As the former gatekeepers of the music industry, major labels, radio stations, and record stores, struggle to recompose themselves and remain relevant in the digital age, wise artists have thrived in the new climate. The internet and other technological advances have afforded artists a bevy of unprecedented opportunities to establish their brand: new distribution channels, entry to global networks, and simplified fan outreach. In just a few short years, Dom Kennedy has made his way to the forefront of hip-hop in 2011, with smooth lyrics, dope beats and an unstoppable grind.
It is through the virtue of the Internet that I first heard of Dom Kennedy some four years ago as a member of the Niketalk web forum. Our online community feverishly awaited the release of his first work, “25th Hour,” and it valiantly lived up to the hype.
While the phrase is certainly overused, Dom is truthfully bringing a breath of fresh air to hip-hop. Ignorant gun/drug/money raps are what’s hot in the streets, but there is a sizable market share available for artists willing to tell real stories and evoke emotions within their listeners. Songs like “I Hate Summers,” where Dom rebukes the summer heat for fostering the violence in LA, to which he lost a cousin.
For a long while, as I asked people if they’d heard of Dom Kennedy, I felt like his only fan on this side of the map. I put my friends on as often as I could and stayed dedicated, which was easy because of Dom’s prolific nature. Establishing an employable model for any artist looking to make it independently, Dom has consistently provided fans with new material, striking visuals, and strong web content. Through hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, Dom has achieved considerable success, staying independent and soaring past other artists languishing on major labels begging for release dates and video budgets.
His fifth album, From the Westside with Love, proved to be a breakthrough into the mainstream. “1997” served as a resounding manifesto with Dom exercising his laid-back but poignant flow standing on the threshold of rap greatness. Watching Dom shut down SOB’s last night, his proclamation of being “the number one pick” no longer seems farfetched.
Dom dropped his first retail effort on June 28th, From the Westside With Love II, catapulting him onto the national stage for good. Early adaptors to this Leimert Park legend almost feel a personal stake in his success, having witnessed his growth, both in scale and as an artist. That’s certainly how I felt as Dom cycled through his hits for the raucous New York crowd. His stage presence was profound yet simple, only interrupted by a few steps from Mizzle of JBC to close off “Watermelon Sundae.” Casey Veggies joined him on stage for their banger “CDC;” Dom now plays a mentor role and it seems like just yesterday rappers were co-signing him! Even Dom is astonished at times, tweeting last week, “I still be amazed how y’all know a song that just came out on Tuesday.”
Armed with big dreams and a strong team, Dom Kennedy has gone from humble beginnings to #2 on the iTunes hip-hop charts. Bandwagon now accepting applications.
-Christian Waterman ’13
Christian Waterman is a rising junior at UMass Amherst from Brooklyn, NY, pursuing a degree in Sport Management. He holds leadership positions in several organizations including the Association of Diversity in Sport and Student Action. His major work thus far has been Who is LeBron?, a panelist event discussing the historical and cultural significance of this polarizing figure.