If Allan Kingdom could have made himself fit in when he was younger he would have. But he didn’t, and that’s not a bad thing.
“Who wants to fit in now, anyways” I replied. We’re backstage at East London’s Birthday’s and Allan is getting ready for his debut Arrival. Having first came across Allan Kingdom back in 2014 when he released his project ‘Future Memoirs’ and his work with Spooky Black and thestand4rd back in July 2014. His unique blend of bouncy, eccentric, mystique hip-hop appealed to me; it was different. With just the right balance of blow-hard rapper and quirky and futuristic, but not disingenuous.
Fast forward to 2016, and Allan Kingdom is getting himself to perform in my hometown for the second time. “Everything’s so varied to me” he adds. Vocally and stylistically, Allan Kingdom is varied. He’s one of hip-hops outliers. He flips cadence on its head, he bursts into interjections of melodies before bursting into full out blow hard-man rap. “A lot of people choose one thing to identify with and I never chose one thing, I just go with different styles… When it comes to how I dress… How I speak or feel… It’s like that with everything”. Donning a pinstriped white and baby blue overalls, both audibly and aesthetically Allan Kingdom doesn’t fit in the cliche rapper frame. The son of a Tanzanian mother and South African father, Allan Kyariga was born in Canada, before settling in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A fan of early Cudi and Ye, Allan Kingdom started working with Plain Pat and Jon Kaslow after he made ‘Thirsty’ back in 2013. Speaking in his raspy voice, Allan explains: “One day I’ll feel like this, one day I’ll feel like that. One day I’ll hang out with those kids, the next day a different set… [laughs] I don’t discriminate and naturally as humans that’s what we do.. I guess that’s what it is“.
Fast forward to 2016, and Allan Kingdom has already had his famed performance at the 2015 Brit Awards alongside Kanye West for ‘All Day’ and nominated for Grammy’s for the same song. Releasing his latest project ‘Northern Lights’ on his birthday, the 13 track project, was part self exec-produced alongside Plain Pat and Jon Kaslow. With cuts featuring D.R.A.M, Jared Evan and Chronixx, who he recently wrapped a video shoot with in Jamaica. Allan has this infectiously relatable energy. He’s filled with a sense of curiosity and intrigue, in things other than himself, that makes him likeable. “I’m learning new shit daily”, Allan explains, smiling, opening a bottle. “Flying from Jamaica then coming here…One thing I noticed was the grime raps has a Caribbean influence”. Maybe it’s the fact that Allan has a direct connection with his heritage that makes him slice a piece of culture into his music and style. “I relate more with hearing the influence, because that’s what I grew up with…. it just seems to come out naturally – I don’t try to… when I started making music, people would always ask where was I from, initially I didn’t even realise I was doing it, but I guess I had some sort of influence from my parents”.
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Allan’s curiosity and thoughtfulness extends further than his own music. Listening to UK acts like Skepta and Stormzy, Allan’s ears are like a sponge, soaking up everything he hears. “I was listening to the radio heavy out here… Everywhere I go, I listen to music, I’m not necessarily concentrating on the music or who it is. I just like listening to the song. sometimes I just want raw influence – without looking up the song or who it’s by – I’m learning everyday and I love that”. One thing I always find common when listening to UK and US artists is the influence of their heritage in their music, acts like J Hus, directly channel and celebrate their heritage in their music. Allan’s ears are attune to this; “identifying with being black in America and the US is different from the UK. I think because being black in the US, people don’t always know where they came from, so it’s a unifying thing for people to say they’re black. But over here [London] I guess, from what I’ve seen, it’s more unifying to be like yep – this is where I’m from!”
Having now formed his own label, So Cold Records, Allan Kingdom has already started to do one of the things he’s always wanted to do, he’s creating and fine tuning the craft. Since first listening to Allan Kingdom back in 2014, one things clear; he’s remained consisted and continued to get better. He hasn’t switched it up and started following the masses, he’s stuck to his sound and doing what he continues to do best. In an era where artists most artists release their music for free, it’s like the hustle of a musician has changed, from when album sales would line the pocket. Allan laughs: “When you put in effort it pays you back in general – especially these days in music. If the people want it, they’ll want it. I think it’s going back to musicians having to actually going out to work and perform. I just want people to hear my music… When I get to a point where people want to hear and I can charge them… Of course I’m going to charge them… I love the art and shit – but I gotta pay bills! But at this point, I just want people to hear it, because I think people will enjoy it.. All in good time [laughs] Imma start releasing 60 dollar albums and shit – no not even dollars – 60 pounds man!”
After a good 20 minutes of discussing UK music and his projects, our time’s coming to a close, Allan’s got a show to do. Before I leave, he adds: “I hope to drop another project by the end of the year.. but sometimes people are late…” Who’s late? “Listeners! Like people take a while to get in sync. With his thoughtfullness and undeniable sense of curiosirty and youth oozing through he adds: “I might drop something at the start of the year, and people might only just hear it now! It really is just me putting out music. So at the same time I do just want, and make sure I give it time for people to jump on to the craft”.
And on that note, it’s probably time you jumped on the craft if you haven’t already, check out Northern Lights below and previous conversations with Allan Kingdom.