‘I just woke up and was ready to have a shitty Monday’
That particular Monday, Allan Kingdom was nominated for two Grammys (Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance) for his participation on Kanye West’s hit song ‘All Day’ and its infamous performance at the BRIT awards. ‘The energy at the BRITS was so crazy because it was so organic. Most of the people on stage were not planned. I got there and we didn’t even know if we were gonna be performing cos the set didn’t look how Kanye wanted to look, so we didn’t know. The energy was very, on-edge. Because of all of those factors, all of the variables and all of those things that could’ve gone wrong but didn’t, everything just happened the right way’. While a lot of people have focused on the Minnesota artist due to his collaborative efforts, 2016 has already proven to be a highlight year for Kingdom, who released his second project entitled Northern Lights on January 6th, his birthday.
‘It’s been dope [The feedback from Northern Lights]. It’s such a gratifying feeling when you put something out and people love it as much as you do.’ Kingdom released the album for free on his website, with only little notice on his incredibly active twitter account ‘I just did that because I felt like it was the right time. Because everything’s been moving very rapidly from All Day to the BRIT awards, just how the game was moving and the stage of my career that I’m at, I just wanted to make sure it was the right time and the right day. I wanted to make sure that everything had meaning that’s why I dropped it like that.’ ‘It’s what I love to do, the only thing I could ask for is for people to share my passion with me so dropping it on my birthday was like the best for me personally cos that was like the greatest gift.’ Not only did he gift his loyal fans with a musical masterpiece, but he also hosted his own birthday party sending an open invite via social media to his fans too ‘The party was wild. The whole city came out. We told people about it only four days beforehand. There was a line down the corner, it was -3 farenheit out but there was so much love in the building.’
Northern Lights contains four tracks which feature different artists (D.R.A.M, Chronixx, Gloss Gang and Jared Evan), all of whom provide their own distinctive atmospheres to the notably atmospheric collection ‘I always feel like when I collab with artists, I’m adding a certain feeling that I add, whether it be my song or theirs, because when you collab with people you have to compromise, my favourite collabs are 50/50, when two worlds meet’. At the same time,the mixtape certainly showcases Kingdom’s own masterful control of tempo through his distinctive voice ‘I feel like it’s because when I started making music, I would write and produce at the same time. I’d write a song and build the beat around my voice, or what I was saying. I always felt like at the end of the day, what you’re saying is what’s timeless, sounds get old and certain styles of production and tempos get old, but what the person is saying always remains timeless. Artists can always take that and be inspired by it. People can always take it and flip and take one of the lines you said back in the day, and use it for a hook in the future, as long as you’re actually speaking to people your art is timeless, even if the instruments sound old or the style might sound old, if what you’re saying is something that people can always relate to, then that’s really important me.’
Coming from Minnesota, a place known moreso for its hockey and cold weather rather than budding Hip-Hop stars, however Kingdom has embraced the cool and humble surroundings ‘I think it gives me such a unique perspective on everything. I come here and there’s so much swag and so much love. Even though we have the biggest mall in America, I go to the mall and I feel like I’m at home. I can always come back here and have that respect and love from the kids, we support each other and it’s an artistic community. I think it gives me that small town charm almost, even though it’s not that small‘ Having such a unique style, both lyrically and stylishly while coming from a place alien to Hip-Hop culture, bares with it its own hostilities within the industry, which Kingdom inadvertently replied to on the track Interruption ‘I feel like with me it’s a bit different. People are a little more civil these days. When you’re being slept on or not given a certain opportunity or when somebody plays you, you know what they think about you just through their actions. That song was for the people that might not have been out right like fuck you Allan, but like with their actions and how they treated me, that was the message I got from that. That song is just to let people know that I’m conscious of it. I don’t act out of anger, I just chose to turn the other cheek.’
‘There was never a point where I was like OK I have to start, I was always a musical kid, I always wanted to be in bands, I was in choir I played the saxophone, I naturally took an interest in it and never stopped’ Not only did he show a keen passion for music and a varying palette in terms of inspiration and interests,’My mother’s from Tanzania and she brought me to church a lot when I was younger so gospel music, Hip-Hop came later when I was like twelve or thirteen, just a variety of things. I just like finding new stuff, it’s a hobby of mine’ he also described an incredibly perceptive view on grime music’s growing popularity in the United States (which made me question whether he should be the one writing The Ankle Breaker), ‘I talked to Skepta after we performed because All Day wasn’t done. We took some vocals from the live performance and put them in the song. We just got to kick game about certain shit and I got to learn about the London grime scene. Section Boyz are so dope, they’re probably my favourite’ ‘ I feel like grime’s always been ahead. Now when you listen to it, it’s not like the London production got more American, it’s moreso that American production/Hip-Hop got more like grime. The production really brought everyone together. The beats were so different in the beginning, I feel like people over here didn’t really understand that, but the more that people over here got into electronic and other influences that people in London had already been on, then the sounds came together. It’s like we’re speaking the same language.’
What sets Kingdom apart from the rest, away from the music, is his relationship with his fans. Known for his interactive twitter ‘I think that everyone’s favourite artist is someone they wanna chill with, they might not even have the best lyrics or punchlines, but there’s something about them. I think that’s what art does, it connects people and it brings you into other people’s worlds and I think twitter and social media is another way to do that. I look at it as a way to express myself’ His interactive nature however has brought about some questionable fan behaviour ‘I’ve had some funny ones [interactions with fans] *long pause* there’s so many, people do crazy things all the time. You’d be in the bathroom taking a piss and someone will run up and try shake your hand! People do weird things!’ ‘But like in Chicago one time there was this girl who made me a custom backpack, it was like my logo that’s on the Northern Lights cover as a backpack, must’ve taken weeks to make‘ he has also reached out to fans in the locality to help give them guidance or inspire them ‘Sometimes I just pop up. If there’s a kid who’s a musician I’ll just pop up at one of his shows. I just try to do little things to let people know that I care.’
Overall, Allan Kingdom stood out as incredibly humble and definitely has a career as a music critic in the future if he gets sick of producing quality individual music. He came across as an overwhelmingly perceptive person and although was in large part lighthearted, he has had poignant moments that have made him really see the effect of his creative work ‘As an artist, you never know what your music means to somebody. You don’t know what moment they were listening to you at. Only they know that. You just know how you made it. I was at a diner and a girl, like 14/15, said “your last project got me through treatment.” It’s stuff like that I would never have thought of, I’m just expressing myself, there’s no way you can factor all of those things when you write a song.’
Kanye gave him a platform that opened the world’s ears to an unforgettable voice, but he now has both feet firmly on the next step on the stairway to success, with Northern Lights setting the upbeat tone to what will be a monumental year for the Northern Star of modern Hip-Hop, Allan Kingdom.