Allan Kingdom: “Don’t Sugarcoat Anything”
The making of “Blast” sums up Allan Kingdom’s artistic career so far to a T.
Picture this: It’s a beautiful fall day in St. Paul, Minneapolis. It’s Kingdom’s hometown. He’s due to perform one of his first-ever headlining shows, and at the last minute, fans rush the outdoor stage chanting his lyrics. He kills the set. He wakes up the next morning not sure what happened, but recognizes the energy exuding from his flesh. If he didn’t know better, he’d guess he was about to sprout wings. It’s on. He tells his homie to drive him to the studio immediately, because he absolutely has to channel this energy into something. That turns out to be “Blast,” his latest Plain Pat-assisted banger.
“I see my palette becoming more diverse,” says Kingdom of his latest music. “I party a lot more now. I didn’t used to party, so I only had a specific type of music.”
Kingdom, whose follow-up to Future Memoirs drops soon, says he’s much more contemplative about his music than he used to be, having recorded spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness raps for most of his career up to this point.
“After meeting kids who are like, ‘Yo, this helped me get through rehab,’ it just touches you in a certain way, where you’re like, ‘OK, let me just put a little more thought into what I’m saying,” he says.
He couldn’t be in a better environment to do just that, after linking with fellow St. Paul artists on the come-up Bobby Raps, Psymun, and Corbin (formerly known as Spooky Black), just this past summer. Together they make up The Stand4rd, an “alternative” hip-hop project with touches of R‘n’B and soul. Kingdom is also fortunate enough to have his idol's mentor as someone who currently makes all of the executive decisions for his music, Plain Pat.
Kingdom says of Plain Pat's influence on his music: “One of the main things he taught me is to just be clear, let your message be clear, don’t sugarcoat anything.”
If the name rings a bell, it’s because Kid Cudi gives a shout out to his former long-time mentor Plain Pat in the first couple seconds of “The Funeral,” one of the songs on his mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, which Kingdom identifies as one of his biggest influences growing up, along with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.
The story goes, when Kingdom was around 17 he made friends with some of Plain Pat’s friends on Twitter, until it became possible to connect with him personally. He then begged his mom to pay for a trip out to New York, after Pat complimented his production chops as being “intimidating,” seeing as he was still in high school at the time. That led to him meeting Cudi’s entire (former) team from the days of that mixtape and Man on the Moon: The End of Day.
“I was like, to my mom, ‘This is really important to me. I don’t even need a car or anything,’” remembers Kingdom. “So I went out there and got to meet him in the studio with Emile and DJ Kaslow and I was playing ‘Uvaje’d’ for them and they were like, ‘Wow, that’s wild.’”
Before that trip, Kingdom recorded a lot in his mother’s-pastor’s-son’s home studio, where he polished some of his recording skills. As far back as age nine or 10, Kingdom recorded songs with his mom in a studio on top of their church, releases for which his mom and uncle created album art of a young Kingdom in the children’s museum. During those early sessions his mom routinely made him swap his lyrics for Christian ones, even though she recognized his gift—along with his caretakers—and encouraged him from the day he began crooning harmonies overtop of songs on the car radio. Even when his mother put a stop to that, he picked up poetry, then quite naturally fell into hip-hop when he was exposed to it in 3rd grade.
“As a child, I always thought of it as my career,” says Kingdom. “I never wanted to do anything else. When I was like five or six I said I wanted to be like a fireman or an astronaut, but I only really wanted to be a musician.”
Listen to Allan Kingdom's newly released song "Glass Up" and check out his Closed Sessions documentary by Andrew Zieter for a behind the scenes look at Kingdom's creative process.
Images: Jason Swenson, Colin Michael Simmons