It doesn’t take a record label to be a star anymore. Artist like Nipsey Hussle, former Artist of the Week Mac Miller, and Macklemore are proving that in 2013 it’s possible to achieve enormous mainstream success without the backing of a major marketing team. Jay Z did it with Reasonable Doubt in 1996 and Dominic Hunn AKA Dom Kennedy is another artist on his way to doing it right now.

Scintillating flows paired with a cool demeanor help make Kennedy the go-to guy for smooth hits that remind you of warm summer days. He’s got a solid range of mixtapes under his belt including From the Westside with Love and The Yellow Album. Dom stands out in the highly competitive group of West Coast rappers making music right now by combining witty banter and dope beats. He’s the man you go to on your iPod when you’re driving home from a BBQ late at night to mellow out. His new album aptly named Get Home Safely is guaranteed to do just that, on terms set by Dom and Dom alone.

We sat down with Dom to touch on Get Home Safely, his success as an independent artist, and what life was like at 17. Get to know him below.

You’ve mentioned in past interviews that when constructing this album, experiences from touring helped you grow and shape the project. What was your writing process for Get Home Safely?

I was looking for strong music. I was studying music that I never knew about and artists that I had heard about, not even rap music. I wanted to be more hands on with taking it further. This was kind of like a grand opening for me and the company. My process was real serious. I was in there with The Futuristics, they produced most of my album. My DJ Drewbyrd did three and there was another producer on there.

We were talking about music a lot and why we were even doing it. What were the real issues? What were the real problems, and what did we really want to talk about? With a title like Get Home Safely – being my mission statement and title for the album – I was trying to rise to the occasion and make a staple hip-hop project, one people haven’t heard coming out of the genre in a long time. Definitely one that could stand the test of time.

Prior to the album coming out, you teased us with “Erica Part 1” then you elected to give us Part 2 on the album. What made you decide to break it up into two parts?

Sometimes I’ll just have quick ideas and quick flashes, so I’ll just go in and do it. Then eventually if you want to make it a song, you can do something else with it. You can add on to it, but it kind of takes a lot. It takes a lot. I don’t like to mess with the original idea. [For "Erika Part 1"] I just had that one verse. Then, I had that other beat and I kind of played around with that melody. It sounded like a part two, like a B-side. It’s a reverse of the other one you know?

You have a record on the album entitled “17” which led us to wonder what Dom Kennedy was like when he was 17?

Very optimistic. (Laughs) I had a lot of ideas. I had a lot of my own thoughts and ideas about the world and about things I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure you know? A lot of the albums you could say that I put out are like an album that I could have written if I was 17 years old. Get Home Safely is sort of like a memoir of myself between 11-17. I don’t really feel like I touch on trending topics or things going on now. I talk about a lot of life things and a lot of things I’ve learned, and try to answer a lot of questions.

With the success of The Yellow Album, and songs like “My Type of Party,” I felt like if I was going to go on any further I wanted people to know who I was as a person and as a man first. I was getting a lot of recurring questions about my legacy, what I stand for, and what type of artist I want to be. I felt like rather than just talking about those thing, I wanted to be a person that lets my work do all the talking for me. I put assignments on myself. I didn’t really talk too much on Twitter. I kind of observed and looked at music in the world for what it was and asked, “What I can add in value to this?”

Talk about your record “Black Bentleys” and the origin of that record. That record is awesome.

It’s just working with The Futuristics. They were working with one of their mentors DJ Khalil. If you remember DJ Khalil, he’s a big producer. They collaborated with him on the instrumentation of that song. They added the drums to that song and made it real hip-hop. It was such a melodic and crazy beat that I stayed up until 6:30 in the morning listening to it over and over to finish that song. That piece of music sounded more like an essay/poem than a record. It’s kind of like a reflection and essay. That’s probably my favorite song that I’ve ever written in my life.

You rap during the opening and stop talk for the second half of the record. How come? 

I like to follow my heart a lot and learn more about music, cadences, and timing. I want to be true to that. I want to make records that say a lot of things. You know, at the end of the day sometimes I just gotta stop. After flowing for like two minutes straight, it just felt right to me. I was like, “In case you didn’t understand all of that, you’ll understand this. Let me just say this.” It was just kind of one of those days.

Music has openly accepted Independent artists and guys like you, Macklemore, Mac Miller, and just recently Nipsey Hussle with his ingenious marketing plan have thrived. Talk about the significance of the success you guys are having as independent artists and what that means to music?

Man, it’s great. It’s great to show people different ways of not taking no for an answer and what happens when you count people out on certain things. If anything, that’s what me and Nipsey are currently doing right now. It’s a great feeling to be a part of that. Just to be even mentioned musically, business wise, – but mainly music – helps draw light to the fact that we want to be respected and remembered as artists, and as men that are putting out quality rap records.