Dom Kennedy dusted off his mic Saturday in Rush Gym to headline Occidental’s SpringFest, his first live performance since the end of his By Dom Kennedy Tour in December. The Los Angeles rapper’s nonstop energy was preceded on the stage by Occidental student DJ John Drumright’s (junior) crowd-pleasing live remixes and an engaging performance by LA based singer and rapper Marc E. Bassy.
Drumright welcomed concert-goers into Rush Gym with an LA-themed set of popular hip-hop songs, ranging from classics like Snoop Dogg’s “What’s my Name?” to more recent hits such as Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled 02.” By 10 p.m., the gym was buzzing as Drumright played his last songs and set the stage for Bassy to further energize the growing crowd.
Bassy, a relatively unknown Los Angeles artist, turned out to be a crowd favorite as he performed songs off of his latest albums “East Hollywood” and “Only the Poets.” His smooth singing and upbeat rapping was accompanied by extensive interaction with the audience, taking time between tracks to voice his support for Bernie Sanders and to let everyone know that it was his birthday — which resulted in a quick recital of “Happy Birthday” from the concert-goers. When he performed his song “Some Things Never Change,” Bassy had students chanting the chorus on cue every time he extended the microphone.
“I thought it was a lot of fun. He was a good performer and pretty interactive so I had a good time. His music is also really good, so it’s easy to have fun,” Ethan Vu (sophomore) said. “I definitely would have liked to hear more.”
After Bassy performed his final unreleased song “Subway Car,” the gym reached capacity in anticipation for Kennedy’s arrival. DJ Carisma (who worked with Bassy on his set) took center stage to keep the party going with turn-up tracks such as “F— Donald Trump” by YG and “Panda” by Desiigner.
At 11:30 p.m., Kennedy finally hopped on stage and immediately launched into “When I Come Around” from his debut album “From the Westside with Love II.” The audience extended their arms in unison as he recited the song’s repeating chorus of “hands up” while those closest to the stage reached out to Kennedy for high fives.
“Dom was great when he finally came out on stage,” Ellen Shin (sophomore) said. “He didn’t spare any time in getting the crowd going, which was nice because Marc E. Bassy spent a lot of time talking.”
Kennedy performed songs from his last two albums in addition to those on “Westside.” His slow-groove hits “2 Bad” and “After School” had students climbing on each other’s shoulders to jam out, while his party anthem “My Type of Party” riled up the crowd again mid-set as the on-stage lights swept over the audience in a spectrum of colors. “Still Callin,” known for its catchy hook about Kennedy’s label The Other People’s Money Company, united the audience once more as they waved their hands back and forth to the phrase “ain’t no party like an OpM party/‘cause an OpM party don’t stop.”
“I had a fun time even though I haven’t really listened to his music before,” Shin said. “I know a lot of my friends haven’t heard him before either but we all had a good time.”
Kennedy stopped a few times in between tracks to pass along some words of wisdom to the audience, telling them to “finish what they started” and to “write their goals down” — mottos he famously promotes in his hit song “Pleeze.” In a pre-show interview, Kennedy expressed his interest in sharing knowledge with young people, particularly those in college.
“If you don’t learn nothing, or you don’t get anything from it that you didn’t know before, [the song’s] not going to matter,” Kennedy said. “So that’s why maybe college kids gravitate towards it. They can find out something they didn’t know before, and that’s what college is about.”
Coming from the south LA neighborhood of Leimert Park, Kennedy stressed the importance of community and how the area has become the setting for his personal story that he often shares in his music. He hopes that his audiences always take something positive away from his work and that he has added something important to the LA music scene over the course of his career.
“I would like to say I’ve added a different level of honesty, a different vision for the LA artists,” Kennedy said. “Before I started putting out music, there was nobody really like me from LA. I go to these places, I hear these songs, but there’s something missing that’s not being represented in the music. That’s what got me started.”
And as for his performance in Rush Gym, he hoped to give students something there as well.
“Every audience is different, especially at schools, so it’s always just a time to connect with the audience,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully it’s people that never even heard my music before, and that everybody has a good time, and that people take something away from it.”