First it was Bas and then it was Cozz, but now it’s rapper and producer Omen’s turn to get the album treatment from J. Cole’s Dreamville record label. Omen, or Damon Coleman originally from Chicago, was the earliest signee of Dreamville, signing in 2009, but the last so far to release a studio debut, in his case Elephant Eyes, a kindly ‘stepping-out’ statement in which he comes face to face with his inspirations, influences and muses on love with fantastic work done vocally and musically. With only four guests (CJ Hamilton, Bas, Ari Lennox and J. Cole himself) and Omen on the beats for nearly every track (Dreamville beat makers Ron Gilmore and K-Quick provide less yet important input throughout), Elephant Eyes is a skillfully self-realized project in which Omen examines and flourishes in his own character and essence.
Easy taps and cool ambient music loops gently lift every verse on the album, and they give a poignant yet nice feeling to everything on Elephant Eyes. It’s outstandingly noticeable how caught up in love Omen is, dedicating just about every song on the album to some sort of endearing warmth, directly or indirectly. If his love is not about the joyous, skeptical, happy or passionate feelings he has for a woman, then he studies how he has aimed it at his fame-addiction, his longing for his father and his compulsion to spread the truth through hip hop. Omen really never sounds or feels aggressive here, but one story in particular details his rough, aggressive past. In “Foolish Pride,” he raps about how coming up he had to tame the amped-up, hypersensitive youth in him, and this serves as another example of Omen’s excellent narration work on the album. Likewise, “Motion Picture” provides two more well told stories, a chance meeting with big Chi producer No ID and the other a lucky introduction with a lady at the club.
With tight wordplay that addresses his romantically reminiscent thoughts plus exceptional beat-work, Omen represents Dreamville, Chicago, the Midwest and hip hop quite well. Never mind that Omen has his head in the clouds because there are plenty other artists who are all too grounded. His style is something special, something different. Elephant Eyes is not an instant classic and might never be, but Omen likely fancies it that way. His modesty and the selfless gifts he bestows here are not necessarily meant to come with name-tag attached, and that’s the best way to cherish them.