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Paying homage

St. Domonick will release his new album at charity hip-hop event

St. Domonick

Greg Bollinger

Last May, I went to a warehouse party downtown. It was an art show with rappers and DJs playing late into the evening. There were a few hundred kids in attendance—the median age was probably around 19. It was the kind of DIY event that ten years ago in Tulsa would’ve been inhabited by indie rock bands, occasional mosh pits, and a roomful of antsy college kids with fake IDs smiling and flirting or staring awkwardly down at their shoelaces. This evening was noticeably more diverse but equally lively.

When the rapper known as St. Domonick took the stage, the crowd surged around him. Near the end of his set the sound system started to give out, but the young rapper leapt into the audience unfazed. He rapped into the crowd, a capella, the infectious hook to his single “Kelly Slater” as they screamed every syllable right back at him. An eclectic collection of abstract and modern pop art covered the walls, and someone had hung electric red neon letters spelling “Tulsa” right beside where Domonick stood performing. I saw a new picture of Tulsa: a sweaty warehouse packed with all sorts of millennials screaming rap hooks back at a makeshift stage.

St. Domonick likes cryptograms. The 22-year-old Tulsa rapper who’s also known as “Vuelo” leaves these tiny encrypted language puzzles all over his records. The decoder ring that unravels the mysterious origins of the title of his new mixtape SSS somehow includes Aquaman, “big pants,” and TNT Wangs. I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but St. Dom seems confident the fans will figure it out.

SSS has numerous meanings,” he said. “The audience and the fans are gonna figure it out soon. It’s a fun record. It’s just crazy how it came together because I was in such a dry spell before I made it. For it to come together so organically and so fast, it was just a great feeling.”

2017 was a difficult year for the young rapper. His family suffered the loss of his father, and he’s found himself crippled by writer’s block until recently.

“I was so depressed,” he said. “I had writer’s block all year. Since Orphic dropped. I hadn’t written a song since, like, April, and I was still rapping over YouTube beats and shit. I don’t have the money to afford beats. I was like, ‘How am I going to find producers?’ Then I literally wrote down everything I planned to do. Like ‘I Domonick will be more financially responsible. I will meet more producers locally and acquire dope beats and have the dopest visuals.’ I wrote all this shit down. Literally I checked all that off this year. I got everything that I wrote down, bro. Now I have too many beats. That took me out of my slump.”

SSS represents a bit of a departure from Domonick’s three previous mixtapes. His most recent records, Aquaman and Orphic, vacillate between chillwave, ambient trap beats and more soul sample-centered boombap. This album is more minimalist sonically but also more dynamic. David Puletz from Shwing! Studios worked as executive producer on the project, and he is clearly working to create more space for Dom’s fluid triplet cadences. The beats are spacy and kick-and-clap heavy, fitting well in the context of more mainstream modern producers like Nav and Metro Boomin. The stream-of-consciousness writing process on display feels like a change, as well. St. Domonick sounds like a disembodied id, projecting all his young strength beyond himself.

“I started writing to this Lil Yachty beat,” he said. “I couldn’t really feel it, but the first line I had for it was really sticking with me. The next day I woke up with hella energy. I went and got something to eat, and then I ended up driving to where my old childhood apartments used to be. I used to live at Normandy, like around 21st and Sheridan. There’s a slope where the big buildings used to be with these two big eagles on it. It’s not there anymore, but I parked up there where you can see everything. I was trying to pay homage on this tape to my favorite people growing up.”

St. Domonick’s references are interesting, too. The rapper’s verses are rich with evidence of his quirky, closeted nerd personality. Marty McFly, Modest Mouse, comic book heroes, and even Draco Malfoy from “Harry Potter” make appearances on SSS. It feels like St. Domonick is having fun rapping again.

“I believe in balance, and that you can’t have uplifting positive content with substance without a rapper sometimes talking his shit too and talking about how dope and fly he is. One of my favorite rappers is Missy Elliot, and all she does is talk about how fly she is. So I can do it too.”

SSS will be released Saturday, Dec. 23 at the Gift Raps 4 charity event at Soundpony and The Yeti.

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