Ezra Rubin, the 33-year-old ambassador who annal as Kingdom and runs the affecting characterization Fade to Mind (alongside partner-in-crime Prince William), has been absolution music that draws on glassy abode and atmospheric R&B to arresting aftereffect aback 2010. In contempo years, the Los Angeles-based (via New York and rural Massachusetts) exhausted maker has becoming all the added acclaim for his collaborations with forward-thinking singer-songwriters like Kelela and Dawn Richard. And this fall, he affairs to absolution what admitting assorted singles, EPs, and DJ mixes, will be his admission album.
For now, though, Rubin is tight-lipped about his aboriginal full-length. “I’ve got some abundant articulate appearance that I don’t appetite to acknowledge yet,” he says of the still-untitled LP, “but there’s singers, there’s rappers, there’s alien artists that we aloof found. There’s additionally some actual accepted artists on it. It aloof assuredly encapsulates a lot of the actuality I’ve been doing.” In the meantime, Kingdom and the angrily absolute Richard (under her alias D∆WN), afresh teamed up for a aggregate EP, Infrared, which shows the duo can use alike the barest of abetment advance to adverse ends.
As Kingdom gets set to accessible a new affiliate in his discography, he batten with Pitchfork about 10 highlights from his archive so far. The aftereffect is both a alert adviser and a behind-the-scenes attending at how one avant-garde ambassador works.
Kingdom’s aboriginal single, appear in February 2010 via the Acéphale and Fool’s Gold labels, reflected a UK access he had developed during a continued captivation with London’s all-embracing Night Slugs affair collective. The song additionally accomplished Kingdom’s addiction to assignment with choir who are women, with the New York-based accompanist Shyvonne—whom Kingdom met by adventitious via friends—delivering a beauteous house-diva turn.
“That was my aboriginal almanac that I absolutely fabricated into article and finished,” he says. “I was alert to a lot of 4×4 garage, which was additionally actuality alleged bassline or alcove at the time, which is mostly basic arctic of London. It has the rolling, blubbery bass and a lot of the capacity of UK garage, but it’s got the four-on-the-floor kick, so it makes it complete like a aggregate of a harder ball music with UK barn and grime. Additionally a air-conditioned affair about that cast was it seemed like all of the producers capital a candied changeable articulate over it. I was absolutely aggressive by those records. Also, the accepted snares and bang were absolutely advancing a little bit from New Jack Swing, and bond it with the UK.”
Six months afterwards “Mind Reader,” Kingdom alternate with the added adorable That Mystic EP, on Night Slugs. The spacey, synth-spattered coercion of “Fogs,” which manipulates a articulate from Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams,” emerged as a standout.
“All of us weren’t absolutely assured that to be the accepted one of the bunch,” Rubin says. “That was aloof me consistently authoritative my mixtapes and my DJ blends and throwing pop songs over beats that I had been making. That Beyoncé sample, that vocal, was one of my favorites that she did in her average era. It was absolutely affecting the way she does those lines. The accomplished theme, with the appellation That Mystic, was delving into this added nocturnal, darker, bluer realm. And I was still absolutely afflicted by what was activity on in UK music, which was the crossover from half-time post-dubstep blazon of textures and afresh affective into four-four stuff.”
In 2011, Kingdom appear a new Fool’s Gold single, “Take Me,” featuring R&B accumulation Electrik Red’s Naomi Allen on vocals. The song doesn’t assume to accept generated as abundant fizz in absolute time, but bristles years later, it absolutely deserves a abode in the Kingdom canon.
“I was a huge fan of Electrik Red,” Rubin says. “With the-Dream and Tricky administration productions for them, there was consistently this absolutely lush, banging soundscape abaft them every time.” He got in blow with them through Fool’s Gold co-founder A-Trak, who had met the group’s associates in 2004 while on bout with Kanye West; West was aperture for Usher, and Electrik Red comprised Usher’s advancement dancers. Rubin met all four Electrik Red members, but he didn’t apperceive afresh how to align for so abounding vocalists, and they wouldn’t accept capital to put their accumulation name on a activity afterwards an official advance abaft it. Once he accomplished that the hardly blatant Allen about serves as advance singer, he absitively to sit bottomward with aloof her instead.
Rubin came up with a UK grime-influenced exhausted and presented it to Allen. “It reminded her of Janet Jackson—big synth drums and a lot of syncopation,” he recalls. “We co-wrote the lyrics calm and she absolutely laid that bottomward in my old apartment, the aboriginal accommodation I confused to in L.A., a little tiny spot.”
Nicki Minaj’s show-stealing ballad on Kanye West’s “Monster” was a defining moment amidst her rise. In aboriginal 2011, Kingdom let blooper an adapt that ensured she wouldn’t accept to allotment the spotlight.
“The Nicki-centric one is somewhat political,” Rubin says. “There are so abounding songs area the woman is demography a aback seat. Allotment of my accomplished mission, and you’ll apprehension on the album, is added attendance of women and added advance roles by women—women of blush specifically. And I anticipate for me the antecedent affair of absent to do [the Nicki-centric mix] is not alike air-conditioned political. It comes additionally comes from my activity that what the apple needs is added of that voice. I fabricated that Nicki mix in a faculty to aloof accord Nicki a advanced bench in article that she had a backseat on at the moment.”
In November 2011, Kingdom issued the Dreama EP on Night Slugs. “Stalker Ha,” which applies active sub-bass and articulate snippets from Monica’s Missy Elliott-overseen “Knock Knock” to a sample from the iconic amphitheater abode clue “The Ha Dance” by Masters at Work. Rubin had ahead explored faddy music on 2010’s Shyvonne-featuring “Everybody Bleeding (Kingdom Remix),” originally by Night Slugs labelmate Egyptrixx. Plus, the amphitheater scene’s go-to DJ Mike Q, whose “Ebony Ha” helped affect “Stalker Ha,” has appear music on Rubin’s Fade to Mind.
Taking a circuitous route, “Stalker Ha” may be Kingdom’s best-known track, acknowledgment in ample allotment to its admittance on Flying Lotus’ radio base for the Grand Theft Auto 5 video game. “If you drive about in Grand Theft Auto 5, you can apprehend ‘Stalker Ha’ playing,” Rubin says. “So that got some bodies into it and aloof apprehensive what the hell it was. And afresh it concluded up on ‘So You Anticipate You Can Dance,’ that dancing antagonism show. I still see videos of Vine little viral clips of bodies vogueing to it.”
In December 2012, Kingdom appear the VIP EDITION EP, a set of abrupt edits he capital to aggregate afore acumen his aing project, via his own Fade to Mind. They mainly followed the affair of demography pop-R&B and blame it into a added chopped-up, apocalyptic space, but the “Goodies” remix additionally had a beyond significance.
“The Ciara adapt is absolutely somewhat the afflatus abaft the assignment I did with Kelela’s ‘Rewind,’” Rubin says. “There’s this dark, electro, anatomy bass vibe to it that I anticipate concluded up advice over to some of the anatomy bass influences that were on the Kelela ‘Rewind’ production.”
It’s fair to alarm “Bank Head” a axis point for Kingdom as able-bodied as Kelela. He created the pillowy R&B active continued afore the accomplished song surfaced. “When I fabricated it I was like, ‘I admiration if I can get Ciara to sing on this,’” Rubin recalls. “That was my innocent thought.” The active appeared on a Night Slugs accumulation in January 2013. What absolutely blew minds, though, was a adaptation with Los Angeles-based accompanist Kelela, which appeared aboriginal on Kingdom’s Vertical XL EP in May 2013 and afresh on Kelela’s own Cut 4 Me mixtape. By November 2013, the Kelela-led “Bank Head” had concluded up on Solange’s memorable Saint Heron compilation, alongside advance from Jhené Aiko, Cassie, Petite Noir, and Sampha.
Rubin met Kelela afterwards adolescent L.A. DJ and artisan Total Freedom appointed her to sing at a party, about a year afore her Cut 4 Me mixtape would be appear and after ammunition her rise. Rubin remembers Kelela sitting on a couch, singing forth to instrumentals off her phone. “I was admiring what I was hearing,” Rubin says. “She aloof seemed air-conditioned and she affectionate of accepted what we were accomplishing in a way that added singers hadn’t. She was consistently already aggravating to get a little awe-inspiring with it. She basically aloof freestyled her articulate appropriate over the beat. It was this absolute chemistry.”
Kelela has wisely taken her time to chase up Cut 4 Me, abiding briefly with aftermost year’s Hallucinogen EP, led by “Rewind.” The song was complete added like big pop generally is these days, with Kingdom confined as aloof one of abounding producers and songwriters (including abiding admired Ariel Rechtshaid, additional addition longtime Kelela collaborator, Girl Unit).
“That one is allotment of Kelala 2.0 in a way,” Rubin says. “She’s executive-producing her own annal now. She’s consistently accepted absolutely what she wants to hear, but alike added today, she’s demography ascendancy of her music. So this is a case like that area she absolutely had this air-conditioned asperous exhausted by addition ambassador [L.A.’s Nugget], and she had a little articulate done on it.”
Rubin says Kelela had heard him plays Miami bass tracks—B-sides of So So Def All-Stars, for instance—as allotment of his DJ sets, so she capital him to accompany out the “booty bass vibe” that was in the demo. “The way the outro flows was article I designed, how there’s this abeyance and afresh this turnaround and afresh it drops aback in absolutely heavy,” he says. “I aloof capital to accomplish it animation and be absolutely anatomy and accept thicker 808s. And I added some atmospheric stuff, and shreds of articulate samples and complete effects, and aloof fabricated this exhausted accept added of a adventure and a arrangement to it. I capital the accomplished outro to be as if you’re hitting into the remix, the way an old Timbaland exhausted would about-face at the end.”
Kingdom didn’t stop alive on his own music throughout these periods of collaboration, and in March, he appear “Shox” and B-side “Punished” on Fade to Mind. It’s a ferocious, blaring, mid-paced clue that would afresh sit able-bodied alongside UK crud in a set, and had ascribe from Night Slugs’ Bok Bok.
“I’ve been alive with choir added and added and sending beats over to altered rappers and singers and actuality like that,” Rubin says. “I fabricated these beats in that phase, but afresh they adapted into instrumentals on their own. So it’s a bridging of the two universes. A lot of bodies are like, ‘It sounds like there should be a rapper on this,’ and I accede there’s amplitude for a vocalist. But I anticipation it was absorbing to accomplish a club clue that has that amplitude but can additionally action on its own.”
In April, Dawn Richard appear this attractive distinct produced by Kingdom. A ages later, it angry out “Honest” was allotment of a collaborative EP amid the two, Infrared. The two met through Jacky Tang of the appearance cast Aperture Ceremony, who had played Richard some of Kingdom and Fade to Mind’s music.
“The moment she absolved in, she already had account for the songs,” Rubin says of Richard. “It aloof came out of her so naturally. Afterwards we had a affair and she did a little singing over some beats, she took ‘Honest’ home and recorded and wrote that one on her own. She had a absolutely specific abstraction for it.”
Kelela, as it turns out, had freestyled over an beforehand adaptation of the “Honest” active that Rubin describes as “more half-time, like a full-on apathetic jam.” But Rubin concluded up preferring the “clubbier” anatomy with breakbeats and thicker bass, and that’s what he brought to Richard. He says addition songwriter, Tim Kvasnosky, had the abstraction to accomplish the angle (“I’m not over you”) in a call-and-response. “That’s what assuredly fabricated it the song that it is now,” Rubin says.
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