Maybe it’s ridiculous to compare LINES to Drake’s massive-in-every-way More Life.
But fuck it -- with its blend of rap, R&B, and pop, its forward-thinking production, and its use of international elements like the Caribbean flavor of “Vibes,” Allan Kingdom’s debut full-length is almost like an indie take on Drizzy’s newest. LINES even boasts a feature from Ramriddlz, the Torontoan best known for his dancehall-influenced 2014 song “Sweeterman,” which Drake would later remake. Of course, in terms of sheer popularity, Allan doesn’t touch the Toronto superstar -- hardly anyone does. But the arrival of LINES is a landmark not just for the 23-year-old St. Paul representer himself, but for Minnesota music in the 2010s.
Allan’s official mixtape debut in 2011, Trucker Music, established him as an undeniably unique artist – that kid with the animated, hiccupy voice. And as collaborations with Kanye (“All Day”) and Flume (“You Know”) raised his profile, the MC’s own music has felt increasingly more fleshed-out. His future is more certain than any other Minnesota rapper under 25: he’s got the talent, fan base, and industry connections to break out in a major way. But though mixtapes get your name and music out there, it’s still the debut album that’s the crucial test of a musician’s artistic seriousness and the strength of his fan base. LINES delivers, with elements both familiar and new.
Kingdom is still blending braggadocio like “I check my balance and order a lobster and steak” (from “Don’t Push Me”), and potential Instagram affirmations such as “No one wrote a plan out for me, no one gave a handout to me” (on “Leaders”), and he’s still bending his voice in playful ways. But at moments on LINES, he goes bigger than ever. There’s no telling how popular the unshakably catchy, polychrome lead single “Know About You” could become, and that’s not the only song that could vault Allan to a new level. There’s “The Fusion,” with Allan’s Travis Scott-style chorus and an electrifying verse from Florida rapper Denzel Curry reminiscent of the 2016 XXL Freshman’s aggro delivery on his viral song “Ultimate.” And LINES’ penultimate song, the massive, shimmering “Leaders,” is a reminder that Allan can craft a potential hit without a guest feature.
Maybe there’s an elephant in the room here, a fear that LINES is somehow too catchy, or disappointingly less quirky. But for Allan to grow as an artist, maybe it needed to be that way. Let others worry over whether or not Minnesota music is “on the map” these days. With LINES, Allan Kingdom takes a successful step into unexplored terrain.