I met Dominic Serendip three years ago when he held a baseball bat menacingly in the background of the last shot of a “learning experience” of a short film I made when I was eighteen. Since then, Dominic has been busy. Splitting work between the recently dissolved group THE BLKHNDS with Cazzi Jetson and producer ILLA Black and his own solo output, Dominic has collaborated with a seemingly endless list of artists including Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, A$AP Ty Beats, and a reunited Three Six Mafia. The self-proclaimed “Dream God” is fresh off the release of ‘God Gone Mad’, a grandiose orgy of fierce hip-hop, murky industrial beats, multiple searing guitar solos, surging EDM hooks, and an honest-to-God 2014 Mike Jones feature. I’d say that its the most ambitious mixtape I’ve heard this year but, as you’ll see below, Dominic prefers the word “album.”
Shuf: I got one real pretentious question just right out the gate so bear with me. I listened to your tape and the first thing that jumped out to me is it’s a definitively maximalist kind of thing. There’s a lot of instrumentation, some pretty long songs, and a lot of genres and ideas stuffed into ten songs. Was there a conscious decision to make this a maximalist project?
What’s funny is that when we were working on it, it was actually twenty-six tracks long. So there’s other songs that are a lot more minimalistic and a lot more like slowed down and a lot different but when we starting cutting songs and actually forming the project and solidifying it, it started going in that direction. Then we started throwing things in like live instrumentation.
Shuf: You mention the track listing which was something else I noticed seeing as its ten tracks long, which for a mixtape- wait, is this a mixtape?
We like to call it an album.
Shuf: Its ten tracks long which is not really typical of hip-hop releases especially free ones on the internet. Was that a decision prompted by Kanye West’s new less-is-more track listing concepts from ‘Yeezus’ and Pusha T’s ‘My Name Is My Name’?
Yeah. We were looking at people who were dropping albums at the time, I don’t want to name any names, but when artists are dropping albums with fifteen, sixteen, twenty songs and you would sit down and listen to the album; you would never listen to the entire project in its entirety in one sitting. You would like listen to a couple songs, skip a few, end up on the subway, throw on the next three, and not really know whats going on in the song. So we wanted to make an album where you can like sit down, play it when you’re getting ready, and by the time you hit the party like the shit’s already played through and you’re set for the night.
Shuf: I noticed there’s a lot of like electronic dance music influences on this record. Where’s your introduction to electronic music? What kind of stuff are you listening to that’s influencing you in your work?
Stuff that I’m listening to right now, to be honest with you, I listen to a lot of Pink Floyd. Right now when it comes to EDM, I’m listening to a lot of Flume, Cashmere Cat, Shlomo, Disclosure. We started getting electronic like that, its funny cause that started happening, I guess, a couple of days before we released the album. The one track for example, 'Reach', that song was finished an hour before we released the mixtape- we released the album, I’m sorry. (Laughs) An hour before we released the album, that’s when we actually finished mixing 'Reach' and that was all ILLA BLK and Soft Glas just like working hard on that shit and over time the album just evolved to what were listening to at the time.
Shuf: How do you see this project fitting in to the grand scheme of your career as Dominic Serendip?
I have no idea, B. (Laughs)
Shuf: Like is this a change of style for you that maybe you’re gonna go off in this direction? Is this your calling card now?
I don’t want to seem like full of myself or anything like that but I feel like there’s gonna be a change in sound when it comes to hip-hop. You saw what happened to Outkast at Coachella. People aren’t really listening to hip-hop as much- its changing. The sound quality is changing with artists like Young Thug, Migos… you know what I mean right?
Shuf: So you’re saying its going towards- what are you saying?
I’m saying the sound is just changing.
Shuf: I know the sound is changing and I had a question about that. You seem to be - I mean there’s no denying that you’re influenced by Kanye West.
Yeah, of course.
Shuf: From the “Devil in a New Dress” guitar solos to the God comparison in “Dream God” to “Wait For It” has like a “Blood on the Leaves” reminiscent horn sample… you can really see Kanye’s influence in your work. Do you think Hip-Hop in general is going to go in the spacey Kanye art direction or do you think its gonna stick with the typical “gangsta” formula, and evolve within that formula like DJ Mustard?
Man, I could go for hours on this subject. It’s hilarious like where do I start? When it comes to Yeezus and Hip-Hop changing its sound towards Yeezus, I feel like whats happening is a lot of artists, I’m not going to say any names, but a lot of Hip-Hop artists are saying that the nineties flow is coming back or nineties hip-hop is coming back or the old school flow is what’s going to come back and rain over but its funny because in order to push forward in music you have to actually change it. Pick up what’s around you and adapt your own style with it. I feel like what Yeezus has done is that he’s done that exact same thing- actually, I’m really high right now.
(Laughs) Can you repeat the question? I’m sorry.
Shuf: You’re fine. Do you think that there is going to be a resistance against the Kanye sound that will eventually win out over people like yourself who are embracing the arty space-ness of Kanye’s sound?
Yeah, man. I feel like there’s always going to be a backlash towards change. Until people realize what’s good and accept it. When Kanye first came out, people were completely against everything he was doing, the tight jeans, the pink polos, the book bags, and over time that style became the norm until he did another thing and that style became the norm and each time people backlash against it. I feel like with my sound and what I’m doing right now, the way I dress, the way I act, there’s definitely going to be backlash against me and how I behave. I’m willing to accept it. People are going to pick up on it and change with me.
Shuf: On that note, I did notice your aesthetic and the sounds on your album kind of flies in the face of traditional views of masculinity in Hip-Hop. Do you ever worry about the average male Hip-Hop fan will download your record and be turned off by that? Does it ever change the way you work or do you just keep doing what you want to do?
Oh, man, it’s scares me all the time. Me and ILLA did a song called “We Don’t Care” and we made a video too and I actually think that song is one of the best we’ve ever done. When it comes to genre; there is no genre to that song. When it comes to the heights and levels of the song, the instrumentation, I felt like that song is one of the best songs we’ve ever done. When we sent it out to Hip-Hop blogs, they completely denied it because it wasn’t “real Hip-Hop.” So I get a lot of backlash and when I go to shows and stuff people are always like- I hate the term “real Hip-Hop.” I hate it so much. I hate people who are just like “I’m a real rapper.” It’s stupid.
Shuf: It means that you don’t progress, essentially.
Exactly. It means that you’re stuck in an era and you won’t accept change and you won’t push forward and adapt. It’s stupid to me. I love artists like Migos, Young Thug. People are always shittin’ on them and I’m just like “Yo, Young Thug has these fucking melodies man.” He’s got melodies that you will not believe, its ridiculous.
Shuf: Young Thug is like if you took Future and morphed him with Lil’ Wayne and then you got the demographic that is applicable to both those people. He’s going to be humongous.
Yeah, and I’ll be right there alongside him. I bet you, man. I’ll be 100% right there.
Shuf: Obligatory question: you’ve collaborated with some pretty fucking amazing people, what’s your secret? What’s goin’ on man?
Making good networking. Actually, my secret, honestly, is ILLA BLK, my producer. He’s like a genius when it comes to networking. He’s a genius when it comes to getting people to listen to what he wants them to listen to and getting things done. He’s my producer, he’s my manager, he’s my everything.
Shuf: How do you reckon with calling yourself God?
I’d like to say this. It’s funny because I made these songs, a lot of these songs about two, three years ago. “Dream God” was made back when I was in THEBLKHNDS. When I was working on THEBLKHNDS album Serbia, I was working on this album at the same exact time so “Dream God” was made before I had heard Yeezus. I was calling myself a God in the studio because the way I saw it “I’m a G that’s OD.” I’m overdoing everything I’m doing.
Shuf: And you smoke good.
Yes, I smoke fucking good, man. I’m a G, OD’d. I’m a God. I don’t let anything hold me the fuck back. Whatever I want to accomplish, I accomplish. There was one time in my life where I hit this really existential like couple days, couple weeks where I was very existential and really withdrawn and to myself and it took a lot for me to realize that I was at a place where I felt there wasn’t a lot of meaning in my life and there were times when it took a lot for me to realize that just because there may not be meaning in life doesn’t mean you can’t find meaning in life. I can create meaning, I can create a reason for me to be here, and I can create fucking dope ass music and shit so I’m a fucking GOD and I can create whatever the fuck I want and not let shit hold me back. So that’s why I call myself a God.
Shuf: The real question though is was “Dream God” pre-Lil B The Based God?
I know, right! I’m gonna say Based God started this fucking thing. He was the original, man. There’s nothing higher than the Based God. There’s Based God, there’s Yeezus, and then there’s the Dream God Dominic Serendip. (Laughs)
Words: Nick Boyd