Over the last few years, hip-hop artists who grew up in the hood but wanted to go beyond clichéd gangsterisms have been on the rise—Kendrick Lamar, Curren$y, A$AP Rocky, Big K.R.I.T. Hailing from Los Angeles’s Leimert Park neighborhood is Dom Kennedy, another subscriber to the school of thought that, contrary to popular belief, most people living in cities would rather just cool out poolside—smoke a little, drink a little, converse with the opposite sex. What? Ain’t nothing else. Don’t believe? Well, you don’t have to take just my word for it.
What up Dom? Top o’ the morning to ya. What’re you up to right now?
Just enjoying this summer and working hard promoting The Yellow Album.
Word. Let’s backtrack a bit, though. On “1997,” you said you wrote your first rhyme in 1997. When did you start taking it seriously?
Well, in 2008 I started actually putting out material. I had recorded material prior to that over instrumentals and stuff but I had never looked at myself as rapping as a job. In 2007 I started working on 25th Hour.
What were you doing in those ten years?
I was just enjoying life and enjoying myself. I worked at a clothing store. I wasn’t any different from most kids. I was a popular kid by nature, but I was pretty regular. There are lots of kids like me to keep the balance between gang shit and just dressing nice and hanging with girls. How am in my music is how I am in real life, so people know its real.
How do you think you avoided the pitfalls of growing up in LA?
I played baseball in Santa Monica to get out of the inner city. My grandma lived there and my older sister went to high school there. I wanted to slow my situation down because things were crazy in my hood. It kind of worked, because being out there, it kept me pretty safe and alive and it gave me a different outlook on life. I played ball every day from the age of five to the age of 16.
Damn, every day?
Every day. I would practice all week, and when we had the games on Saturday I had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to the games on time. That taught me discipline and dedication.
Well, I wasn’t disciplined enough so eventually I failed off the team.
What’s the reception for The Yellow Album been like?
The reception has been dope. It’s like the fruits of my labor materializing. I gave it away because I want the listeners to benefit. It’s a piece of art that I worked hard on and I’m proud of. This is a true story: I went outside the other day and I was just walking down the street past some people playing out by their pool. On the dude’s iPad he was playing The Yellow Album. He was shocked that I just walked by, but what struck me was when you’re in a pool in LA with two cute girls, what else would you be listening to? I know what people don’t have and do have. I go places; I see what they’re listening to. You chilling with cute girls? What are you listening to that reflects that? Nothing is speaking to that. So I’m filling that void.
Why do you think there is such a void in the first place?
Because a lot of rappers are doing what another nigga did before them. Not me, though. My raps are a part of your life; it’s not disposable music. Either you live this and you can use this for your benefit or you can’t. Just live with [The Yellow Album] for the summer. See if you fucking with it.
Yeah but what makes you different? Why do you think you succeed where others fail?
It’s well-crafted, first of all. Also I’m adding something to the game. It’s easy to get in rap and be like niggas before you. That’s easy but I’m adding to it. After y’all gone, what did you add for the next nigga to learn? That’s what The Yellow Album does, it adds something. It speaks to niggas trying something new, winning and losing and learning from that.
Why’d you name it The Yellow Album?
It just sounds good. It just occurred to me one night. And really, what else could you have named it? It just sounds good, like how the music sounds. I’m just in an interesting spot right now.
So rumors are flying that you may be Rick Ross’ latest addition to his Maybach Music Group? Care to speak on that?
I mean, it’s just rumors regarding me signing. The real story is I’ve known Ross since 2009. He’s been hollering at me. He told me his whole vision before he even signed Meek. I could’ve been down. It’s nothing new. People and bloggers are just getting wind of it now, that’s all.
Speaking of getting wind of something, you were pretty vocal about how Flex’s  comments toward Tupac didn’t sit well with you. How come?
Flex, and just bigmouth people in general, love to criticize. They criticize the President; they criticize LeBron knowing they could never do what these dudes have accomplished. Sometimes the shit has to stop, especially when people aren’t here to defend themselves. It’s one thing to say it to their face. But a dude like Flex says what he says knowing he’d never say it if [Tupac] was standing there next to him. You can’t just spit on a nigga when he’s dead. And Flex doesn’t play my songs anyway, so I don’t have the problem that other rappers have who might’ve wanted to say something but couldn’t. I wanted him to know that I know that he’d never say shit about Pac if he were alive, let alone standing near him.
This article has been corrected.