We have all become accustom to most Hip Hop videos starting with a skyline of some huge city, with the rapper rolling around in a Bugatti followed by horrible product placement shots of whatever vodka they have recently invested in. Yet on the first viewing of Allan Kingdom's video for his song 'Evergreens' its clear he is heading in a much more rousing direction. The skyscrapers are gone and the forests along with the small town of Twin Cities take centre stage. The textures continue to evolve with Allan's off beat yet intoxicating flow and eccentric beats. Allan aka The Northern Gentleman, has created a world all of his own design. Shuf had a talk with Allan on landscapes, his latest album and perceiving art as a gimmick.
Where does the name Allan Kingdom come from?
Well my birth name is Allan, Kingdom comes from me thinking deeply about who I wanted to be in the world. What I wanted to do with my sound, and what I looked for in sound. Essentially creating a new place of existence, my own kingdom.
Landscapes described and visualised in Hip Hop often reference Cities and lavish accessories. You take a much more rural and naturalistic approach which comes across as much honest and refreshing. Such as the pan flutes in the Evergreen beat and the accompanying video. Can you talk about this choice and the reasoning behind it?
Most definitely, well I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I did a lot of moving as a kid but it was all Northern U.S. and Southern Canada . Basically I've been surrounded by a lot more trees than buildings and lavish accessories in my life. I just thought it'd be a lot more honest for me and make the most sense to show people what I actually came up around.
What was the first song you ever recorded?
I recorded it when I was like 8 I think. It was called "It's All Me" my uncle and I made the beat together upstairs at the church I was going to at the time.
When I listen to your music it takes me to films such as Stand By Me and Kings of Summer, coming of age films that often to take place in forest landscapes and revolve around freedom. Do you have any relationship with these films, and what films have influenced you?
I actually just saw Kings of Summer last month actually in Toronto. Haven't seen Stand by Me yet. I could definitely see how that could happen though, there are a lot of beautiful shots in those films. I don't have relationships with these films specifically but some which have influenced me are "Sarafina" "The Gods Must Be Crazy" and "kids". Otherwise I don't really watch that many movies lol.
Tell us about your hometown Twin Cities?
It's a lot of different types of thinking together in one little city. It's quite interesting, since it's not like widely considered a hub of entertainment (YET) people come here for so many different reasons. So many different stories and personalities, a lot of forests, thousands of lakes. It's peculiar, and hard to explain if you've never been here.
How was the experience working with Plain Pat? Was his work with the likes of Kanye West and Kid Cudi at the start of their careers a plus for you?
Natural and inspiring, of course. It's a little bit weird cause art is a conversation. The fact that he worked on music that shaped who I am, then in turn makes it easier for me to communicate and create with him. It's kind of crazy to think about so I try not to too much.
Many people think visual aesthetics and image in Hip Hop have overshadowed lyrics and the power of the spoken word. What is your feeling towards the importance of your visual aesthetic compared to your lyrical content and do you feel you have to strike a balance between the two?
I think people who think that are narrow minded. I don't believe either takes away from the other unless you're lazy, and you don't love what you do. Incorporating more pushes people to be more creative. Anybody who incorporates more aspects of expression into their art wins to me. I don't think you have to give up any lyrical strength to know how you want to represent yourself. I believe they complement each other.
I read you wrote and produced the whole of The Future Memoires EP in Los Angeles. Did this change of environment change your process at all and do you think it had an impact on the final product?
Definitely, I got to run up a sunny mountain every morning and come back and make music with Plain Pat and DJ Kasloco. There's no way that wouldn't change the process. The atmosphere, the environment, all had an impact. An unexplainable one because it was mostly vibes. Didn't really talk to many people while I was out there.
What music are you listening to right now?
Well I got Partynextdoor on repeat, Jon Waltz, Wiz Khalifa, Majid Jordan, Kevin Abstract. A lot of really musical stuff.
Growing up you have said you listened to a lot of African music. Who were some of your favourite and most influential artists?
Saida Karoli, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Sam Fan Thomas, Various South African choirs and probably hundreds of other African artists on cassette tape which I'll never know the name of.
Are there any artists that you are really keen to collaborate with?
I'm working with most of them now, but umm probably Partynextdoor and Fatmankey
What are the plans for the rest of the year, can we expect any more releases?
Can't say much now, but yeah Many.
With artists such as yourself and Spooky Black listeners often struggle to see past your divergent approach and see artists as a gimmick and don't look deeper. Why do you think some come to this conclusion and does it annoy you?
I think the some who come to this conclusion are part of the problem. Inherently all art is a gimmick. An artists first job is to make you pay attention. Whether you're pleased after your attention has been captured is based on your own preference. But you definitely can't complain that something has grabbed your attention, because otherwise you'd be complaining that nothing is.
Looking back on the release of Future Memories how do you feel the reaction has been and how has life changed?
I'm very satisfied with the reaction, I mean life has changed in many ways. I feel like I turned in an assignment and got an A+ in life. Happiest that there are more people who appreciate what I do. That always feels good.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks to you, and everyone else for your time and attention. Much love!
Get the Future Memoirs EP here.
Words : Jacob Roy