Florida indie alt-rapper Dominic Fike seems to fear cameras more than jumping out of an airplane at 13,000 feet.
Despite his subtle phobia stemming from footage “staying forever” in the social media era, Fike doesn’t let that faze him — encouraging Abstract and others to keep things rolling as he shakes off nerves, breathes deeply and insisting that: “this is real, this is art.”
“It’s terrible,” he explained, “I hate [cameras].”
Labeled as an “alternative” artist, he’s bounds beyond just singer-songwriter. He’s so more than that, as containing Fike to one sound seems to be virtually impossible. “I make a lot of weird shit,” he told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “My music is all over the place.” His versatility is his key attribute, and if his music tends to be “all over the place,” so be it.
Amid the scattered sounds and blended genres, finding comfort in uncomfortable situations is where Fike feels relief in both life and music. His debut commercial album “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” took over two and a half years to write, as its intimate, care-free nature was well-worth the wait — offering a further glimpse of what the Euphoria star is truly capable of.
Fike’s rather tumultuous journey ironically plays into the title of his album — acting as an uncharted guide of where he’s been and where he’s going. In a documentary from the New York Times, the making of What Could Possibly Go Wrong was a “winding process of self-discovery at the same time the music industry was trying to find its footing in a marketplace transformed by streaming, touring and social media.” His precarious mix of lo-fi emo-pop, rap-rock, bluesy hip-hop, funk and R&B/soul paints him to the be a rudderless figure unbound by genre.
Amassing an underground following before signing with Colombia Records in 2017, Fike’s debut EP Don’t Forget About Me Demos was a bittersweet moment for the then 21-year-old — releasing his first project from his jail cell.
Fike was charged with battery to a police officer in 2016, later violating his terms of house arrest which sent him to prison for a majority of 2017. While incarcerated — as his hit “3 Nights” made waves on alternative-pop charts in Australia, United States and United Kingdom — Fike had already begun writing his next record with the challenge of having no music around him at the time.
The essence of “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” starts with Fike at his lowest point shrugging things off. In the two and a half years that followed, coinciding with collaborations with producer Kenny Beats, Kevin Abstract and Halsey, WCPGW finds Fike chronicling his deepest fears, thoughts and insights about love, pain and his past — all of which he faces head-on with kindred poise and relatability.
At times, it feels as though Fike has lived multiple lives, embodying the melodramatic nuances of young adulthood in many different stages. Further cementing his place as a neo-rockstar, influenced by the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, WCPGW is a featureless mosaic of razor-sharp concepts that Fike curates soundly.
At just under 35 minutes long with 14 tracks, WCPGW feels as full as a 60-minute LP — reaping the same highs and lows of an artist’s vision concisely.
In the intro track “Come Here,” Fike confronts another one of his fears from the get-go, taking a leap of faith in not only introducing himself commercially, but in the heights he wants to achieve artistically. At the start of what could be a potentially stratospheric rise, enter Dominic Fike plunging with distorted vocals swelling over grungy guitar leads — feeling as though he’s taking you along for the ride.
On alt-pop cuts such as “Why,” “Cancel Me,” and “Vampire,” Fike leans into both pop and hip-hop to structure catchy hooks and verses. Rapping with undertones of the late-Mac Miller, “Cancel Me” is an ode to the frivolity of cancel culture where Fike spits his verses tongue-in-cheek about being canceled. Fike’s unapologetic wordplay over rock-influenced production make “Cancel Me” the highlight of this record as a whole. With Fike seemingly tired of being the center of attention, “why don’t you cancel me?”
“I hope they cancel me / So I can go be with my family / So I can quit wearing this mask, dawg / Tell the people kiss my ass, dawg”“Cancel Me” — Dominic Fike
“Vampire’s” groovy guitar lead resembles a variation close to the late-rapper Pop Smoke’s “The Woo,” and a cadence reminiscent of Jennifer Lopez’s “If You Had My Love.” The mesh of these near-sounds elevate Fike’s ability to genre-bend — converting the former tracks into a pop tune with considerable replay value. Similarly on single “Why,” Fike hits his stride with an indie-pop cut that would catch with listeners of any genre.
Lo-fi bangers in “Florida” and “Superstar Sh*t” further stress Fike’s awareness of himself in past, present and future situations. Crooning on “Florida”: “Every kid with me grew together, I’m proud of us / from a sunken place to the top / and look at what we accomplished.”
At the top of the proverbial mountain, “Florida” is Fike’s low-key, lo-fi flex — looking back on his beginnings complemented by crisp and ethereal production from Kenny Beats. Switch-ups offered another layer of variety in the storytelling affect of WCPGW. Tracks like “Politics & Violence” and “Joe Blazey” bring forth head-bobbing anthems that give another look at Fike’s experimental tendencies.
On “Superstar Sh*t,” Fike questions himself after a heartbreak, waiting for an answer and wishing for something to “make it easy” for him, crooning: “Forgot how good it feels alone, ya dig? / Watch movie on your phone, for real / Is this how I’m supposed to feel?”
Reluctantly narrating his thoughts on where he places himself, finding his footing amid adversity is at the root of Fike’s journey of self-discovery. In short bursts — with each song running the average length of 1:50 — Fike loosens his grips on himself, getting comfortable in his own skin. Love and loneliness appear to be the main themes that Fike uses to deal with his demons, channeling them into his music.
Even with “cameras in his face,” his self-awareness and malleability to leave things unsaid — saying no more than he needs to — packs a punch in stressing the overall quality of the album over the quantity of its contents. For a commercial debut, Dominic Fike understands the concept of time well enough to freely craft the music he feels — letting go of any and all insecurities. His sound is definite in the continued emergence of genre-less artists who are “crazy” and “weird,” in Fike’s own words.
And yet, it all seems to work out for him. What else could possibly go wrong?
Listen to Dominic Fike’s ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong’ below!