Terry Kennedy: Getting Down To Business

Terry Kennedy might be the hardest working am out there. The whole time we sat down for dinner, his rants consisted of two things: skateboarding and being upset that he wasn’t physically doing it while we were doing this interview, and being perplexed that people in his ’hood aren’t buying houses and fixing them up to sell for a massive profit–something that he plans on doing in the near future. Whether it’s skateboarding, acting, or just using his street smarts, Terry Kennedy is going to beat the odds and make it–and make it legitimately.

How did a kid with nothing find skateboarding–something that can cost more money than hardcore chilling and looking good in the ’hood?

This is how that started–I look at it like this: I wasn’t raised around it, but I had seen people who skated. And they had just as much stuff as people who did other (illegal) stuff. I was like, “Damn, I can go this route, or I can go that route.” I can still get as much as the person who’s doing wrong. I thought skateboarding was kind of corny at first, too, ’cause dudes would be on my head laughing at me. I was like, “Forget it.” But my grandmother always told me to go the straight route.

What made me pick up my skateboard was it was a cool thing to do. It was mellow–nobody was sitting there trying to teach you how to do it. You didn’t have to go to school to do it. It was straight off the block, just like you were buying it straight off the block.

When you first came out I honestly thought you were just another dude who jumped down handrails, maybe luckily rode away to a surprised self. Did you feel you deserved to be sponsored when you first did get sponsored?

(Laughs) Hell nah. I thought it was a joke. And it was a joke to me. There was just somebody I knew who was sponsored that I used to kick it with, and he was just like, “F–k it, we’re gonna put this kid on.” I was just like, “Damn, really?”

But sometimes in the back of my head, I think they knew I had potential, ’cause they would take me real serious at points. I would get down on myself like, “Dude, I don’t even know why I’m sponsored.” They would pump me up, hype me up. When I first started, it was just coincidence. Ever since then I just ran with it.

Was there a time that hit you where you really said, “Damn, I’m good at this skateboarding thing”?

Nah–ain’t no point where I think I’m really good. I just try to skate. I just try and take care of biz. Try to eat. That’s it. I look at it as a job, but at the same time, it’s just fun. I try to take care of it–take it one day at a time and try to do it big.

Was that your main motivation to start skateboarding, just to get something out of it as opposed to doing it for fun?

I ain’t even gonna front. It was to get something out of it. I used to see kids who were sponsored, and they used to have brand-new stuff on all the time. I was like, “Damn, how’d you get that?” “Oh, I’m sponsored.”

That just made it look better. Like when you see a rapper. If you rap, you get all the outside stuff–you get the clothes, you get the jewelry, you get to travel. So that always made it better.

At the end of the day it was something to do, and it was always fun. At the end of the day you’d be like, “Damn, I ain’t got nothing to do. I’m bored, let’s go hit the skatepark. Let’s chill and kick it.”–just somewhere to get away. Plus I stayed in the ’hood, so I was always trying to get away from my house. I would go skate, try to get away, and not try and come back ’til the next day. I’d be out skating all night.

Who influences what you do on your skateboa?

Man, I’d have to say Andrew Reynolds, because he’s seriously no joke. He won’t stop. He won’t give it up. I just had a conversation with him the other day like, “Hey, you think you might retire?” He seriously gave me the craziest look, like I was askin’ to drive his Cadillac or something–just looked at me like, “Nah, it’s not happenin’ at all.” That dude’s so motivated. I love him. He’s sick.

Do you think being a part of a television show like Viva La Bam detracts from your persona as someone who has the potential to be a legitimate skateboard pro?

Yeah, I see it, too. I look at it like, any day I’d rather go work on the show than go jump down something. Even though skateboarding is what I really want a lot … I want to be a professional skateboarder and for kids to be like, “Yeah, I bought your board.” But I can’t even front, it’s so much easier and so much more fun to just be yourself. At the same time, I mean, I skateboard the same. Skateboarding’s the same, it’s just that there’s so much on the other side of it.

Where did the “Compton Ass Terry” thing come from if you’re from Long Beach? Was that an MTV exec’s idea?

Yeah, you know. They look at Long Beach like it’s tough, but it ain’t like NWA-Compton-cop-killer tough. I guess they chopped it up and thought about it like, “Yeah, we’re gonna call him Compton Ass Terry.” I was like, “Damn, shhh … I guess.” As long as I get the check at the end of the day, I can be Hootie And The Blow. I ain’t trippin’.

How often do you get recognized in public now that the Bam show came out?

It’s always the random stragglers–people who know nothing about skating. I get recognized more off that than skating my whole life, period. It’s crazy, but it’s always random dudes.

When did you take the 501s off?

Yeah, I used to run 501s real tough, the Levi’s. I got off that stage and started bustin’ my little Sean Jizzle, all that type of stuff. But I’m Elemented out right now. I ain’t player hatin’.

How is life as a black man in TNTs?

It’s pretty crazy. People look at me, and they’re like, “Damn, what’s those?” ’Cause they also look like Jordans. Kids on my block look at ’em like, “Damn, them new Jordans?” “Nah, these Vans.” Damn. I don’t know, but he (Tony Trujillo) struck a goldmine. He designed a good-ass shoe–crazy-ass colors and stuff.

Have all the kids in your neighborhood traded in their Air Force Ones for Vans?

All day. Not traded in, but they’re just raping their parents’ pockets. They want the Jordans that cost 150 dollars when you could have two pair of Vans for that. But on top of that they also want some Vans. That’s like an extra 60 dollars. It’s like over 200 dollars in shoes. What kills me is that people love the Old Skools. It’s funny, though.

When you go pro, will you feel you have deserved it even without having put out a full video part?

I don’t know if I deserve it, but I’m not the one that makes the decisions at the end of the day. All I can do is go out there and skate. If someone looks at me like I’ve got the potential and skill to go to that next step, I’m not gonna go against that. All I can do is put out–make sure I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.

When I was doing some research for this interview, I saw a photo of you among a bunch of other pros, and someone captioned it, “Good skater, good skater, good skater, what the hell is Terry Kennedy doing in there?” Are there a lot of TK haters out there? What do you have to tell them?

Dayum, they’re trying to come at TK like that? Dayum! I don’t knock the next person, ’cause everybody’s got their opinions. Some may feel I’m not (able and ready to be pro), but there’re a lot of kids out there who feel I should. Do it big, keep it going, ’cause I’m not gonna hate on that person. If you can’t respect a man with millions, you ain’t never gonna have millions. That’s how I look at it. That’s it and that’s all. Live it up.

What are people going to be surprised to see you do when your first major video part finally drops?

There’s gonna be some hams, man, really going down–on a serious tip. I’m talking about 21-stair kinks all through it, just sticking it out! There’s gonna be some real stuff going down ’cause I’ve had enough time to be out here and skate. I’m seriously gonna give it everything I’ve got. It’s to the point where I’m gonna be doing tricks I know I can’t do just to put it out there. For sure, though.

Is skateboarding only about hammers to you?

It’s not just about hammers, but I feel like you gotta cater to a certain community. Kids love ledges and all that other stuff. When you do hammers you’re gonna attract everybody’s attention. That’s what people look for, “Damn, what’d he do? He kickflipped twenty?” That’s all I’m going after, the crowd chaser. Just to have people like, “Damn, he did that at two o’clock in the morning?” That’s all it’s about to me. I’m not hating on nothing else, I’m just trying to go for the pleaser.

How many days a week do you skate?

I skate every single day, dude, real tall. I would be skating now, but I’m doing this (interview). I have nothing to do at home. The community I stay in, I’m always trying to get away. Otherwise, somebody see me like, “Oh that’s that shit, that’s Terry,” trying to get on me, so I just try to go to the skatepark for as long as possible. It gets to the point, when I get back on the block, ain’t nobody outside. I just walk in my house all comfortably like, “All right, everything’s straight.”

Would you say you’re pretty tight with your teammates?

Oh yeah, I love all my teammates. They cool. I’m down for them, and they’re down for me. All I can do is just break it off and come through and make all of us look good as much as they make the rest of us look good. Hold it down.

What did you think when you heard Mike V. was your new teammate?

I was like, “I can talk extra bullshit now,” ’cause I got Kenny Hughes, I got (Ryan) Kingman, and now I got Mike V. Any contest I go to anywhere now, it’s like, who’s gonna run up on me and say something? I don’t think nobody. You better duck your head or something.

And those guys won’t hold anything back.

Exactly. I’m younger anyway, so they’re looking at me like I’m a little-ass kid. I’m only eighteen. They looking (at anyone messing with me) like, “Leave that little kid alone, or I’m gonna have to get up in there.” I don’t think you wanna one-up on the Element squad.

How important is it for you to be the first person to do a certain trick a certain spot?

It’s gotta be. When people do Suski grinds or Kevin Taylor grinds, those are the tricks that are gonna be named that forever and ever. I love that. I always try to go to a spot with something new. That’s why I mainly try to do a lot of fakie stuff, ’cause nobody really does it. I want people to be like, “Damn, that’s TK–fakie ollie switch crooks.” You know what I’m sayin’? When’s the last time yem?

Dayum, they’re trying to come at TK like that? Dayum! I don’t knock the next person, ’cause everybody’s got their opinions. Some may feel I’m not (able and ready to be pro), but there’re a lot of kids out there who feel I should. Do it big, keep it going, ’cause I’m not gonna hate on that person. If you can’t respect a man with millions, you ain’t never gonna have millions. That’s how I look at it. That’s it and that’s all. Live it up.

What are people going to be surprised to see you do when your first major video part finally drops?

There’s gonna be some hams, man, really going down–on a serious tip. I’m talking about 21-stair kinks all through it, just sticking it out! There’s gonna be some real stuff going down ’cause I’ve had enough time to be out here and skate. I’m seriously gonna give it everything I’ve got. It’s to the point where I’m gonna be doing tricks I know I can’t do just to put it out there. For sure, though.

Is skateboarding only about hammers to you?

It’s not just about hammers, but I feel like you gotta cater to a certain community. Kids love ledges and all that other stuff. When you do hammers you’re gonna attract everybody’s attention. That’s what people look for, “Damn, what’d he do? He kickflipped twenty?” That’s all I’m going after, the crowd chaser. Just to have people like, “Damn, he did that at two o’clock in the morning?” That’s all it’s about to me. I’m not hating on nothing else, I’m just trying to go for the pleaser.

How many days a week do you skate?

I skate every single day, dude, real tall. I would be skating now, but I’m doing this (interview). I have nothing to do at home. The community I stay in, I’m always trying to get away. Otherwise, somebody see me like, “Oh that’s that shit, that’s Terry,” trying to get on me, so I just try to go to the skatepark for as long as possible. It gets to the point, when I get back on the block, ain’t nobody outside. I just walk in my house all comfortably like, “All right, everything’s straight.”

Would you say you’re pretty tight with your teammates?

Oh yeah, I love all my teammates. They cool. I’m down for them, and they’re down for me. All I can do is just break it off and come through and make all of us look good as much as they make the rest of us look good. Hold it down.

What did you think when you heard Mike V. was your new teammate?

I was like, “I can talk extra bullshit now,” ’cause I got Kenny Hughes, I got (Ryan) Kingman, and now I got Mike V. Any contest I go to anywhere now, it’s like, who’s gonna run up on me and say something? I don’t think nobody. You better duck your head or something.

And those guys won’t hold anything back.

Exactly. I’m younger anyway, so they’re looking at me like I’m a little-ass kid. I’m only eighteen. They looking (at anyone messing with me) like, “Leave that little kid alone, or I’m gonna have to get up in there.” I don’t think you wanna one-up on the Element squad.

How important is it for you to be the first person to do a certain trick a certain spot?

It’s gotta be. When people do Suski grinds or Kevin Taylor grinds, those are the tricks that are gonna be named that forever and ever. I love that. I always try to go to a spot with something new. That’s why I mainly try to do a lot of fakie stuff, ’cause nobody really does it. I want people to be like, “Damn, that’s TK–fakie ollie switch crooks.” You know what I’m sayin’? When’s the last time you seen that really go down by somebody? People do nollie, but fakie’s a whole other ball game. People really look at stuff like that.

I’ve seen you stand up for people you didn’t even know. What will you fight for?

I’m down to help anybody. I’m a cool person. I’m down to just try and make it happen. If that person’s cool with me, I’m cool with them. If you want to take it there, we can take it there. But you know, I’m down to stand up for a lot of dudes. I always stay fired up and amped. Don’t run up on me with the violence.

Who’s holding you down?

A lot of stuff holds me down. I feel like I ain’t getting the respect I deserve. I ain’t gonna put nobody’s name on the mixtapes or nothing, but I feel like I deserve respect from a lot of people ’cause I’m out here working my hardest. I’m really out here grinding. I still go through a lot of stuff at home. People don’t cut me no slack no matter what it is. All I can do is suck it up and keep on moving.

You’ve come from a rough neighborhood, this has all obviously been an uphill battle. Is it safe to say skateboarding saved your life?

Yeah, but I keep doing idiot things. Every time I make enough change to move, I always stay. I could have made the smart decisions so many times, but I just thug it out. I’m still in the same spot I grew up in my whole life. It’s rough. When you come from a rough neighborhood, they hate to see the next person doing good like, “Who this nigga think he is?” I don’t let stuff get to me. They know where I’m from and they know where I stay.

What are your future plans if this skateboarding thing does or doesn’t work out?

I look at it like this. Whatever somebody’s got planned for me–for my next couple years or whatever–all I can do is run with it, see what happens ’til the wheels fall off. Hopefully I’ll be doing some positive stuff, if this doesn’t work out. I’m not trying to be involved in nothing bad, I’m not trying to be in jail or nothing crazy like that. If it does work out, all I can do is stock my little change away and wait for a rainy day.

Any last words?

All I can tell people is don’t let nobody bring you down. Hold your head up. Whatever you want to do, do it. I look at myself like … I came from nothing, seriously nothing. There’s always stuff out there to be done. If you want to be a skater and it’s not working out, there’s always something else. You got talent. Always. Hold your head up, thug it out. Just hope for the best. Always.

me you seen that really go down by somebody? People do nollie, but fakie’s a whole other ball game. People really look at stuff like that.

I’ve seen you stand up for people you didn’t even know. What will you fight for?

I’m down to help anybody. I’m a cool person. I’m down to just try and make it happen. If that person’s cool with me, I’m cool with them. If you want to take it there, we can take it there. But you know, I’m down to stand up for a lot of dudes. I always stay fired up and amped. Don’t run up on me with the violence.

Who’s holding you down?

A lot of stuff holds me down. I feel like I ain’t getting the respect I deserve. I ain’t gonna put nobody’s name on the mixtapes or nothing, but I feel like I deserve respect from a lot of people ’cause I’m out here working my hardest. I’m really out here grinding. I still go through a lot of stuff at home. People don’t cut me no slack no matter what it is. All I can do is suck it up and keep on moving.

You’ve come from a rough neighborhood, this has all obviously been an uphill battle. Is it safe to say skateboarding saved your life?

Yeah, but I keep doing idiot things. Every time I make enough change to move, I always stay. I could have made the smart decisions so many times, but I just thug it out. I’m still in the same spot I grew up in my whole life. It’s rough. When you come from a rough neighborhood, they hate to see the next person doing good like, “Who this nigga think he is?” I don’t let stuff get to me. They know where I’m from and they know where I stay.

What are your future plans if this skateboarding thing does or doesn’t work out?

I look at it like this. Whatever somebody’s got planned for me–for my next couple years or whatever–all I can do is run with it, see what happens ’til the wheels fall off. Hopefully I’ll be doing some positive stuff, if this doesn’t work out. I’m not trying to be involved in nothing bad, I’m not trying to be in jail or nothing crazy like that. If it does work out, all I can do is stock my little change away and wait for a rainy day.

Any last words?

All I can tell people is don’t let nobody bring you down. Hold your head up. Whatever you want to do, do it. I look at myself like … I came from nothing, seriously nothing. There’s always stuff out there to be done. If you want to be a skater and it’s not working out, there’s always something else. You got talent. Always. Hold your head up, thug it out. Just hope for the best. Always.