Kanye West’s 2015 BRIT Awards performance was notable for a few reasons.
For one, it introduced the world to the uniquely awful undulations that are Taylor Swift’s dance moves. Second, it featured the voice of a newcomer to the national stage -- St. Paul rapper Allan Kingdom, who joined West onstage for the blistering, flame-filled performance.
While it was something of a coming-out party for Kingdom, fans of Twin Cities hip-hop had been familiar with his work for years. Four months prior, Kingdom, Bobby Raps, Corbin (nee Spooky Black), and Psymun dropped thestand4rd, their self-titled 2014 debut as a supergroup. The pet project among friends eventually exploded, with co-signs from DJ Khaled and a write-up in the New York Times.
Much of the hype focused on the record’s florid, genre-bending appeal, how four artists with distinct sounds and styles fused beats and voices to create something unique and timeless. Two years later, distinct moments are still seared into listeners' brains: Bobby Raps’ howl that permeates the beat on “Weight”; the beat change on “Vital Signs” that goes from an electro-house bass thump to a trap-snare crack with flawless efficiency; or Corbin’s ghostly harmonies on opener “Binoculars.”
A big part of what defines thestand4rd is their radiating DIY ethos. “We’re just some kids with computers / Some genius ideas, that had caused them to laugh at me” is not a lyric as much as it is a credo -- a pink pollo and a backpack salute to kids in bedrooms and basements pouring over drum machines and iPhone notes, seeking that nugget of inspiration.
That self-prophesied success permeates through an underground Twin Cities scene that has long found success through blue-collar grind. It’s in the soulful hometown braggadocio of Finding Novyon. It’s in the bedroom beats and pensive flow of Ness Nite. And it's especially in the eclectic funk and soul of ZULUZULUU, the Afrofuturist collective that dominated Picked to Click 2016.
Thestand4rd broke open a well of creativity that not only turned local music on its head, but also introduced the mainstream to the group's artistic gifts.
You can hear it all over the Weeknd’s new hit album Starboy, which features production assists from Raps, Psymun, and thestand4rd's manager, Minnesota-born producer Doc McKinney. Raps and thestand4rd's DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip even scored viral fame via processed food giant Hamburger Helper's Watch the Stove mixtape in March. Kingdom parlayed the charming warble heard on “All Day" and his group's debut into a nationally buzzing solo career, while Corbin, still just 18, seems poised for huge things with his hypnotic serenading.
Those successes are a testament to the musical petri dish in which the group grew and flourished; thestand4rd plucked diverse sounds and styles from the creative hotbed that is the Twin Cities music scene. Get used to hearing the names Allan Kingdom, Psymun, Bobby Raps, and Corbin: The boundary-expanding, cross-germinated seed they planted two years ago is just beginning to bloom.