Fans from across the U.S piled into Irving Plaza to see one of the leaders of the New West in Dom Kennedy last Tuesday night (Jan. 28). The venue was packed from the door, but it was clear to see the fans were all die hard Dom Kennedy fans upon his arrival on the stage. Dressed in his signature L.A. Kings Wayne Gretzky throwback jersey, the Leimert Park legend began his performance to his self titled track “Domonic.” Kennedy showed he was worth the price of admission, weaving through tracks off his album Get Home Safely and some of his cult classics with ease. Dom showed no need of a hype-man, as the charismatic MC interacted with the crowd and even took requests, which kept all in the building locked in from track to track. Just when you thought the hour long set could get no better, Kennedy surprised the fans by bringing out former XXL Freshmen Kendrick Lamar to perform a fan-favorite off of good kid, m.A.A.d city.
After the show was over, XXL sat down with Dom Kennedy to discuss the origin of the OPM crew, learning how to play an instrument for Get Home Safely, what it will take for him to sign to a major and more. —Christian Mordi
XXL: You dropped the Yellow Album, which was well received. What did you learn from that album that you realized you wanted to keep or change from your music with Get Home Safely?
Dom Kennedy: I approached the Yellow Album with the most honesty and creativity as I could. After putting out my first project in 2008 and coming into the Yellow Album, I was searching for something to say. By that I mean what was important to me, what was important that was going on around me. I spent a lot of time searching for new sounds. People began to ask me things like, “What do you want your legacy to be?” or “How or what do you want to be viewed as?”
I realized a lot of artists come in and they do a lot of different things but few search or accomplish something that has never been done. I was looking to add something to the game rather than taking what the game was giving me. Looking back at the Yellow album, it taught me to give something back and create something new. I done made a lot of money, did a lot of awesome shows, but I wanted to show people with Get Home Safely this was a thinking and growing man when you heard the music.
After the Yellow Album dropped, you were able to tour across the world for the first time. How was the experience and how did it influence the creative process of Get Home Safely?
Going overseas just reaffirmed everything I felt after creating the Yellow Album. It showed me that honesty can go a long way. I have had a lot of cool moments but when I performed in London you would’ve thought I was James Brown. From that moment on I knew I was never going back. I was only going to get better.
You have been releasing mixtapes under OPM since 2009 and albums since 2011, but despite the success the crew has had as an independent movement, many people are confused about exactly whom comprises it and what it represents. So for those out of the loop, tell them about the OPM movement and how it came to pass.
OPM company was created out of necessity. The first project we did was From The Westside With Love in 2010. It is a play on words because its not what we are about but what we need.
If I say to Nipsey Hu$$le lets link together and do something awesome and we can make money and thats when all parties start to listen. We can work to move forward for a better cause. We are here trying to inspire a generation of kids who didn’t have a Dom Kennedy. What I am doing I never seen nobody do. When I first started rapping I remember hearing people argue about if a rapper could even come out of L.A. that wasn’t in a gang. That hadn’t been done before. Not at least in the sense of a rapper who had the respect and trust and could move the people on a bigger scale. I knew this coming in so I decided not to hide this but to put this in people’s faces. It’s OPM this is our goal.
My dad lived in New York in 2005 and that was my first time coming out here. I wasn’t even rapping at the time. I was over there in Central Park looking at one of the Trump buildings. He said “Look at this building, got his name on it. All these rich people getting over, they don’t use they own money they using other peoples money to get rich.” That’s self-explanatory. I looked at that and said I can do that for my people. My homies. We do concerts, music and clothing.
Your manager Archie once said on Twitter: “Don’t be so thirsty to give percentages away, there’s some shit you can do on your own.” How important is it to your movement to do as much as possible in-house and not reach to outside sources to develop things?
It’s not about not reaching to outside sources, its more about more about not complaining when shit don’t go your way when you do. We not trying to go hungry because you’re waiting for your check in the mail for some shit you did like a year ago. It is about feeding yourself and making sure you have whatever you need. A lot of times it comes down to being lazy, working or not.