The Koreatown Oddity – ISTHISFORREAL?

An intriguing if ultimately frustrating experiment...

Though he’s been making music for years, Dominique Purdy formally introduced himself into the underground experimental rap scene as The Koreatown Oddity with 2020’s ‘Little Dominique’s Nosebleed’. It was a masterclass in modern narrative, following Purdy as he recounted how two car accidents forever altered his life in Koreatown, Los Angeles. The attention ‘LDN’ brought to his work is central to the premise ‘ISTHISFORREAL?’ using his trademark surrealist humour and creativity. 

The album commences with an unusual revelation: The Koreatown Oddity is actually a British man and had feigned an American accent for “street cred”. Is it surprising given the uneasy relationship Black British actors have with Black American culture? Samuel L. Jackson believed they were “cheaper” than Black American actors, criticising Daniel Kaluuya for his role in Get Out: “Some things are universal, but [not everything]”, he told radio station Hot 97.

In ‘ISTHISFORREAL?’, Purdy’s persona is most directly addressed in skits tacked on at the ends of tracks. ‘HOMEBOYS IN OUTERSPACE’ sees him impress a date with his authentic LA accent: “I went to Fat Burger”, he deadpans. In ‘reality’, The Koreatown Oddity condescends both Black Americans and white fans – “I really connected to the last album, I had nosebleeds a lot as a kid”, one enthuses. They’re funny asides that show off Purdy’s background in comedy and acting (though the British accent could do with a lot of brushing up). 

But what does this mean for the music itself? The immediate implications complicates tracks such as ‘INDIFFERENT’, which uses a beat straight out of an elevator in hell. ‘INDIFFERENT’ asks why fans demand vulnerability from artists, only to proclaim: “I don’t wanna hear about it!” It’s reminiscent of the recent conversations surrounding Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’; for The Koreatown Oddity, it implies that donning the American identity was a fitting solution for the impossible desires of fans. 

The biggest problem with ‘ISTHISFORREAL?’ is that it’s pulled in so many directions that it never fully explores its premise. It seems more concerned with the general idea of unreality at the cost of the album it promised. They’re excellently produced and entertaining; on another album, ‘MISOPHONIA LOVE’ would have been a hilariously bizarre track. On this album, it inconveniences the flow of thought. Whilst Purdy has played around with fragmentation before – ‘LDN’ made good use of it – the disjointed movement interrupts ‘ISTHISFORREAL?’ instead of enhancing its ideas.

It’s a shame ‘ISTHISFORREAL?’ didn’t deliver, because the conversation it started could have been amazing. Though the production is wonderfully wacky, the lyricism is woefully lacking. There’s moments of genuine tenderness here and there (the late Ras G gets a shoutout), but the album is all over the place. Purdy’s creativity should still be given attention; after all, he’s thinking ahead of a lot of musicians out there today. It’s just unfortunate that ‘ISTHISFORREAL?’ is less of a philosophical treatise and more a frustrated misrepresentation of Purdy’s abilities. 

6/10

Words: Alex Rigotti

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