Domo Genesis stands behind the stage right entrance. He’s waiting for his cue to emerge before the crowd at the release party for good friend and collaborator Evidence’s new album, Weather or Not. Every soul in LA’s sold-out Roxy Theatre is eagerly anticipating Domo’s performance, but the Inglewood rapper shows not a trace of nervousness. Instead, he shares a laugh with the man standing next to him. Finally, the DJ deems the audience ready for Domo’s entrance, and the man before the man of the hour saunters his way to center stage, passionately rapping the words to “Brake” off his week-old mixtape Aren’t U Glad You’re U?.
Two years ago, the concept of sharing his solo material with the world wasn’t nearly as nonchalant, especially in the days leading up to the release of Genesis, Domo’s debut solo album.
“Genesis had me with the jitters. Of course, it’s the first one,” he says candidly during our green room interview a few hours before the show. “It’s a lot of shit that I got out of the way, a lot of shit that I learned. Being able to kick it with people, like Ev, who’s been doing this for a long time, and soak in knowledge, I became a whole other person.”
Domo and Evidence originally met at the house of legendary producer The Alchemist, when Domo and Alc were working on their joint 2012 mixtape No Idols. Evidence (and many others) would often stop by the house to play their new music, and the two quickly hit it off. That friendship would eventually blossom into the collaboration “Deez Nuts” off Domo’s 2017 mixtape Red Corolla, and the song’s excellent response convinced the two to record an entire project together, which became Aren’t U Glad You’re U?.
“It was supposed to be five songs originally, but me and Ev had such a sick relationship doing this, everything about it was organic,” he says. “It was just cool to work freely with somebody like that and have them critique what you’re doing, or tell you to have more conviction. So it ended up being a little bit longer, just because it was something that was fun to do.”
The two originally planned to release Aren’t U Glad You’re U? immediately following Red Corolla, but as things began to fall into place, dropping the mixtape in early 2018 became the only sensible option. As the release date for Evidence’s album drew near, Domo kept his accomplice’s best interests in mind, and ultimately decided to release his own tape close to Evidence’s full-length in order to further build anticipation.
“I wanted to [drop my mixtape] to promote his album, to show love to Ev,” Domo says. “I knew he had a lot of things going on, like [Defari’s Rare Poise] tape, so he had a lot that was running his momentum up. So I was just like, ‘Why not put it out a week before and then have you drop yours?’ and it seems like it really picked up that way.”
Getting his debut album out of the way played a major role in Domo’s decreased nerves leading up to Aren’t U Glad You’re U? but it was a return to his inherent sound that also put him at ease. The rapper enjoyed experimenting with live instrumentation for the first time on Genesis, but his hip-hop upbringing made the beat-tape atmosphere he crafted on the new mixtape a much more natural setting.
“It’s what I’m familiar with, the music I listened to when I was a kid that got me into rap,” he says. “I don’t dislike working with a big band either—those have been some of my favorite songs, but it doesn’t give you that same nostalgia, those feelings you got when you were first bumping Late Registration.”
Nostalgia drives Domo in more ways than one; certainly encouraging his affinity for the beat machine, but also inspiring his songwriting as he tries to relive memories from years past.
“I’ll hear a beat, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this reminds me of what I was doing in high school when I was driving around throwing eggs at people,’” he says with a laugh. “That’s the kind of shit that inspires me, I’ll go back in the moment and try to base this song off of that experience.”
Domo isn’t entirely fond of Memory Lane, however; for quite some time following the release of Genesis, personal struggles outside of music stood in the way of creating the necessary drive to create and release new material. He credits family and friends for motivating him to push through and delivering constructive criticism, which he believes helped to give him the confidence to share more of his creations with the world.
“A lot of people that I keep around me, they genuinely care,” he says. “They’ll tell me stuff in a negative way, but for positive reasons. Like, ‘You’re not doing this, I know you Doms. What’s going on?’ You know, like when your uncle punch you in your chest when you’re little, it’s like that.”
Through all the ups and downs, Domo feels he has arrived at a better place. He is unhindered from a workflow, which has allowed him to attack the new year with the underdog mentality he’s grown accustomed to owning. His goal for 2018 is to sustain a more consistent output, whether it be new albums, mixtapes, or visuals.
“It takes a lot of time to get inspired by real life to go back and rap,” he says. “Once you get past that and you’re in a happy place, you’re in the mood to just work. I’m on a different wavelength. Now it’s just fun to be in a place where I can just talk about life and have fun doing it.”