The day of the BRIT Awards, Allan Kingdom hopped on a flight to London...but not before changing his number. Within a few hours he'd be on stage next to Kanye West, Theophilus London, and a ton of U.K.-based artists including Skepta. And flamethrowers. Lots of flamethrowers. The number switch was a necessary precaution for the St. Paul, Minn., rapper to take, knowing that his life would change after the performance of "All Day."
Months back, he hit up a session with West at an undisclosed location while West was working on his forthcoming album, So Help Me God. It wasn't until he was at the awards' dress rehearsal that he finally heard his chorus on the track. It's only the beginning for one of the most promising up-and-comers in the game. After working with Plain Pat and Jonathan Kaslow for the last few years, Kingdom put out a stunning EP titled Future Memoirs last June. His eccentricities have played a strong hand in his success, as well as his uncanny ability to write, produce, and work with some of the best new artists in the game (the Stand4rd, included, of course).
We caught up with Kingdom when he touched down after his week and a half overseas to hear about the "All Day" collaboration, those damn flamethrowers, and where he sees his career going in the next few months.
Lauren Nostro is the news editor at Complex Music. Follow her @laurennostro.
Ready for the golden question—how did you link up with Kanye West?
Pat, his team and whatnot, it wasn’t even like my music was pushed onto him. [It was all] naturally, through growing, and me putting out projects and Pat being close to him and hearing about me. They had a session, and I just got a phone call to go, and so I went and we were chilling, and I just showed him my music. It was super nerve-racking obviously.
Where was the session?
I can’t say, but I hope one day I can because it would be cooler if I could.
What was going through your head?
I didn’t even know if I was awake, you know what I mean? As a performer you just learn how to control it, but I was super anxious. We finally met, and I think his people had put him on to the Stand4d earlier, about a year before I met him and Spooky Black and everything that was happening over here. We finally met and he asked what I had to play and so I played him my music, and when I saw that Pat was nervous, that made me more nervous.
I had a whole playlist on my computer that was unreleased music, and I didn’t know how he was going to react because people were playing him stuff before and he was like, “Nah.” I was up next to play him stuff, and he was like, “This is dope.” I just kept playing him music. I stayed at the studio for as long as they were there. That was like the icebreaker, playing music and showing him who I was, as an artist. Everything after that was pretty chill.
Did you know about"All Day" before you were even on it, because of all the leaks?
I knew about the song. I didn’t listen to any of the leaked versions because I wouldn’t want anyone to listen to a leaked version of my song. I had heard some rough cuts. I never imagined that I was going to be on the song. That would have never crossed my head.
I never imagined that I was going to be on the song. That would have never crossed my head.
So, why that song?
He obviously knows his vision, and the picture he wants to paint, and I guess my voice fits what he wanted to paint on that song. I wrote my part and hopped on it. In my head, I noticed that when I was playing my music, something that he referred to was the more abstract stuff. The chorus was just a piece of a larger story that I had written. It was like a prayer, a whole prayer-song thing that I wrote, and he liked that one piece for that song. At the time, it was how I felt. I just wrote that. I didn’t think it was going to be the hook, I thought it was going to be a section of the song. I didn’t know it was going to be repeated. There’s a lot going on in the song, but I’m just on the hook.
Did you end up meeting Sir Paul McCartney?
No, I haven’t met him. I knew he was on it, but I didn’t hear the final version until I was about to perform it. I hadn’t even heard me on the song since I left the studio, which was last year in the fall...until I was in London.
When did you get the call to go over there?
Two nights before, they told me I needed to be there that night. Obviously, that wasn’t possible, but I got there the day of. Everything happened so fast. Met Theophilus London for the first time outside of the hotel. We took a van to the venue, had a rehearsal, and that was it. He put together that show, just like that. Really quick. He had Theophilus call up Skepta and say, “Bring all your boys. We need you all to come. Bring everyone.”
Those flamethrowers were pretty crazy...
—They had me hold one at the rehearsal, and they were like super heavy. That was the first thing that I saw during the dress rehearsal. Nothing else was set up, and not everyone was there. He just knew he wanted to use flamethrowers.
That kicked off your little Euro trip. What else were you doing out there?
I was mostly in the studio. I was working on whatever needed to be worked on for the album and whatnot and working on my own.
Will you be on Kanye's album outside of "All Day?"
I actually don’t know. It’s a possibility that I might. I didn’t even know about "All Day" after I left the studio session.
Did you know that 100 people worked on the song?
I knew like one or two. I think the misconception that people have is that 100 people are sitting in the room. I think it’s more inspiration purposes. If I have my homie in the room and we’re having a discussion, and part of my discussion ends up in that song then I’ll give him credit for it. At the end of the day, it’s Kanye West’s song.
It’s like working with another creative person. I think that’s the thing people should realize. When you’re a natural-born creative all of you guys speak the same language. It’s like dancing with somebody and you guys just speak the same form of movement. You guys think artistically the same, not the same, but you move on the same wavelength. It’s not anything too crazy, it’s making and creating. At the end of the day, it makes you better because you’re more confident in yourself. You’re able to stand next to somebody you really look up to, like an idol, someone you consider a genius and creating with them. That’s how it makes you better.
Nothing else was set up, and not everyone was there. He just knew he wanted to use flamethrowers.
Any fun stories from your time over there?
The first time I heard people chant my name was in a British accent. That’s not how I imagined it, I imagined it before but not like that. It was really weird, and it was outside the hotel. This group of kids were just like "Allan, Allan!" but I never expected the first time hearing it in a British accent. It was weird.
Funny you bring that up: There are ad-libs on the track that on first listen sounded like it's you screaming your name.
That’s not me. That might be Theophilus. I know what you mean though, but I think that’s his voice. I think it’s either Kanye or Theophilus or it might be a sample.
Were you at all annoyed that now, you work with Kanye, and everyone's hitting you up for interviews, for music, etc.?
At this point, it’s gratifying more than annoying. You even have to earn that, for people to even want to get your ass. I changed my number the day I went to London. It’s like one thing my boy Bobby Raps always says, "Even fake love is real love."
Last year was a dry year for major label rap albums, which you could say left people like you, GoldLink, and iLOVEMAKONNEN room to blow up. Now, respectively, you guys are all working with people like Kanye, Rick Rubin, Drake. Do you think those bigger stars spent the quiet year watching to see how younger stars use the Internet?
I look at it the same way as I see Kanye was observing, and people like Drake and other artists just observe. It shows me that I need to be doing the same thing. I need to be observing them, as well. It’s like a tradeoff, seeing what techniques failed. I feel like the lack in large label releases last year was because it did not work. Everyone is looking around for what is working right now. I think trading information is a really valuable thing. It’s an example of what you should do at that level when you’re looking for answers. Observe other creatives and artists and see what to do.
Are you signed to a label right now?
I’m not signed to anything. I haven’t signed any papers, ever.
When it gets to a level where I absolutely need a large amount of help to run what I’m trying to do to get my vision out, then I will. If it’s not necessary, then no. Until the point that it does become necessary and I do need a helping hand then that would be it. I’m not really opposed to anything as long as I can get music out as much as I can and just spread my message and spread my vision as much as I can.
What’s next for you?
Working on my new stuff. Spending a lot of time on details. Figuring out exactly how I want to present it. I don’t really think it’s that much of a rush. You can see there are still people discovering me and whatnot. Sometimes you just have to spoonfeed people, they will go back and listen to the song. You can’t give people too much at one time.
Has Kanye shown interest in Spooky Black, and the rest of the Stand4d?
Yeah, he likes the music. I don’t know anything else other than that though.