Last week, Dom Kennedy rocked a sold-out show at NYC venue SOBs. The concert was a haven for the Tumblr-using, "cool kid" types who are often instrumental in propelling independent artists to mainstream success. Complex was in attendance to witness a reception that makes you wonder when that time will arrive for the L.A. native. A lot has happened since we last spoke with Dom, including the release of his debut album, From The Westside With Love II. After his gig, we caught up with Dom to get his thoughts on the LP, where hip-hop is headed, and more importantly, where he plans to take it.
Interview by Ryan Lyons
Complex: Your album had a nice run on iTunes, landing at No. 2 on the hip-hop charts. What does that mean for your career?
Dom Kennedy: I just realized I had to get to the point where, if nobody else is going to do it, I’m going to push the envelope. Everybody likes to talks about the up-and-coming, who’s next, but we're trying get to the top at this point. All that fanfare shit ain’t gonna mean nothing if nobody goes platinum. If we not doing arenas, it’s not gonna mean shit. It’s not gonna mean nothing if y'all ain't touched the masses. What I’m trying to do with From The Westside With Love II is start the process. I know I’m not there. I wasn't expecting to sell no significant amount of records (Ed. Note—The album sold 6,016 copies, all digital.) or go gold in the first week. I was just trying to start the process. So many people hit me up like, "That was the first album I bought on iTunes." That’s what's important.
Complex: Do you think it helps that you'd already given away so much material for free?
Dom Kennedy: Yes. Exactly. It made it exciting to support somebody like me on iTunes.
Complex: What does the future hold for independent rap artists?
Dom Kennedy: I feel like we’re gonna start seeing people get back to the Rap-A-Lot, No Limit, Death Row days. It's possible. People want to buy it if it’s a good product. Those are the things I’m trying to initiate. Not even just people that’s from L.A. I’m encouraging everybody. You and your homies from New York, put your shit together and put it out. That’s the plan.
Complex: Are you looking to sign a major record deal?
Dom Kennedy: I’m here to make the best music possible and to make the best business deals behind it. Right now, there hasn’t been anything worth my while, business-wise. I can’t say that I’m not gonna sign no record deal. I know today I don’t have a record deal because I haven’t found the right spot for me.
Complex: As an indie artist, what's the difference between crafting an album versus a mixtape? As far as budget, producers, and marketing costs.
Dom Kennedy: It's a blurry line, because I approach most of my shit like an album. I could have put From The Westside With Love on iTunes. I just didn’t have the means and the name to do it how I did it on this one. But it’s the same thing. I put my heart into it. I crafted all my projects with original beats to compete with everything that’s coming out. Whether it’s free or an album, I wanna make the best songs. That’s my mindset. I approach everything like it's gonna last forever.
Complex: Your sound has remained consistent for the past few years. Will you ever venture from it to reach a broader fanbase?
Dom Kennedy: Nah, I think what will happen is a broader fanbase will like my sound. That’s already starting to happen. I’m a fan, first and foremost. I know what people are tired of. So many people change before it’s their time. They go through thinking it’s not working, but they just gotta keep going. When you get there everybody’s going to understand and respect it. That’s the space I'm in. I’m not gon' change. Not at all.
Complex: What’s the deal with CDC? How did that come about and are you planning on releasing a full-length project with Casey Veggies and Carter?
Dom Kennedy: Me, Carter, and Casey worked on a couple songs. It’s nothing official. I didn’t even know that was gonna do what it did. I was skeptical about putting it out there, to be honest. A couple people told me they liked it. I liked it, but I was like, "I don't know." It’s just something we had fun with. That’s all I can say. We get together and we make records just to have fun. It’s not like a group. We talked about it, joking around. It could happen. It could not happen.
Complex: What did you think about Tyler, The Creator’s line: “Guess I gotta do a fucking song with Dom Kennedy/Get these fucking hip-hop bloggers to start feeling me"?
Dom Kennedy: I never heard that song, to be honest with you.
Complex: Coming off a sold-out New York show and gauging crowd response, what's your favorite song to perform?
Dom Kennedy: I like when I perform something so personal like “Dom's Prayer” and people know it. I didn’t even think people would like it, but I really enjoy that people can take it and make it their own.
Complex: How’s Leimert Park reacting to your success?
Dom Kennedy: To me, it’s home. I just go there to chill with the crew. People come up and show love all the time. I mean, it’s a lot of older black people that haven’t gotten tuned into what’s going on, but the kids from that area, they definitely appreciate it. They know that I’m just like them. They know that my win is their win and wherever I go, they're with me.