Dom Kennedy on the Yellow Album and the advantages of being an independent artist

After first emerging in 2008 and releasing a pair of mixtapes, Dom Kennedy made major waves in the rap scene with his acclaimed mixtape from 2010, From the Westside with Love. In addition to earning high praise from hip-hop's elite, Westside garnered Kennedy a massive online following. Still staunchly independent, Kennedy is on the road in support of his latest project, the Yellow Album. We recently spoke with him about that album, his first favorite rappers as a kid and the benefits of remaining independent.

See also: Dom Kennedy at the Larimer Lounge, 12/3/12

Westword: Who was your favorite rapper coming up as a kid?

Dom Kennedy: DJ Quik or Biggie

Why did you wait until you were 24 to get a tat, in a city like LA?

I never knew what I wanted. And honestly having things like [living in L.A.] that really helped me out. I don't have any tattoos I didn't want. I never really had that meant something to me. It was kind of like just timing.

From the Westside with Love was one of the first projects to blow in 2010. How did you react to the success of that project?

I had a good feeling about it because I worked so hard on it. I put more work on that than I did anything in my life, really, and you know, there were a lot of questions that I had as an artists, as a person when I first worked on the music. I learned a lot about myself. I really pushed myself. So when I was done, I had a really good feeling, but it was just great to see it come true in real life. It's one thing to think your successful and people might feel you, but when people really actually do appreciate it, it's a blessing after that.

The Yellow Album? Where did the name come from?

I was kinda at the same point I was when I made From the Westside with Love, two years older, question about music and myself. I needed to find out a lot a things about myself, ask a bunch of real questions, and be happy as a person and as an artist. That one was a little more of a risk than From the Westside with Love. I remember thinking people are either going to love it or going to hate it.

I had to learn about myself and be happy. That one was a little more a risk than Westside with Love. Either people love or hate it, but I was fine with that. That's part of being an artist is realizing what you're making is not for everybody. The title is really just came to me one day. I [didn't] have a title or clear cut vision, so I said it joking to a couple producers, and it sounded dope. So I just used it.

There seems to be a bidding war for you going on. Has that ended?

Nah. I'm not signed. I'm completely independent. My company is OpM. From the Westside with Love was the first project. At this point, I'm just looking to make the best deal I have for me and the artists that I have. I'm helping building other people's careers, so it's a lot more than just me.

What advantages do you have when you're an independent artist, as opposed to being signed to a major label?

I can only speak from this side of that because I've never been signed. There's a lot less red tape, in terms of putting out music, you know? There is a lot of things I don't have to go through to get music out than I imagine [you have] to at a major label, even, like, to get your stuff played. You have to get people's approval and you have to ask less people. It's mainly just me and the people around me, and there is a small list I choose to ask for an opinion. It's a real short list of five or less people.

Do you smoke weed?

Occasionally. I mean, me and smoking weed is just like regular people in America that smoke weed. I don't try to make it like, look at me in this picture I'm smoking weed, but we having a good time, and we chilling. I like to have a good time. I'm conscious of not putting out there, like I'm promoting, so people will listen to me.

Do you support states like Washington and Colorado legalizing Marijuana?

Hell Yeah. Whatever the people or citizens voted for. They obviously voted for it, citizens or congressmen voted for it, so they obviously saw a benefit for it health wise, money wise, there is a lot of reasons why. They we're like, 'This could help small businesses or bring more money to our economy.' Hell yeah I support that. It's like a Chick-Fil-A opening up a drive thru. What's the difference?

Who is the most interesting person you have ever smoked with?

Really it was a privilege and moment when I was in the studio with Snoop. I had my own, though, 'cause I smoke papers, and he smokes blunts. So we both had our own, but we was sitting there smoking and talking. We was working on a song and just talking about life, like you in the car with your homeboy, just talking about real like stuff. We was talking about our son, things about L.A. that we love and all that [laughs]. I think everybody wants to do that as some point in their life.

Do you have any special guests with you on the Yellow Album Tour?

Yeah I do. I got this project called Young Nation, Its an OpM mixtape, and I got a lot of the artist I'm going to be breaking in the next year, and a lot of them already put out projects. So I got them with me, Niko G4, my homie Polyester, who is a producer, the homie Jay 305. We put out his new single this year, so I let these people open for my fan base and experience some shows.

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Antonio Valenzuela