The Stand4rd | Amsterdam Bar & Hall | Saturday, November 1
"Allan Kingdom, Bobby Raps... Psymun, Spooky Black -- I see you! Keep winnin'! Keep bein' the best!" That's the booming voice of DJ Khaled.
At minimum, a Miami rap mogul took 20 seconds out of a career normally reserved for teaming with Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West to propose a YouTube toast to a semi-known St. Paul hip-hop and R&B group's November 4 album release. At max, this is only the beginning of the surreality involving the Stand4rd.[jump]
Just a few days before Khaled's announcement hit the web, Allan, Bobby, Psymun, and Spooky -- plus producer pal Grinch -- are standing in a loose circle on a beach next to the Mississippi. It's after dark in northeast Minneapolis, and a black sky above is working its magic.
The young-ish group is laughing hard, like the jokes are on the whole of humanity, and they just might be.
They take turns spinning half-serious scenarios -- like potential music video treatments and collaborations -- but mostly each guy grasps for something more absurd, gross, or impossible than whatever was just said. As it turns out, their free-association abilities are as keen as their skills as rappers, vocalists, and beatmakers.
A few paces inland from the sand is the latest in a series of recording studio spaces in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Toronto where the Stand4rd have creatively coalesced over the past few months. Like the four woozy, melancholy Soundcloud tracks that have amassed over 1 million streams since April, the specifics are slippery.
"[The Stand4rd is] still kind of undefined," Raps tells City Pages earlier that evening. He and the rest of the guys are gathered at a nearby bar. The of-age members sip beers, Allan orders tea, Spooky drinks ice water through a straw. "It's not a boy band, though," Raps adds.
Ask Twin Cities hip-hop obsessives, and this heavily blogged-about collaboration is more akin to an experimental supergroup than One Direction. They'd all be "the creative one" of the bunch, and each has hit hard with work outside the group.
With the dizzying Pink Label album, an R&B suite with K.Raydio called LucidDreamingSkylines, as well as previous joints with Stand4rd members, Psymun has become a coveted area producer. Bobby Raps has thrived with Muja Messiah, Audio Perm, and others as a beatmaker, rhymer, and hook generator.
Allan Kingdom's climactic albums and live bravado -- guided by ex-Kid Cudi associate Plain Pat -- have dotted City Pages' write-ups for the past year. And in April, Spooky Black's durag became a national internet meme that overshadowed his knowing winks at past pop and soul tropes on two 2014 releases, Black Silk and the Leaving EP.
Next: What's in store for the Stand4rd's live debut?[page]
Around the same time as the world wide web's Spook-pocalypse, the Stand4rd formed and recorded their first song, "Doors." Over an ambient beat featuring dripping water, creaky hinges, and soft keyboard washes, an agenda rolls out. "You say you got money, I don't give a fuck," Spooky sings. "We don't need a key if we're kickin' in the gates," Allan enunciates later. Since then, with guidance from manager Doc McKinney (The Weeknd), the quartet have tightened their expression with each leaked track to follow.
The latest one to arrive created an immediate stir. Accompanied by Alex Howard's dream-like video featuring nature overtaking their bodies, the Stand4rd's "Simple Needs" is an echoing, spine-chilling soul symphony threading together Raps, Allan, and Spooky's worldly meditations.
"We're all involved in the formation of the song," says Psymun, choosing his words carefully. "People wouldn't consider [Spooky] a producer, but he's absolutely a producer. Same with Allan. Everyone's completely involved. We're always together when we're making the songs. If we made one without everyone there, it doesn't seem like it would be a Stand4rd song."
Their live debut -- set for Saturday at the Amsterdam -- is set to be a fully immersive effort. Each artist's solo songs will blend with Stand4rd material throughout the night, which is Spooky Black's first proper live appearance. (He confirms that choir concerts and a couple of open mics are his only prior public performances.) Tour dates to follow in Toronto, New York, Oakland, and Los Angeles all fall on weekends so that he won't miss school.
Except for St. Paul, all of the shows fall after the release of their mysterious full-length debut, which was an exercise in rethinking the whole recording process and building trust in each others' talents.
"Working on the Stand4rd album was the first time that I didn't have to sit for hours and hours tweaking in the studio," says Allan. "I could stop by for 30 minutes, lay down a hook and a verse, and then bounce. You perform differently, write differently, and come up with different ideas when you're under that type of pressure."
And you crack bawdy jokes on the beach together to bond. Despite famous fans, professional management, and breathless Soundcloud followers awaiting what's next, the guys rightly claim that this is just some friends making music. Still, it's easy to see they've chosen their friends wisely. Even the Stand4rd are still coming to terms with the almost unreachable sound they've devised.
Raps describes it thusly: "You listen to it, and it's going. And you're like, 'Okay wait,' and you're like, 'Okay wait, hold on,' and you're like, 'Where are we at right now?' And it's like, 'Oh, that's where we're at? Whaaaat?'" And the group explodes in laughter.
The Stand4rd. All Ages, $15, Saturday, November 1 at Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Tickets.
GIMME NOISE'S GREATEST HITS