How Dom Kennedy Got Me Through College

The Leimert Park legend's music and wisdom helped guide me through four years of school.

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Growing up, I used music to escape from most of the issues in my life. As I matured, I learned to appreciate it more until it became the center of my world. It was something I was good at. My parents, although they appreciated music, didn’t feel it was an adequate career choice and wanted me to go into medicine. But I was falling in love with music and when that kind of passion hits you…its rap or go to the league, right? Wrong. I graduated high school and the reality of leaving home really sank in. Family expectations built up, and eventually I took another route. Fortunately, my passion for making music was still there. What kept that passion alive?, Dom Kennedy.

To those who know me well, this comes as no surprise. Dom Kennedy is my favorite rapper. Arguably one of the coolest rappers from the west coast. Known for his laid back style and wordplay. His influence is far-reaching as one of the most beloved rappers from the west coast. It’s like Dom found the recipe for happiness. This carefree attitude translates into his music. Dom Kennedy makes everything seem so easy. Giving off the impression he planned this all out and knew it would work. And occasionally we need that variety of confidence for ourselves. Whether it’s how things really are or how we set them up to be in our mind. Dom Kennedy’s music defines a generation, reminding us not to take things so seriously.

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I attended college in Tennessee and many of my new friends weren’t up on west coast artists. So I kept Dom Kennedy in constant succession. I felt he was truly original, and I wanted those around me to appreciate him the same way that I did. It was simple. If you got in my car, you were agreeing to listen to Dom Kennedy. The entire way. What astounded me was how receptive people were.

Eventually they began asking “Who’s this” or “What are you listening to?” and without hesitation, prepared I was to preach a sermon regarding how cool Dom was and how they should get familiar. What they grew to love about Dom was what made me a fan. It felt like you were getting a lesson on life from a wise older cousin, straight putting you on game. Showing you how to move accurately in life and with decorum within the music industry.

Dom Kennedy performing in London 2014 Photo by Ashley Verse

Listening to Dom Kennedy did just that. Kennedy is one of the early pioneers of the independent rap movement that edified artists on the benefits of remaining independent. 11 years ago, that was far from the norm. If you were an artist who had developed a buzz anywhere, the next inevitable step was to sign to a major record label. It was like going pro, but it wasn’t always the best move because labels often took creative control and stunted the creative process of an artist. Look no further than Lupe Fiasco and his struggles with Atlantic Records, for example.

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There’s little you can say to dispute the message. Being in control of your business dealings within the music industry is pivotal to success. Kennedy owns the rights to his music. He decides when he wants to release and he’s made a comfortable living off making music independently. In terms of ownership, it’s what sets Kennedy apart from his west coast peers. Among many other things, it’s this ideology I believe that made Dom and Nipsey Hussle so close. They both had the same vision and understood early on that there’s an unorthodox way to do this. But it’s a better way.

Have a party for all my niggas, who ain’t make it home
Cuz hard times in Los Angeles? it’ll make you cold
So I can’t sign no papers, we ain’t in control
I rather be back on Vernon, eatin’ Pollo bowls – Dom Kennedy in Black Bentleys

There’s a Dom Kennedy record that defines each individual year of my college experience. It’s almost laughable. From the purchase of my first Lexus freshman year, to my first major breakup during my junior year. Let’s not even speak on the levels of nostalgia that enter my spirit whenever ‘My Type of Party’ off ‘The Yellow Album’ comes on. That project slaps from start to finish. Its Dom Kennedy at his best. If you’ve yet to hear it, I highly recommend it. From 25th Hour to his most recent release, Volume 2. Every project offered by Kennedy, was released himself under his own imprint “The Other Peoples Money Company” or The OPM Company for short. That’s 9 mixtapes and 6 albums, all self-released.

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Words alone would be inadequate in expressing how much he’s inspired me. Not only to see someone who looked like me owning his shit, but his willingness to educate others on how to do it as well made him a hero to me. I had a tough time adjusting in school. Starting off, I think we all do, especially in college. You’re exposed to a multitude of unfamiliar things. You experience new friendships and discover peerless passions. Things quickly become peculiar and can feel unnatural. I urged for a sense of familiarity, and Dom Kennedy provided that for me. Giving me gems along the way, helping me avoid crucial life potholes. It was all there laid out for you, you just had to listen. My college years were stressful and tested me in ways I never thought probable. Could I have made it through college without Dom Kennedy? Certainly. But I’m glad I didn’t have to.

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