Exclusive Interview: Allan Kingdom Next Level

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Allan Kingdom born in Canada and a transplant to Saint Paul, Minnesota has reached a level of success in hip hop that many artists only dream of and he is just getting started. Allan is an emcee and a producer. In 2014 Allan was named “Best Hip Hop Artist of 2014” by City Pages a newspaper out of Minneapolis and he was also on Complex magazines “25 New Rappers to Watch Out For in 2014” list. Over Allan’s career he has dropped 4 mixtapes, 1 EP two albums and numerous guest appearances.

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In 2015 he was featured on Kanye West’s single “All Day”. This feature gained Allan a Grammy nomination and to be a part of live performance in 2015 at the 2015 BRIT Awards. Check out the performance with Kanye West here:

Since the success as a feature on Kayne’s song Allan has dropped his first full album Northern Lights in 2016. This project has been a success and widely embraced by his fans.

Listen to the album from Allan’s Soundcloud:

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Minnesota is known as a mecca for independent hip hop and more recently it has even more activity within the hip hop scene. Minnesota has many outlets for creative artists hone their craft. One of such is the Institute of Production & Recording also known as IPR. Allan Kingdom was a student of IPR. This is a testament that Minnesota is becoming a place for artists to break out.

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Allan is also a part of the hip hop group titled Thestand4rd along with other Minnesota hip hop artists Spooky Black, Bobby Raps, and Psymun.

As a major Minnesota hip hop representative Allan continues to make major moves in the music industry. He is currently on tour in the United States and will be launching a European tour soon.

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Allan’s current 2016 US tour

Recently Allan took a quick break on his tour to talk with Marrio Grimm of HipHopClub for an exclusive interview. During the interview they talked about life after his success of working with Kayne, the tour and taking it to the next level, influence on his sound and more. Check out the interview here:

Marrio: Can you describe how your life has changed as a musician since working with Kayne West and releasing northing lights?

Allan Kingdom: Yeah. Its changed because everything I have been doing is the same shit but it’s just bigger. You know what I mean? Because everything has been a gradual progression from like you know having being from MN and having to gain fans here first. I kind of got to go through everything at smaller levels first and build it up to that moment. So like I would say the biggest thing that has probably changed for me is my confidence in myself you know because its like something that was on my checklist because I dropped a project that people like and now I am doing my first tour. I think it just has more to do with how I approach my music now and my confidence level.

Marrio: So are you currently on tour?

Allan Kingdom: Yeah. I am on tour right now. We just are in MN right now.

Marrio: Any other cities you plan on touching down in on this tour?

Allan Kingdom:  Well yeah we’ve been on tour for about two weeks we have 30 states, we’ve touched 14 already tomorrow is our 15th in Chicago and then we go to Indianapolis, then Arber Michigan then Toronto, Montreal, Cambridge all the way down to the east then Texas and we end in Florida.

Marrio: What should your fans expect from you from the rest of 2016?

Allan Kingdom: I would say doper shows and better shows. Because the more resurges I get I want to make sure the production is up and everything, more new music and more visuals  just new everything and I am more creative so yeah. And also we will be in Europe touring. I am doing my first Europe run starting May 14th.

Marrio: Dope

Marrio: So how do you come up with the concepts for your music videos?

Allan Kingdom: It usually comes when I am writing the song cause when I make the song I like see something in my head visually. Either I am writing a story or I am talking about something so it usually comes with the song. I already have the idea a lot of the time when the video needs to be shot. Sometimes it comes from life experience or maybe a show I saw or something like that.

Marrio: How would you breakdown your art form as far as sound?

Allan Kingdom: I would say that I feel like I concentrate on what is most important for that moment. So if I feel like there are some messages that I think need to be said like in general in the world then Ima just work on writing it. You know what I am saying? I am going to just write a lot and I am going to let someone else take care of the production because I’ve already built my own sound. So like other producers can listen to what I have already produced and give me what I want and I can just direct them. But sometimes I need to evolve my sound and I will go in myself and spend hours messing with different sounds and beats and stuff. And it all depends if I am working on a project or just for a feature but I just like to take things as what is necessary for that moment.

Marrio: Does have a South African and Tanzanian family background have any background on how you create your music?

Allan Kingdom: Yeah, definitely because at the end of the day if you grew up playing jazz music and listing to jazz music even if you are making a hip hop song instinctually you are going to make jazz decisions. You know what I am saying? And its not bad or good. It’s just what it is. So I think that me having the background of the music that I grew up with having the African music I instinctually go to that even if I am writing something that is more farther away from hip hop or I am writing a verse it’s like I go back to the harmonies of the rhythms I grew up with.

Marrio: Are there any artists in the Twin Cities who you would like to work with?

Allan Kingdom: Yeah. I just work with whoever is up and coming and that I like. Like if I haven’t worked with them I just haven’t had time yet or I haven’t heard of them. Everyone else that I have worked with I love working with like Psymun, Bobby Raps, Spooky black, and Finding Novyon, it’s an interactive community to be in right now.

Marrio: Do you have any upcoming projects with anyone that you just mentioned?

Allan Kingdom: Not projects but music yeah. Its all just creative right now.

Marrio: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know before we close out?

Allan Kingdom: I think we covered everything haha. All my music is online so check it out.

Marrio: Thank you so much for your time.

Allan Kingdom: Yeah. No problem.

Stay up to date on what Allan Kingdom is up to on the following links:

www.allan-kingdom.com

twitter.com/ALLANKNGDM

soundcloud.com/allankingdom

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Playboi Carti & Finding Novyon show photo recap

Playboi Carti Show March 26

Check out this photo recap of the Playboi Carti and Finding Novyon show @ Mill City Nights on 3-26-2016. Other hot artists that also performed include tiiiiiiiiiip, Gaines FMTravis__Gorman, and more. This was shot by Kara Eizenhoefer of Urban Visions/HHC.


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New Video: I Get Mo’ – Chevy Quis featuring FlyBoy Quiz

A new video recently dropped from MN hip hop artist Chevy Quis featuring FlyBoy Quiz. Check out the video:

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Exclusive Interview: CMJ Real and Raw

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CMJ (Christopher Michael Jensen) is a Minneapolis based hip hop artist. He goes by the initials of his given name. That is unique to hip hop and is something he decide to do early on his career. This speaks to the type of artist and person he is. He does not have any gimmick or persona just the real and raw CMJ.

In his music you will find him touching on topics such as common struggles, relationships, politics, and personal battles. His music ranges from confrontational to soul searching that really hit home.

CMJ is an artist with a pure love for the hip hop culture. He considers himself a student of the culture. He works a regular 9-5 as he continues to build his hip hop career in the indie hip hop mecca Minnesota.

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You will find CMJ laying down tracks, performing at shows, attending other hip hop shows and even putting in long days in the cities promoting his upcoming shows and projects.

P.O.S. and CMJ Concert

P.O.S. and CMJ Concert

CMJ has been rapping and building his career since 2000 and it shows. He has shared the stage with some hip hop legends such as Slick Rick and some MN hip hop legends such as DJ Abilities, Lizzo, Dem Atlas, Toki Wright, Kill The Vultures and more.

We caught up with CMJ to talk about what he has been up to along with his future endeavors including an upcoming show with P.O.S.

Check out the interview:

HHC: How did you get started in Hip Hop?

CMJ: The earliest memories of hip hop that I can remember were when I was a really little kid, hearing MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice on the radio, and my brother’s Kris Kross cassette tape. I didn’t really get into hip hop, though, until I was 13-years-old. When I got home one day from school, I went down into the basement and my older brother was playing a rap song on the family computer, and he started putting all these MP3’s and full albums on the computer that he was getting from his friends and started buying CD’s. This was when Napster first came out, too, so the ability to download anything we wanted was pretty crazy. I just started listening to all of these different artists when I would be on the computer for hours and hours and kept getting exposed to all of this stuff and getting really into it. This was the year 2000, too, so it was also the same year that Minnesota got the B96 station on the radio which was awesome for a kid who was just getting really into the music. My brother started rapping with his friends as kind of a jokey thing, and so I did, too. We performed together at one of his high school talent shows together. We used to make beats on the computer with this loop program that was fairly new at the time called ACID and I would record with the computer mic and make homemade albums and burn CD’s for people. Within a few years, I started writing more serious lyrics and songs and just stuck with it the whole time, performing at school events and talent shows myself. It’s been 16 years now since I first started writing raps and I’m still making hip hop music.

HHC: Who are your biggest influences?

CMJ: I’m a fan of so much music and art in general and get inspired creatively by a lot of things. I have always been exposed to hip hop across a pretty large spectrum, from mainstream to underground and from really current stuff to really old school stuff dating back to the 80’s. I have always tried to consume as much as I can and study it and take it in. One of my favorite emcees of all time is Eminem who was one of the first rappers early on that I discovered multi-syllable rhyme cadences in his writing when I was reading the lyrics to one of his songs online one day, and then I just started seeing and listening to the rhyme patterns in all of the songs I would listen to. You know, people that are really technical rhyme technicians have always been artists that have influenced me, like Kool G Rap, Big Pun, Big L, Pharoahe Monch…the list goes on. Some of my favorite acts are also Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, OutKast, Kanye, Biggie, Black Thought, as well as underground legends like the Demigodz, Non Phixion, Cage, MF Doom, Phonte, of course a group like Atmosphere who has been hugely influential on me, you know, just too many people to mention them all in this interview. I could geek out about dozens and dozens of emcees all day that I have studied and listened to and tell you how they have affected me and my music.

HHC: So tell us the back story of how you came up with your name?

CMJ: I think when I was 15 I just decided to use my full, birth-given name as an artist. No confusion as to who it is, no moniker or persona or alias, you know what I mean? Just me, Christopher Michael Jensen. A lot of people just shorten that and call me C.M.J.

HHC: You have some very creative music videos. Tell us about the process behind getting the ideas for them and making them?

CMJ: Thank you! I am usually open to ideas. I’ve been really lucky to meet people in the local scene who are very talented videographers and directors and editors and who are constantly growing and getting better and better at what they do. I will usually have a general idea for a song’s video that I will take to whoever I decide to do the particular video with, but usually that’s just like a jumping off point and the final direction of the video gets taken way beyond that and turns into something I couldn’t even imagine. Sometimes the video idea will be really connected to the content of the song so there’s at least somewhat of a blueprint that inspires where we go with it, and other times it’s just some crazy stuff that we come up with while shooting and in post production.

HHC: What is it like to share the stage with legends like  Slick Rick and Joell Ortiz?

CMJ: Very surreal. You know, any time you get to rock a show with someone who you have been listening to and looked up to for years and who is a legend and such a huge part of hip hop as a whole, that is just the biggest honor and means so much to me to get to be on the same bill as them. It’s really, really humbling and I am just so grateful whenever that happens.

HHC: You have done some collab’s with some local heavy hitters like DJ Abilities, Lizzo, Dem Atlas, Toki Wright, and  Carnage The Executioner. What is it like working with them?

CMJ: The only one I’ve actually collaborated with on a song is Dem Atlas, who I’ve been friends with since 2011 when I met him and he was first coming up locally. Carnage and I have known each other for a while and he has given me major props as an emcee which is a great honor because of how long he has been doing this for and how crazy dope he is as an emcee and the trails he helped blaze in the local Twin Cities scene to help make it what it is today. We’ve freestyled together a lot and have talked about making something together, so I hope that that happens soon. All of those people you mentioned I have been lucky to play shows with, though, and they are all seasoned artists as far as what they do and all of them kill it, so that’s really inspiring. I look at all of their success and I aspire to attain where they have gotten to, you know, and make the same impact they have.

HHC: The MN hip hop scene has been on fire for a long time. In the past it seemed to be very click-ish. Do you see more and more artists working to up the scene as a whole?

CMJ: I definitely look at the local scene as a great community. Honestly, when I started becoming close with a lot of the people I met in the scene a handful of years ago it changed my life 180 degrees, and I mean that truthfully. To get to be in this scene which has become such a mecca for indie hip hop – and now even making waves in the mainstream – is in and of itself such a great gift. That of course has fostered hundreds and hundreds of artists with skills and ambition to make it. Being around people who all have similar goals and dreams and getting to be so immersed in hip hop day in and day out is hard to describe to people who aren’t a part of the local scene and community and the culture that has been developed here. Even though I’m still fairly unknown in the grand scheme of things, I am living my dream, in a way, every day because of hip hop and because of what the local scene has allowed me. I know that some people locally have maybe not had the same experiences or felt the same way, but I really feel like you get what you put into it. If you work really hard, continuously network and try to build something, and also treat people well and try to avoid drama, for the most part you’re going to get a lot out of it. A healthy competitive nature and pushing each other to get better is great; I am thrilled whenever I see people thriving in the scene, and a lot of people have been immensely supportive of me and my career. The drama and the backstabbing bullshit drama and pettiness should all die, as far as I am concerned. I do see a lot of that, too, unfortunately, but overall there are way more positives to this scene and what is going on than negative shit, and I hope that that gets better and better.

HHC: Have you seen the hip hop documentary “Adult Rappers” – (Fandependentfilms.com/films/101/adult-rappers)? Is the rappers grind really the way it was portrayed in that film?

CMJ: Yes, I have seen that documentary and I love it; I’ve recommended it to a bunch of people. I would say that everything talked about in that film is ultra real and the thoughts and emotions and self-doubt and frustrations and awkward conversations with people who don’t understand what you do and all that are all things that independent rappers who are getting older and trying to navigate in a notoriously hard industry have to deal with.

HHC: You have a show coming up with P.O.S. Tell the fans why they should come out?

CMJ: This show is gonna be one of the biggest I’ve ever gotten to be a part of. P.O.S. is a local legend, obviously, and one of the most successful hip hop artists in Minnesota history. I’ve been listening to him since I was like 18 and again, it’s surreal and a great honor for me to be playing on this show with someone like that. I am gonna definitely put everything I have into my set that night. This one is for sure not to be missed, I promise!

HHC: You recently tweeted that you spent over seven overs moving around the Twin Cities promoting your upcoming show. How many days like that do you typically spend promoting shows?

CMJ: I don’t have a street team, you know, so if you’re doing physical promo, especially for a big show, a lot of times you have to do it yourself. I have somewhat of a promo route that I usually like to hang posters, so if you try to knock it out in one day, sometimes it takes that long to drive around the cities and walk multiple blocks to get up everything. On a weekly basis, there’s usually at least one show I might be at, if not multiple ones, so you know I generally have flyers in my backpack, too, in case I need to give people some. Thankfully the Internet and social media has made promoting shows a lot easier than it used to be, and in some ways can be even more effective, so I post a lot online and keep people up to speed with events coming up that way quite a bit throughout the weeks.

HHC: Tell the readers about your style and what they can expect from your music?

CMJ: I talk a lot about emotional issues in my music, speak on depression, I delve into the state of hip hop a bunch, I talk about politics quite a bit, and I also have a lot of just braggadocious, shit-talking tracks, too, and some upbeat party-type of tracks, you know? I just try to bring everything that I love about hip hop into my music and be well-rounded with lots of things because that’s the kind of artist I am and definitely want to do more than one thing. I try to push myself lyrically as much as I can and experiment with different kinds of cadences and rhyme schemes and flows. I also sing a lot in my songs, as well, so I try to be multi-faceted. I plan on exploring more where I can go with all of this.

HHC: What does CM Cool J do when not rapping?

CMJ: I work a day job to try to keep my finances straight since making money off of music can be very tricky and since I am fairly broke. I watch a lot of comedies and follow politics which I am passionate about. I like to spend a lot of times with my friends, too, most of whom I know through music. I spend a lot of time in the music scene regardless, so even when I am not rapping, I’m around art and music and rapping most of the time.

HHC: We typically ask every artist this question. What advice can you give anyone getting into hip hop?

CMJ: Spend a lot of time honing your skills and know why you’re doing this. Also, it’s really important to have a long-term plan and you really have to stick with doing this without stopping. Momentum over time is kind of the key to making any waves and having success, and building off one thing to the next and just keep going with it and seeing how even the small things can be capitalized off of. You have to do all of this for years. Over time, if you’re serious enough about this and have a real passion, you will be able to do great things. If you have an emotional investment in hip hop, you won’t want to stop. Another thing I would definitely say you should do, is learn as much as you can about hip hop music and culture: read as much as you can, get as many of the classic albums that you can and study them and take them in, watch as many interviews and documentaries, go to shows…I mean, really just know the history and how things have shaped over time and fully embrace this. You’ll have a much better foundation then. And, in my personal opinion, if you really love something, you should wanna know as much about it as you can.

HHC: What can we expect from CM Cool J this year?

CMJ: I am currently working on new music. Not sure when it will all come out yet, but I will at least be debuting a lot of it live soon. I’ve also got a lot of cool shows in the works for later this year, as well. Hopefully some more surprises, too. I’m excited!

HHC: Name 5 MN hip hop artists the readers should keep an eye on this year?

CMJ: There’s a lot I could mention, but North Star Wisdom, SOFTPORECORN, Lizea Harper, Catalyst, and EJ are five that immediately come to mind. They are all amazingly talented artists who are gonna start making a lot more noise soon.

HHC: Anything else you want the readers to know?

CMJ: Check out my website – http://www.christophermichaeljensen.com – and stay up to date with everything I got going on and coming up. You can also hear music, see videos, get merch, and all of that on there. To anybody who has supported me over the years, I love you and I thank you. I can’t wait for what lies ahead. Much love.

Learn more about CMJ at these spots:

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