Dom Kennedy Reflects On The Success Of ‘Get Home Safely’


It seems like hip-hop is getting better at moving independently. You are having a very solid career as a independent artist. If I remember correctly in 2013 Interscope did come calling to sign and you passed. Are majors still nipping at your heels and if so what would it take for you to sign with one?
A lot of money. Same reason Derek Jeter plays for the Yankees and Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers. If not I can make decent money by myself. I don’t need a signing bonus like that. It isn’t like I am just coming out and a $100,000 signing bonus is a lot of money because it is not. If I had just started then I would be like “Ima be rich.” But knowing what I know now, hell nah.

If times are different why are deals worse?
The Internet done messed shit up for them. They shortcomings is my wins, and my shortcomings is they wins. At some point they labels need to realize that it’s about coming together for both of us to survive and how do we do it. Its about giving people something fair, especially about giving young black kids a right to own something they created. Not just be on TV or on the side of YouTube talking about “Oh, catch my new song.” Because when you do that’s when it works. Think of Jay Z, Russell Simmons, Suge Knight, that’s when folks is making hundreds of millions when people is listening.

I heard with Get Home Safely you guys were able to sit down with a distributor at Best Buy and get the album pushed in stores as well. How much of an impact did it have on sales of the album?
It was around the time of the Interscope conversations. We had already had a relationship with iTunes via SXSW. We met the lady with Best Buy a little later down the line. She kept in touch with me and genuinely interested in what we was doing. We showed her the layout and when we wanted to put the album out. She saw the quality and said “when you guys put it out hit me up I will buy some.” Archie and I were thinking about it, and figuring out if we needed independent distribution, but she wanted it directly off of us. Nothing in between. It helped us a lot in regards to the people taking what we do more serious and the business aspect of things.

You often talk about how when you were younger you were influenced by Biggie and OutKast due to the fact you could listen to their music and get of sense of where they are from. I get that same feel of what California is like upon listening to the album. Was this a goal you had coming into it?
From day zero, that was always my number one goal. I always wanted to paint an accurate picture of myself and other people I knew within my music. I feel like Get Home Safely was the pinnacle of that.

Give me a couple words to describe the creative space you were in while making the album.
Humbled and honored. What inspired me to get on this path was the loss of a homeboy, my real first best friend since the second grade Phillip Johnson. He had passed away a little over a year ago. When you’re young you cry a lot. I went to a lot of funerals for a young dude, and I am not saying I didn’t cry then. Being older you can internalize it more and reflect more. I was honored to have known this person and the people I do know and to be able to tell their story.

This album you worked closely with The Futurisks who added live drums and bass for this project. How important was that to you and how did you contribute to this process?
The music side of the album was the fun part. I bought a guitar and everything. On the “Honey Buns Interlude” that was me on the guitar. I was studying a lot of great artists. People that transcended their time and genre with their work. I wanted to one of those people. I am honest enough like always to start somewhere and not be afraid of what people think I am suppose to say or do.

How do you gauge success?
By the amount of people that you can help. The moments I feel like I have done the most that I could regardless of whatever situation I am in at the moment. Using my resources to the best of my ability. I recorded a lot of the shit on the Yellow Album. That why you hear the door close in the beginning of the album, that me hitting the spacebar and running in the booth. Not too many people recorded themselves on some beats and did it that big. If it is only a couple people, that’s successful to me.