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The Koreatown Oddity - Little Dominiques Nosebleed Music Album Reviews

On his fourth solo LP, the indie rapper shifts from scattered journal entries to focused autobiography, telling the story of his family and his neighborhood with intimacy and warmth.

For a decade, Los Angeles rapper and producer The Koreatown Oddity has drifted around the city’s indie-rap scene with a leisurely detachment. Distributing cassette beat tapes by hand, making dusty, stoned records with vaunted producers like Ras G and Jeremiah Jae, and occasionally sporting a wolf mask, he treats rap more like a pastime than a calling. His name, a reference to the neighborhood where he was raised, has always underscored his origins, and his music has tended to be diaristic, capturing his observations, wisecracks, and hijinks in real time. On Little Dominiques Nosebleed, his fourth solo LP, he shifts from scattered journal entries to focused autobiography, telling the story of his family and his neighborhood with intimacy and warmth.
Koreatown is central to his story, but he presents it on his terms, subverting the enclave’s current status as a hub for nightlife and haute cuisine. Avoiding the awkward mix of admiration and anointment that tends to paint the 1992 riots that ravaged the neighborhood as a footnote, The Koreatown Oddity treats his namesake as a living, breathing place, embracing the baggage and the cachet. On “Koreatown Oddity,” he recounts standoffs between Korean shop owners and Black residents with a disarming nostalgia: “Riding around with my moms in a riot salute/Terry with the jheri curl tying plastic bags on his shoes/Koreans on the roof/Of the California Mart/With the shotguns ready to shoot.” Compared to Ice Cube’s fury on “Black Korea” and fellow Koreatown native Dumbfoundead’s competing loyalties on “Unplaceable,” The Koreatown Oddity’s version of black and Korean tension feels like a family squabble. Even when it's under siege, his Koreatown belongs to all its residents.

On “Kimchi” he expands this idea into a cheeky rundown of Koreatown’s assorted history. Over a thick bassline flecked with whistles and cowbells, he unveils the city beyond the Yelp reviews, citing the neighborhood’s ironic demographics (mostly Latinx), Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and gang conflicts. “The place where I be/It ain’t all kimchi,” he summarizes. It’s definitely perverse for a black man to be a tour guide for an Asian community, but The Koreatown Oddity sells it because he’s complicating Koreatown’s narrative rather than rewriting it. His added chapter enriches the saga.

This emphasis on landscape and heritage enhances his writing, which feels less scatterbrained than his previous music. He’s still a bit of a rambler, and his rapping is notably less dexterous than usual, but his lumbering flows work well with his vignettes. The album’s best song, the breezy “Weed in LA,” compresses his personal history—from his favorite hill to his dad’s music collection to his mom’s migration from Ohio to California—into a brief verse bookended with an affected ignorance. “I heard they legalized weed in L.A./Oh woooord?” he smirks, making Koreatown feel like the center of the universe.

His recollections aren’t always nostalgic. The title tracks detail two childhood car accidents, one leaving him with chronic nosebleeds and the other a broken leg. His production does the heavy lifting on both songs. For “Little Dominiques Nosebleed Part 1” the arrangements move from triumphant horns to a loungey swing to a sour organ chord as he goes from cruising the streets to suffering in them. You can feel his impression of his home shifting from pleasure to pain. “Little Dominiques Part 2” makes that danger feel ambient. Built around a jagged symphonic loop that buzzes and whirrs like the throne room of a beehive, the song treats the second car accident like an inevitability.

The album falters when The Koreatown Oddity goes philosophical. He’s got a spiritual streak that tends toward floofy new ageisms, a habit that short-circuits songs where he attempts to condense his experiences into mantras. Compared to the nuance and keenness that characterize his tales of his home and family, his spiritualism comes across as vague at best (“Chase the Spirit”) and obtuse at worst (“A Bitch Once Told Me”). On “We All Want Something” Anna Wise sings the title, and that’s it; that’s the whole song.

Though Little Dominiques Nosebleed doesn’t stick the landing, it’s a rich portrait of place and personhood. The Koreatown Oddity raps about Koreatown like it’s an extension of his body, claiming every crevice and surface of the locale as his own. The specter of gentrification looms over his home, but strangely he seems unfazed. While he can’t repel all the foodies and tourists, he can savor the flavors that aren’t for sale.
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