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ISTHISFORREAL? questions reality, and if anyone can do that it’s The Koreatown Oddity


Release date: 22 July 2022
The koreatown oddity isthisforreal art
21 July 2022, 21:36 Written by Steven Loftin
LA-based rapper, producer and general creative type The Koreatown Oddity has long been a proponent of standing out.

After starting out as a comedian, Dominique Purdy later emerged with a voracious output appetite with an enviable list of mixtapes and albums, including 2020's excellent Little Dominique's Nosebleed – an autobiographically presented album based around a childhood incident. Following up on this cult favourite was always going to be a task.

On ISTHISFORREAL?, his fifth solo outing, the Stones Throw Records signee widens his scope by begging the titular question through a skit-filled mockumentary offering. Stemming as an idea after noticing most black actors in films were 'Bri’ish', the bending of reality through a series of comedic skits and hard-hitting rap results in a ludicrously well sewn-together project that expands his universe while questioning our own.

Setting the scene by opening with a talk show where Purdy reveals he is in fact British, it soon carries on directly into the haunting, horror-fuelled organ of “FUNDRAZER”. Here, Purdy tauntingly questions “What is an idea / And can it progress the future?”, and the projects balance reveals its motives. In an age where polished sounds win, and where ideas seem to be currency – the things that our very society is built upon – it strips all of that away, which is the direct intention behind the rest of ISTHISFORREAL?.

The annoyance leading single “MISOPHONIA LOVE” examines fits the vibe of ISTHISFORREAL? too – this is an album quite literally posited to challenge you, and at times like this, to provoke. Backed by a ringing telephone while Purdy unfurls bars structured around annoying a partner with misophonia – the intense dislike for that slurping sound people do when eating or drinking (or any other sound that makes you want to rip your spine out) – he does all of this with the same energy as a YouTube ASMR video.

Similarly, there is no going for gold on this record. The units Purdy has his eyes set on aren’t qualified by dollars or streams, but instead deepening the connection with those who already understand him while hopefully catching a few strays along the way. It’s a brave move, and one which can often feel reckless. But at less than thirty minutes, and when the titular track abruptly drops truths like “The Simpsons got a black actor for the voice of Carl / but only when the police killed another one us all”, and discusses the death, it’s in these moments that Purdy shines.

His ability to convert the truth for us and beam it through his experiences and unique perspective is immense. Be it through using tragic geographical racial profiling (“My mother shed tears when her sister was killed / When ya’ll think of Karen it’s a racist bitch / but when I think of Karen’s it’s the Auntie we miss”) or the front-facing encounters with death, it's open and honest. Yet, in the world of Purdy, dealing with such reality means that comedy will follow. Soon another skit appears, in a restaurant where fans spot Purdy and he has to switch to his 'American' persona.

Bringing things to a one-on-one level, “HELLLOOO???” hears Purdy shouting into the void “Is there any a single soul out there / I feel alone / I feel stuck”. A moment of poignant reality before being rescued by a reptilian – and in the next verse a circle of clowns – which, beyond the value of a metaphor representing those seeking to take ruthlessly, or to make a fool of you, comes the real gold, when it finally ends with Purdy saving himself.

Whether its hiding tragedy behind comedy for his own purpose, or simply making it easier for us to digest what Purdy preaches when he gets to the truth, either way, ISTHISFORREAL? is a special balance. While often leaning too heavily into the latter, you understand why when the reality appears loud and clear, and why Purdy is The Koreatown Oddity – life is hard and it can be a downer, so let’s have some fun with it.

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