Dom Kennedy is a hometown hero, but to say that hometown is Los Angeles is erroneous. Kennedy is actually the hometown hero of Leimert Park, a progressive enclave of South Central Los Angeles better known for Project Blowed and Freestyle Fellowship than for the gang-infested neighborhoods around it. The distinction is important because it’s integral to Kennedy’s artistic DNA and helps explain his breezy vibes, tongue-in-cheek humor and, generally, what makes him one of the hottest independent hip-hop artists in the world. Throughout Get Home Safely, Kennedy’s second studio album, he’s on cruise control, delivering what his fans want with the same confident nonchalance that got him this far.
Kennedy doesn’t wow with lyrical acrobatics or punchlines. He’s also not a spitfire rapper; his cadence is more of a nod to the stylings of slowed-down Houston rappers like Slim Thug than it is to his L.A. peer and frequent collaborator Nipsey Hussle. As has been the case with all of his projects, it takes a few listens to fully appreciate the flavor that Kennedy brings to the table. While that may be a tall order to ask for in the aggressive climate that is the L.A. rap subculture, Get Home Safely does in fact appreciate in listening value, for the simple reason that it’s well-executed. Kennedy is credited as creative director on the project as well as co-executive producer, along with Archie Davis, his manager whose “day job” happens to be as an A&R executive at Interscope Records.
It’s no coincidence that the album wastes no time getting down to business in the opener “Let’s Be Friends,” on which the first rhymes out of Kennedy’s mouth are “This where I’m supposed to say, I got what I meant/I’m gonna buy me a house, so tired a rent/ It’s where I’m supposed to say, I’m finna be rich/ About to buy me a Porsche, I hope it come with a b***h/ They know me up at Saks Fifth, they know me out on the av/ This n***a told me that his baby mom is in love with me bad.”
Within these first lines, Kennedy addresses his comeuppance, dreams, and ladies’ man status, all simultaneously. A former high school baseball star, Kennedy has the same approach to crafting songs as he would to batting practice. He gets “turnt up” but always remains cool, calm and collected. These qualities yield greater enjoyment out of such predictable topics such as groupie love on “All Girl Crazy” or the paper chase on “If It Don’t Make Money,” which features a guest verse from Inglewood emcee Skeme.
The stand-out tracks on Get Home Safely, for different reasons, are “Erica Part 2,” “Tryna Find My Way” and “Dominic.” Production is handled primarily by The Futuristiks, with Larrance of 1500 or Nothin and DJ Khalil pitching in. The rapper’s touring deejay, DrewByrd, hits it out of the park with the soulful sample-driven “Dominic,” a nice follow-up to the “Gold Alpinas,” the track that Rick Ross jumped on for a guest verse from the Yellow Album.
As a completely independent artist and co-owner of the label OPM, Dom Kennedy has established a reputation as the elder statesmen of the current crop of late 20-something Los Angeles emcees. With Get Home Safely, he hits the mark with a tight collection of songs that have a breezy quality yet provide substance. Dom’s appeal is his universality, which makes him marketable to brands like Adidas – he was in a commercial with NBA star Derrick Rose recently –but fans will probably continue to find him outside The Hundreds boutique on Fairfax Avenue on any given weekday when he’s on tour. That’s what being a hometown hero is all about.