In 2013, music at the highest levels felt dominated by discussions of rollout strategy. After a year of billboards, late night television takeovers, clever promotional content, not-so-clever promotional content, non-promotional promotion (thank you, Yeezus), brand partnerships, and one whopping surprise album, it is evident that though the music needs to be good (exhibit A: The commercial disaster of Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP), capturing the public’s attention requires a dose of ingenuity, a bit of brute force, and, above all, something to start a conversation. Though great artists are no strangers to using marketing plans to make statements, some of 2013’s key players (Kanye West, Childish Gambino, Daft Punk) showed that a promotional campaign could become a gratifying and illuminating (or, at very least, interesting) extension of the music it was promoting, another battleground for engaging listeners and drawing them deeper into a world or mentality.
Connecticut rapper Dom McLennon‘s new project THESIS feels like a fitting send off to the past year, lofty in its aspirations to expand the meaning of the music on a mixtape through a variety of content strewn across the web. McLennon’s website serves up the following message:
“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: MY NAME IS DOM MCLENNON.
I AM A MUSICIAN AND ARTIST, AS WELL AS A CREATOR THAT IS A PART OF THE ALIVESINCEFOREVER COLLECTIVE. SINCE MY LAST MUSICAL ENDEAVOR I’VE BEEN WORKING ON A NEW MULTIMEDIA PROJECT THAT I WILL BEGIN REVEALING TO YOU ALL SOON. WHAT STARTED AS A MUSICAL JOURNEY TO CREATE SOMETHING DIFFERENT BECAME MY FIRST THINK PIECE;
MY VIEW & ANALYSIS OF MUSIC, CULTURE, EMOTION, ART & SOUND.
I KNOW THE MUSIC WILL NOT BE EXACTLY EVERYBODY’S TASTE, AND SOME OF THE DIALOGUE AND CONTENT MAY BE ABRASIVE OR CRYPTIC ON CERTAIN SUBJECTS, BUT I BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING WRITTEN IN THIS PROJECT CAN & SHOULD BE DIGESTED BY ANYONE WHO HAS THE CHANCE TO COME ACROSS IT WITH A HUNGER TO THINK. I WILL BEGIN RELEASING PORTIONS OF THIS THINK PIECE ONLINE @ DOM-MCLENNON.COM.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.
Spanning multiple websites–one for art, one for music that redirects to the mixtape on Soundcloud, one that puts out a call to creatives, and others that lead to unexplained, looping videos and GIFs–THESIS feels like it could have been dreamed up by The Kid from Childish Gambino’s screenplay (which is not to suggest biting, as the project has been in the works for months). Fluent in the language of the Internet (as evidenced by yet another of McLennon’s sites which features Reddit-like sub-sections “/x,” “/mu,” “/bc,” and “/a”) and the music and topics beloved by corners of the blogosphere and Soundcloud communities (samples of XXYYXX, Ryan Hemsworth, Mount Kimbie, King Krule, and Pedestrian pepper the beats, while song titles like “SKY FERRIERA IS NOT ADDICTED TO HEROIN,” “THINKPIECE,” and “EBRO” show at least a passing awareness of what got people talking online this year), THESIS feels like a mirror to the world that inspired it and a meditation on a young artist’s artistic dreams and frustrations.
At this juncture in his career, it is worth wondering how wide-reaching (and, as a result, how consequential) McLennon’s message could possibly be. To state the obvious, part of Kanye and Childish Gambino’s success (and you can take “success” here to mean reach and impact) comes purely from platforms they’ve developed over years of work.
McLennon’s pulpit is considerably smaller, his execution a bit rougher, but, in its way, more intriguing. It’s a reflection of what a teen or 20-something with a minimal budget and a ton of ideas can create. We like our art to be clear and digestible; part of the fun and allure of THESIS is its messiness. Flawed and admirable for its aims and execution in equal measure, it invites head-scratching and time spent listening to music (there is music at the heart of it, after all, and it’s easily the strongest McLennon has released, though at times its goals outstrip its reality) while trawling the myriad sites for meaning.
Listen to THESIS below.