"Thank you,” is the first thing Domo Genesis says late one March evening after I wish him a happy belated birthday. “Nobody else told me that," he reveals. His slightly hazy puppy dog eyes flicker with genuine compassion. This sentiment is the same type of humility a dude from Inglewood who patiently stayed down until he came up unconsciously exudes.
It's a little after 5 p.m. and Domo and I are chilling at Time Square-centric Dave & Buster’s, clearly the only place to celebrate both his 25th chapter of life and long-awaited musical milestone. This is expected for someone that goes by the alias DJ Body Oil and rocks Kate Moss platinum blonde to Naomi Campbell jet black wigs with no fear. Holding court over a small, golden brown manchego, cheddar and mozzarella grilled cheese concoction, his aura positively reeks of a rapper in rare form, simply off the strength that he’s been here before but never like this. In an industry best described as here-today-gone-tonight, outwardly finding yourself amid the limelight is tough, especially in the unforgiving realm of rap, whose audience tends to be fickle. However, Domo Genesis, the levelheaded misfit presence of Odd Future has had a myriad (five to be exact) all of which presented themselves of mixtapes built off sheer gutsiness.
"I got way more to offer than just weed raps," he deadpans. Specifically, the six years worth of comparisons to his Odd Future cohorts comes to mind, which in the same breath he refers to as family. "I never wanted to be compared to them because we’re not the same. I’m not trying to rap as good as them or necessarily outdo them. I’m in my own lane. And now that I feel like I defined my own sound. I’m getting compared to other people or they’re weighing me against other things, and that’s always how I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be somebody that exists only within the limits of the group."
In conversation, Genesis is brimming with charisma (as expected), never appearing weary or disinterested. His Cali accent is at times multisyllabic, other times embellished with a slow drawl, but never not ending in magnetic laughter. And when he realizes D&B's playlist rotation is Top 40 hits, he occasionally jigs in his seat while singing along to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" and Usher's "Scream." He’s comical and a compelling storyteller, too, divulging the impact music has had on his life— traveling the world in particular has opened his eyes and given him a different viewpoint on life opposite of his southern Los Angeles roots. There's also Copenhagen (yes, the capital of Denmark) and comedy, that he's got his eyes set on for future endeavors.
But aside from the pleasantries—past the rambunctious romp of Odd Future and the crew's stigma, which only represents a moment of time, when the rapper born Dominique Cole was at the tail end of his teens—it's apparent he's authentic in a homeboy-you-grew-up-with manner. He's willing to admit to uncomfortable truths about himself, which is revealed in reverb on his long awaited debut appropriately titled Genesis. "After all that time and all those things that I put out, people still don’t understand or still are not awake," he says. "My mission pretty much is to wake people up."
Now that the album's out, the OG strain veil of smoke that once engulfed Domo's lane in the rap game has subsided. But don't get it twisted, he's still lifted. This time around his rhyme and reason is introspective, and it's accounted for in the spirit of a toughened technical cadence that spares no mercy, silkened J Dilla-esque production, and most importantly, relatable rhymes punctuated by real-life stories that aren't to be just consumed, but felt. Domo has found a sweet balance between solitude and solidarity. And although years in, the fresh artistic path of his new beginning tells the world who he is, who he was, and what he could be. "This is just a different pace," he says.
VIBE: Six years into your career, you've finally dropped your debut solo album. Why the wait?
Domo Genesis: Well, I had a chance to put out a debut solo album when I put out the MellowHigh album with Hodgy [Beats] and Left Brain. But I took that chance to do something fun with my friends. Looking back, I'm glad that I did it because I went through so many different things. So in hindsight, I had so much to talk about on this album. I dug deep and I had real life experiences to speak about, that I wouldn’t have had in the first place because that all comes with timing. I’m just happy with the timing and how it all turned out for me.
There are many artists today that skipped over a lot of steps that other artists have to take in the early phases of their careers. Do you wish you'd taken a different approach?
Yes and no, because I would sit back and see dudes and be like, 'damn, if this guy can make it, what am I doing sitting around?' But at the same time, I think the timing with those thoughts and with me going through that stuff, it was a perfect mix that made me realize that I ha to pick the ball up and start going.
Earlier you spoke of real life experiences. What was going on during that two year break between your last project, No Idols, and now?
I had had a lot of things going on. I went on tour with Mac Miller last year. Then before that, there were a lot bad things going on in my life. My aunt passed, my uncle was in jail. It removed me from music to the point that I couldn't be in the studio. I had me dealing with real life situations. I needed to be around my family and help out, which helped a lot on the album. You’ll hear the difference. You’ll hear me talking about things that happened.
The first two songs on the album actually feature your mother and uncle.
Really, when it came down to it, my mom and my uncle were two of my biggest influences on the album. Last year, when my uncle first got locked up he would tell me, 'I know the group took off, and I know you're loyal, but it’s time to take yourself into your own hands. It’s time for you to put yourself on display. And if I’m going away, you going to have to be the man of the house. So the time is now for you to do it.'
It took me by surprise to hear you more vulnerable on these songs. How do you put that emotional experience into songs? Was there ever a moment of uncertainty that people may not respect or accept it?
It’s difficult to do things like that because you never know how people are going to take it, but on order for me to completely put myself in the light, for people to understand who I was, I felt like I had to be honest. I had to be open. I had to tell people what was wrong and where I’ve been, why I haven’t been recording in two years, and what the problem was. And I feel like the only way to do that was to be 100% human. That’s why I really just left that vulnerability open like that. It’s difficult to do things like that because you never know how people are going to take it. I still had people that tweet at me like, ‘Your mom's part was too long.’ A lot of people don’t even know how to be vulnerable; they just want to make turn up songs. When you are able to express yourself like that, people identify with you so much more. You become someone's hero because people are going through similar struggles and feel the same way. So that’s what I said when I made this, I made this for me and everybody that feels exactly like me.
There are a lot of spiritual undertones throughout the entire album. Are you religious at all?
I am but... I walk a thin line so much though. I hate to say no, but at the same time, I’m so confused. We learn so much more about religion and so much more about what we believe in. And while I do believe in God and a higher power, I can't really say that I believe in how people define it.
When you were first getting attention, a lot of people saw you as just another warm body to fill the collective stamp. Do you or have you ever read into the criticism? Has it shaped you?
I used to. I’m not really into it anymore because it's people dissecting you or crucifying you for things that they don’t really have experience in the field of. There’s a lot of people that are criticizing and have opinions on the Internet just because social media gives them a voice now that for some reason people value and they don’t really know me. So I’m really not into it, but I was previously, and I used to look at everything. I did notice from then people said and tried to fix things, and then now, it’s just completely for me. It’s not for anybody’s opinion. I don’t care how people feel about it anymore. I strictly make music for myself at this point.
How has your relationship with yourself evolved through the process of Genesis?
I still get creative anxiety, but I’m starting to trust myself more, especially seeing the response and everybody liking it. It's taught me that my ideas are good. That’s with anybody, if you feel like you have an idea, chase it regardless of what people are saying. I had a lot of people that doubted me during the years that wasn’t doing nothing with themselves. When I got ready to put the album out people were like, 'You're too late, we don't want to hear this.' Those same people are tweeting me now like, 'Yo, you killed this, way to go.' So, you've got to trust yourself more than you trust the opinions of other people. And like I said, I still battle with that all the time, but I’m getting better and better now. I’m just happy.
Being that you're in a good space, how do you want to present yourself going forward, and what do you see for yourself career-wise?
I want to be able to put out another album and things like that. But in years to come, I don’t want be a rapper. I want this to be a platform so I can get my name out there and try out other things. Warren Buffet is an influential dude who said never put all of your eggs in one basket, and I have so many other things that I want to do. I love comedy. I want to host comedy shows and there are some other things I want to do. Building my name with rap will only help me do that on a bigger level than starting from ground zero.