanwhile, are typically whimsical, though Beck’s dextrous beats ensure the song avoids pastiche despite of DeMarco’s best efforts: “Cowboy out on the front lawn / Cowboy song / Eyeballs out for the first dawn.”
As much fun as the big names prove to be – Thundercat’s turn on ‘Bowling’, .Paak on ‘Moon’ – it’s often more thrilling to hear DOMi and Beck go at it alone. Take the record’s standout moment ‘Smile’ and its ludicrously catchy guitar riff, or the woozy left-turns that ‘Not Tight’ and ‘Sniff’ take. The fact that they can outshine those types of names on record suggests that a remarkably bright future awaits.
- Release date: July 29
- Record label: APESHIT / Blue Note Records