Ever since I saw Kingdom at The Bodega, deep in the heart of Bushwick Brooklyn, I’ve been trying to reconnect with that night musically and spiritually. That particular night the DJ/Producer Kingdom was supporting a project called OMG Michelle, an all-girl rap group named URB‘s “Next” 1000 in April of 2008. Their song “You Don’t Know Michelle”, was featured on Annie Mac’s BBC show “Mashup” earlier in the year. But before laying down his productions for OMG Michelle, Kingdom took us through a picture-perfect tour of 90′s R&B and Hip-Hop. Profiled earlier in the year, The Bodega is known for its debauchery and lunacy, so when Kingdom brought a highly diverse group of scenesters to their booty- wobbling knees with Ol’ Dirty Bastard classics, the path was made crystal clear for the New York-Crunk of OMG Michelle.
Despite a short set of material, their energy was focused and fun, but the beats were truly dizzying. What followed the set, and the confirmation of my further monetary and intellectual investment, was when Kingdom dropped back into some R&B favorites just before he led us perfectly into Dexplicit‘s remix of Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss”, a punch-drunk Bassline bouncer that launches the original into fist-pumping, dance floor oblivion. And I thought to myself, well, obviously! From then on my shouts for more Bassline were dutifully answered.
After the show I made sure to start Googling. As I figured, Kingdom’s mosaic of influences and sounds are unlike much of what is going on in American dance music. Also, his ability to pull from the successes of the world’s Urban music landscape is not unlike a certain Baltimore-based disc jockey named Diplo. So it should come as no surprise that Kingdom’s most recent work was for Noise-Pop duo Telepathe‘s song “Chromes On It.” Telepathe have recently been seen touring with Diplo for their Mad Decent Tour this Fall. Along with a host of other unofficial remixes of Rap and R&B familiars, Kingdom’s mixtape’s listen like a true artist’s vision, familiar but wholly original.
Thus the following interview is inspired by Jace Clayton’s (DJ/Rupture) own interview on his radio show Mudd Up! with Kingdom, and a series of previews he did of Kingdom’s upcoming tracks. Not only was I enraptured with the man’s music, but his words were equally well executed and poignant. I’ve since listened to the show numerous times. So when the show was sadly unarchived, I got my own interview, and my own snippets, and now I’m sharing them with you. Attached also is a mix Kingdom put out in May, as well as high-quality tracks of his Telepathe remix, as well as something (unofficially) for Weezy F. Baby. Enjoy!
For those readers who don’t know as much about the work you do, could you share a brief “coming-of-age” about your life as a DJ? How did you come to New York, and what has your work involved up until now?
I moved to NYC when I was 18 to study at Parsons School of Design, and I’ve also remained very connected to Massachusetts, where I grew up. I wasn’t DJing while I was in school, but I was in a rave performance troupe / band with my friends from MA called Memoreis Forever. We did summer tours in 2003 and 2004. I made the beats and did production for the group, and we had a song called Kingdom actually, thats how I got the name when I started working solo. Then around 2006 I did my first party which was a Hip Hop party called Not Straigh Outta Compton. My friends and I threw it in this tiny club behind a liquor store on Graham Ave. in Williamsburg. That technically wasn’t a DJ gig though because we all wanted to be on the floor the whole night, so we would make mix CDs and just let them play. It was the funnest party I’ve ever been to. It’s amazing how much fun it is to be at a party with no DJ to focus on, just dancing. My first real DJ gig was in 2007 when Telfar invited me to play at his party Something Tight (first Thursdays at Happy Ending), that’s where I learned to DJ and I still do that party with him now.
The first mix of yours that I listened to was by complete accident. I was shopping at Opening Ceremony in SoHo and noticed two volumes of mixtapes. After looking at the tracklist and seeing your combination of Hip-Hop, R&B and dance music, I was thoroughly intrigued. How do these genres cross over for you?
I think dance music has always had a Soul element to it, especially early on. Disco, Chicago House, UK Garage, and even the short lived genre of Hip-House, and on and on. It’s a natural connection. Hip-Hop was originally created as a form of dance music and is intrinsically a form of electronic music. R&B is such a broad genre but it certainly birthed disco and House. In the past few years, mainstream Hip Hop and R&B artists have been embracing dance music again, and Ghettotech, B’more, and Juke music have become more and more popular, so they feel more connected than ever before.
Some what off-topic, but as someone who is interested in fashion, I’d love to know why Opening Ceremony was a place you felt best to promote yourself?
I have friends that sell their clothing lines there, and friends that work there, and so many music people shop there. Recently Kid Sister hit me up and told me she heard my mixtape there and was into it so… its nice to hear that people are reacting to it in that environment. I’ve actually gotten a quite positive response to my music in the fashion world, and done soundtracks for a few fashion shows. I’m not sure exactly what it is, because there are some pretty questionable people in that world, but there are also some very innovative, future-minded people mixed in there, and those ones are really enthusiastic about new sounds. I also sell my mixes at an amazing store in L.A. called New High Mart.
Why is this synthesis of sound seem to be so important to the 21st century realm of “dance music,” or even just pop music in general?
It feels a bit cliche but, I think its a certain kind of globalization. Kids in South Africa are making music thats is connected to the music that kids are making in the Netherlands, and in London, and in Angola, and all of it is making its way onto the internet for the world to hear, and that changes everything. In terms of dance music crossing over into the sound of U.S. “urban” and “pop” music, I think that people want to dance right now, they need a way to release the tension and pain of the world.
As for your own sound as a producer and remixer, there are a lot of clear UK Garage and Bassline influences. What appeals to you about those genres?
I’ve always been a fan of UK music, especially when my friend DJ Lone Wolf first played me Grime in 2003. I was fully blown away. From early 2-step Garage all the way up through the current UK Funky sound, there is always a push to innovate the beat, to challenge clubgoers to dance to something quicker and more complex, and the inclusion of R&B and Dancehall influences also makes it such an incredible group of genres.
CD Vinyl, A Kingdom Original
Along the same lines, the UK scene has since Rave/Hardcore/Jungle in the 90′s, been at the forefront of electronic music. They clearly take dance music very seriously, but what do the States have to offer right now, especially since you seem to be interested in bridging some of those gaps.
No matter how much Hip Hop and R&B influence there is in UK music, they may never really understand Hip Hop. When I’ve DJed in London people wanna hear 140bpm all night and bob up and down. It’s so fun because I finally get to play so many tunes that are too hard or fast for the U.S. audience. But it always feels good to be back home where if you decide to drop a Swizz Beats track at 3 AM, people actually know how to dance to it. Hip Hop is fully mainstream in the U.S.A. and I think we have some of the best dancers too. My friend Manara said it and I think it’s true, that dancing in the UK is all upper body. She was surprised to discover that every girl (even the white girls) here in the U.S. know how to wine their battys. lol. We also have such a diverse range of dance musics being made in the U.S., we definitely have something special to offer.
This of course brings us to your own work as a producer. What are you working on right now? Some of your recent tracks were previewed on DJ/Rupture’s weekly show “Mudd Up” on WFMU, and I couldn’t help but notice what a dynamic sound your pushing. What excites you most about the sounds/genres your working with?
The sounds and genres mixing together creating something danceable but challenging is what excites me. Mixing club genres together and adding some extra heavy bass, that’s what gets me going.
Who are some artists you’re looking to in 2009? I see Dubstep playing a huge role in this cross-section of genres you’re interested in, what’s your perspective or predictions do you have for that genre?
To be honest I know close to nothing about Dubstep. Maybe I need someone who knows the good shit to school me? Sometimes I feel like its very male-oriented and a bit ponderous. I’m really into female-oriented genres. Though there’s so few quality tracks coming out of the genre now, I got so excited when Bassline first started to emerge, because there was a female vocal on almost every track.
One of the shows I saw you do this Summer was with OMG Michelle. Tell us a little about OMG Michelle and your work with those ladies?
Those are some amazing people right there… love them. They love Crunk music and Freestyle and club music and have really good energy. We met through mutual friends and they said they wanted to do a track together. I sent them a beat I made with my friend Dennis and “You Don’t Know Michelle” was born. People responded really well to the track, it ended up on Fluokids and then Annie Mac played it on her BBC radio show and shouted out all of our names, that was pretty fun. They understand what I’m all about so working with them is a pleasure, people will definitely be seeing tons more of them in 2009.
You’ve recently released a remix or the Noise/Experimental duo Telepathe who is rolling with the Mad Decent crew right now. How were you approached to do that remix and what were some challenges in approaching a sound so different from yours?
When I was in school I was listening to a lot of the stuff that was coming out of Providence like Forcefield / Mindflayer / Mystery Brinkman, etc, so those other sounds are not so foreign to me. And the sweet vocals remind me of some of the stuff Memories Forever did. Really it was that cascading snare roll that got me, I was really excited to work with that.
Last but certainly not least, we’d love to hear a little about your new night at Mr. Black?
Myself, DJ Magnan, and DJ Telfar do the front room every Saturday at Mr. Black (251 w.30th St.), and our party is called CASTLE. It’s one of the few consistently fun dance parties in the city so I encourage your readers to come check it out. I also have my own monthly I’m doing called Club Vortex where I’ve had guest DJs from all over, but we’re currently looking for a new venue for that one.
Any closing statements?
I’m putting the finishing touches on some brand new tracks (as you mentioned) so I encourage everyone to keep their ears peeled, big things will be popping off soon. Also if people like the tracks and want high quality versions they should head over to my website and cop the mixtapes (kkingdomm.com), and you can always see where I’m DJing next on my myspace (myspace.com/kkingdomm).
Kingdom – Club Vortex Mix
Kingdom Feat. Shyvonne – Mindreader (Preview)
Kingdom – YOU (Preview)
Telepathe – Chromes On It (Kingdom Remix)
Lil’ Wayne – Lollipop (Kingdom Remix)
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