Dom Deshawn documents a time of transition on ‘Tale of Two Seasons’

The eight-song EP is out now on Bandcamp and will hit other streaming services on Thursday, Feb. 24

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Dom Deshawn

When rapper Dom Deshawn started work on a new project, he originally conceptualized a recording centered on the fall, its songs anchored by the idea of transition. But as he continued to work, sessions stretched into the end of 2021, and the mood in some of the tracks started to shift to match the plummeting temperatures.

“It was going to be called A Mid-Autumn Night’s Dream, and there was going to be more of a fall feel to it, but then [time] was getting close, and fall was about to be over,” Deshawn said recently by phone.

Rather than rushing the project, since dubbed Tale of Two Seasons and out today (Tuesday, Feb. 22) via Bandcamp, he allowed winter to bleed in, recording new songs atop beats that hang harder and colder, like shimmering icicles. It’s a chill that carries into Deshawn’s words, particularly on the back half, where songs such as “Bitter Solstice” and “Nightmare on High St.” center the end of a breakup that took place in stages, with a romantic relationship giving way to a friendship, which itself later disintegrated.

“And the fact I can’t even be friends with somebody who at one point it was like, yo, I can see us starting a family together, and things escalating so quickly that within a year it’s like we don’t even talk, at all,” Deshawn said. “I’m still processing it, for sure, and it’s obviously trickled into this new project.”

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The relationship’s end arrived in the midst of an already challenging couple of years for the rapper, marked by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a resurgent social justice movement centered on police violence against Black citizens and a medical emergency experienced by Deshawn’s father, who spent a week in the hospital and whose health remains a subject of concern. “He’s still going through it, but I think seeing what me and my brothers are doing is keeping him in good spirits,” Deshawn said. “Seeing the things he’s done over the years, it really motivates me now, like, naw, I can’t quit, and I can’t be too relaxed. He never did. He sacrificed so much to get everybody right.”

Much of this challenging stretch is captured in the opening bars of “Autumn’s Prologue,” where Deshawn skillfully condenses months of happenings into less than three minutes, beginning with the lens in close and then gradually panning back to reveal a planet in chaos.

“I think towards the beginning [of the song], it was just [rapping] about what I was going through in the moment,” said Deshawn, who then called attention to a turning point that arrives in the middle of the track, where he invites the listener to take inspiration from his story. The lines that follow become more instructive, more engaged with the external world. 

More:Dom Deshawn pulls the camera in closer for his revealing new album

In some ways, the pivot that takes place in “Autumn’s Prologue” runs counter to a shift that has taken place within Deshawn, who started releasing music more than a decade ago driven largely by a desire to impress outsiders and to prove to himself and others that “I can rap,” as he put it. Now, his drive stems more from within, informed by a love for a creative process that allows him to transform thoughts and ideas into songs that can exist outside of himself.

Outward-looking moments are rare on Tale of Two Seasons, though, much of which unfolds internally. Throughout, Deshaun relays his nightmares (“My ex is sitting next to me”) and nurses emotional wounds (“I want you, you don’t want me back”), his inward leanings informed by pandemic isolation that left him with more time to stew in his thoughts.

In spite of all of this, the EP manages to end on a somewhat hopeful note, with “Winter’s Epilogue” closing the book on one chapter (“This is the ending,” Deshawn repeats) but also prepping the soil for a potential spring rebirth.

“At the end [of the album], when I’m looking back, even though it’s really dark times right now, I really do feel like I’m going to hit the corner soon,” Deshawn said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and if I keep pushing, by the spring and summer, things are going to be really solid for me.”