In the absence of string beans and collared greens at a TriBeCa cafe, 20-year-old rapper Dominic Lord, settles for a market salad. He’s not going to bother with the carrots though: “When my eye doctor told me that carrots don’t make you see better, I gave up on them,” he says in a sweetly innocent manner that you wouldn’t expect having seen his brash (albeit, parody) breakthrough video Mozart, Go. Lord is a bundle of quiet charisma, youthful curiosity and business brain. He’s got a knack for falling in with the right people: music wise (A$AP Mob, Hudson Mohawke and Stargate), designers (Riccardo Tisci, Tim Coppens) and magazine heavyweights (Vogue’s Jill Demling). He had to move to New Jersey from his native Harlem to focus on his upcoming album because he gets too distracted there, but he regularly heads back to his old blocks to visit his mum and have cook-outs in his friend’s yard.
What’s your upcoming album going to sound like?
I don’t want to say a cinematic experience, but oh my god! I grew from my first project, because then I’d just started making music.
It’s quite impressive what you’ve managed to pull together with no musical background.
I did my first track, Pierce, when I was 18. Maybe being in high school I wrote a rhyme quick at my desk, but it was nothing.
And you’ve got Dominic Lord Recordings. Who’s signed to that?
I have a band and it’s called Kids Of Harlem. It’s just little kids about 5, 6 and 7 years-old. They just say what I want them to say on a song!
Ha! You love fashion and had your own t-shirt line, but what are your other current passions?
Right now I’m into geography. Learning where places are, because I didn’t pay attention in school. I was at my desk, drawing and writing business plans and shit, like “I want to drop this shirt and make this collection.”
Speaking of geography, have you travelled much with your music?
My music has travelled a lot, but I’m still small right now. I’ve been to Paris, Jamaica, Dominican Republic. I want to go to Jersey. It’s a UK Crown Dependency right?
I wanna go, bro.
They filmed a TV show there called Bergerac. You heard of that?
Yeah, he was a detective who drove around the island in a Jag.
Shit, we have to go! I wanna record my self-titled album there. It’s interesting to me.
How so? Because Shiv [manager] lives in New Jersey, so I’m like, “Shit, this is Jersey! We have to go there!”
I hear you used to want to be Donald Trump.
Yeah, I used to have The Wealth Builder’s Blueprint. My mother was like, “You made me order that!?” It was like $200. It was a big ass box of videos of his life and shit. I was 13 or 14 when I ordered that.
What are you trying to get across with your work?
It’s not about me. I’ll make a song for someone. I’ll see someone in a restaurant, I’ll see a mood and I’ll think I want to make a song so they hear it. The feeling drives the music. My feeling, your feeling, his feeling, her feeling. I write my best stuff in a minute.
How do you get inspired?
Sometimes I be chilling, but sometimes I make myself feel low, knock myself out, belittle myself, then I write the best shit. That’s why I’m not worried about what anyone else has to say about me. Like, “Dominic you’re nothing, then booom!” I don’t believe I’m nothing. Everyone’s something. We’re all alike and no-one’s better than no-one. That’s it. That’s how I spark the creative.
I see you and Riccardo Tisci have been hanging out. I see you’re wearing his Nike collaboration trainers too!
Yeah, he’s really cool. I’m a fan of him. He invited me to the show in Paris and he gave me some stuff. Riccardo is my nigga - just say that!
How about you and Jay-Z?
That was just a spur of the moment picture. He was like, “Yo, don’t be drinking that Cristal!” If I meet him now, he probably won’t remember me. That’s Jay Z. He don’t even have the dash in his name no more!
Which artist do you think is really spot-on at the moment?
Kanye does it. It’s his game. He’s like, “Alright, I’ll do it again.” The album went over some people’s heads, because it intimidates them, it reminds them of their flaws. But I’m not like that – I’m like “Yo, that shit is epic.” I just wish he’d put three more songs on it.
Tell us more about the new music.
The new single Big King is setting things off for the Over World mixtape that’s coming out. Then I’ll be releasing an album for it. I’m taking my time because when an artist releases a big song, they then start to release a lot of shit, because they’re hype. You’re just trying to force something. I went through that, but I’m not like that now. This new song is really hardcore and the beat is so dope.
J Cole said the same to me: that after a couple of big tracks, he tried to force things and started to make some bad music. It was only when he relaxed that things started to flow.
Big ups to J Cole though – I really like his stuff. That’s true and I think that’s dope he says that too.
I noticed that the people at Vogue are big fans of yours!
Jill Demling at Vogue and she said, “You know what Dominic? The reason I like you is that you just do you. You don’t show off and do a bunch of stuff.” I’m not worried about not making it. I’m worried about making the right material. Not just because I want to be this big rap artist, but because I’m a person who likes to share messages. I’m just a messenger of God, you know. I’m just doing my part, man.