By 1996 Domino had transformed from the set trippin’-Blood killin’-crip-claimin’ rapper known as Genuine Draft (see The Bloods & Crips album Bangin’ On Wax) to a radio friendly rapping/singing gold selling recording artist, thanks largely to his 1993 hit record “Getto Jam” that helped earn both the single and his self-titled debut album RIAA certifications. Through the years, many singing rappers have come through and experienced commercial success (i.e., Ja-Rule and of course, Drake), but seldom is Domino mentioned as one of the architects of the style. Regardless, he would return in ‘96 to follow up his self-titled debut with his sophomore effort, Physical Funk.
On his debut album, Domino relied on DJ Battlecat and Robert “Funksta” Bacon to sonically shape the album. For Physical Funk, Domino would be at the production helm, pushing the buttons and programming keyboards, while a few of his musician friends would lend a helping hand, adding live instrumentation to a track, here and there. Surprisingly, after the commercial success of Domino, Physical Funk would fly under the radar, producing disappointing sells numbers and received less than flattering reviews.
Let’s revisit Physical Funk and see how it sounds twenty-six years after its original release.
Microphone Musician – Domino kicks off the evening with a beautiful melancholic jazzy instrumental (the emotional tickling of the keys is damn near hypnotic), as he smoothly talks his shit via rap and harmony: “The man that sports the Guess suits, and fly Havana boots, has finally got a chance to get loose and produce, in ‘93 I came quite unique, unexpected, now everybody got a “Getto Jam” on they record.” I like hearing Domino rap/sing with a little chip on his shoulder, but even more intriguing is his quiet storm backdrop.
Macadocious – Domino (who’s rap voice and cadence sounds very similar to Ahmad’s, who most of you will remember from his hit record “Back In The Day”) uses this one to break down the meaning of “Macadocious”, and if you’ve never heard this song, I think you’re smart enough to figure out what the term means. If not, go stream it and support a Black man’s music. I’m surprised this one wasn’t released as a single, as it’s pristine manufactured melodic vibes paired with Domino’s poppish hook is tailor made for radio but still funky enough to make me want to crip walk to it.
Hennessy – Domino brings the energy level down a few notches as he and a few of his musician friends (Ernest Tibbs on bass and Angelo Earl on guitar) create a laidback sophisticated jazzy atmosphere (which sounds suspiciously similar to “Getto Jam”) that he dedicates to his favorite drink of choice. It makes for a decent listen, but more importantly, I hope Hennessy gave him a bag for this endorsement.
Physical Funk – The title track (which is just a fancy way for Domino to say “sex,”) was also the lead single from the album. Once again, D designs a record custom made for nineties radio play, and even though I’m not crazy about the record, it serves its purpose. I’m kind of surprised it wasn’t a bigger commercial hit when it came out.
Trickin – Our host dedicates this ballad to a fine young tender that he becomes obsessed with after seeing her at a beauty shop, and he’s later met with disappointment when he discovers that she’s the neighborhood garden tool, or as Domino so bluntly puts it: “she’s the whole hood’s homie lover friend.” Is he saying “kind of soda like a strawberry” on hook? If so, what the hell does that mean? Regardless, I couldn’t get into this one. Domino’s storyline and singing sounds boring, and the instrumental has a Casio keyboard cheesiness to it.
Long Beach Funk – Domino rips the instrumentation from Tom Browne’s “Funkin’ For Jamaica”, replaces “Jamaica” with “Long Beach” on the hook, and raps and sings praises to the city he calls home. Is it just me or does it sound like Domino jacked Nate Dogg’s singing style on this joint? Come to think of it, his rap on this one sounds like he borrowed Snoop’s flow. Hmmm…
So Fly – This was the second and final single released from Physical Funk. Domino’s responsible for the drums and piano, Warren Cee brings the soulful church organ chords, and Darroll Crooks’ stanky guitar licks are the heart and soul of this funk session that finds our host crooning about a young sexy that’s got him wide open. This is a bonafide groove that I completely forgot existed, but what a pleasant reminder. Random thought: I wouldn’t mind hearing Anderson Paak reinterpret this one.
Do You Qualify – Our host revisits his cautionary tale about falling in lust for underage girls with overdeveloped bodies (the original mix was on his debut album). Domino replaces Bobcat’s synthy “Summertime Madness” assisted instrumental with lusciously elegant instrumentation that allows him to deliver his lines, hook and adlibs at a swaggier slower pace, which in turn brings his commentary to life and makes it sound more interesting. Side note: The DSP version of Physical Funk doesn’t have this song on it, but instead has a song called “Street Thang”, which is Domino’s ode to a bangin’ hood chick over a funk-heavy instrumental with a trunk rattling bass line.
Domino Got Beats – Fluffy party rhymes and harmony mixed with a generic instrumental are the perfect ingredients for a forgettable formulaic party record. Next…
Good Part – Domino and Darroll Crooks create a soulful slow-jam that begs for an answer to an important question to a lot of newly dating couples: “When we gonna get to the good part?” aka the “physical funk” portion of the relationship. Domino shares two stories: one from a man’s point of view and the other from a woman’s perspective, and both are nicely executed, but it’s the catchy hook and the beautiful instrumentation that make this one irresistible.
Get Your Groove On – Domino hooks up another uninspired funk instrumental and throws in a Zapp-esque talk box voice on the hook, as he and his homeboy, Jiboh spit raps that are supposed to get asses and feet on the dance floor. I’d be willing to bet it didn’t work on too many asses, and even less feet.
Physical Funk (Remix) – Domino closes the album with a remix of the title track, and I’m not a fan. The instrumental sounds too filtered and synthesized, while the hook and his verses sound fuzzy, making it hard to understand the words coming out of his mouth. Shout out to Chris Tucker.
There is something to be said about an artist finding his or her lane and staying true to it. Domino is not super lyrical, nor will he hit you with meaty verses full of substance over traditional hip-hop beats, but what he did on his debut album and continued to do on Physical Funk is use a simple formula: a steady dosage of sex, lust and party themes, backed by clean programmed drums and keyboards with occasional sprinkles of live instrumentation, and when cooked at four-hundred and sixty degrees for three hours, you get a heapin’ helpin’ of radio friendly records. Normally, this formulaic method of making music doesn’t appeal to me, but Domino manages to make most of Physical Funk sound entertaining, as he straddles the line between rapping and singing for the entirety of the album, and to be honest with you, I enjoyed more of his singing than rapping. Physical Funk is far from a classic and doesn’t come with pop hit records like “Getto Jam” or “Sweet Potatoe Pie”, but pound for pound it’s a better album than its predecessor that left me interested in hearing the rest of Domino’s catalog.