Artist Profile: Kevin Allen on New Album ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ | Arts
Bay Area rapper Kevin Allen will never sell.
In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, the rapper described his latest album “Nothing Lasts Forever” as a statement of his determination to stay true to himself as an artist.
“Nothing Lasts Forever” was released on October 29th.
“There is a question of fact about the project,” Allen said. “I think it’s due to the fact that I have parted ways with the pursuit of what people would consider popularity or fame.”
According to the rapper, the desire to maintain his creative integrity comes from a respect for music as a site of personal discovery and growth.
“I don’t think influence is a bad thing,” Allen said. “But, I always pride myself on pushing the boundaries, finding different streams, finding different styles in my music, and rapping differently than someone else.”
“Nothing Lasts Forever” was inspired by projects that pushed the boundaries of their respective genres – albums such as “A Seat at the Table” by Solange and “The Chronic” by Dr. Dre.
Allen is the architect and founder of Grand Nationxl, a hip-hop collective and independent artist management company that formed before the pandemic in 2020.
In addition to making music, the group’s goal is to reshape the standards of the music industry around the creativity and well-being of artists, according to Allen.
“We want our music to be heard and we want it to be heard on a big platform, but we’re careful not to chase what’s popular just because everyone else is,” the rapper said. .
His ninth studio album is the work of Kevin Allen, but it is also a product of Grand Nationxl.
Work began on the project in early 2021 at The Reef, a recording studio in Oakland, Calif., Which is the creative home of Grand Nation rapper and producer Mani Draper.
Together, Allen and Draper collaborated on the production which would become “Nothing Lasts Forever”. However, Allen credits Draper largely for formulating the sounds of the album.
“Mani laid the foundation for the album,” Allen said. “He did a lot of the process, so my production style for this album was less of an executive pilot and more of a finishing type production.”
Draper’s work on “Nothing Lasts Forever” was the result of nearly two years of crating through record stores around the world for the perfect sample.
“It’s at least two summers to dig,” Draper said. “I would go in the summer from May to September – and especially before Covid where I spent a lot of time on the road – and from every town I would come home with at least one crate.”
After gathering the raw materials, Draper organized his finds, regularly playing out ideas for Allen at The Reef.
Working on “Nothing Lasts Forever” with albums by Solange, Dr. Dre and Pharrell Williams as a reference helped shape the overall arc of the project, according to Draper.
“It’s reverse engineering,” he said. “I think before we can identify ourselves as creators, we are first fans.”
Another key reference to “Nothing Lasts Forever” was Pusha T’s 2018 album “Daytona,” a project Draper revisited during a road trip with friends to Palm Springs in January 2021.
“We took the 101 on this scenic cliff road with water and ocean; it was beautiful, ”said Draper. “To listen [Daytona] I got to hear how intentional each chop was and how the sample was processed.
Immediately after arriving in Palm Springs, Draper said he wrote the beat for “Franklin Saint”, the second track from Allen’s album.
“I think he played me the [Franklin Saint] beat on the phone, ”Allen said. “And I knew that was the direction I had to go to start the project, like it was going to be number one and I knew that as soon as he sent me that beat.”
With “Franklin Saint” as the cornerstone, Allen built the remainder of “Nothing Lasts Forever”, with Grand Nation member Draper and Brookfield Duece as key consultants.
As the work continued, Allen brought in Bay Area artists Ian Kelly, Jane Handcock, Rexx Life Raj, and Guapdad 4000. Although this is his solo project, Allen thinks making music is, at its core, a team sport.
“I feel like I have a higher probability of doing something that works when I’m surrounded by a circle of writers, producers and people who have been doing exactly what I’ve been doing for as long as I have. do it, ”Allen said.
According to Allen, one of the most involved collaborations on the project was the live version of “Franklin Saint,” which serves as the final song and bonus track.
Recorded at Oakland Zoo Labs, the nine-minute live track is the result of Draper’s connections with local musicians in the Bay Area.
“It was Mani’s Quincy Jones moment,” Allen said. “It was one of the most amazing musically things that I have been involved in. We filled the room with musicians and from the first time we played they were in sync and they knew what to do.
With Allen leading the orchestra, the band made seven recordings of the track and ultimately decided to release the final take.
“Nothing Lasts Forever” is Allen’s ninth studio album, but the rapper said he didn’t feel like he’s changed so much – rather that his latest project is a fuller statement of what he is. has always sought: self-expression.
“I think at this point in my life I feel a lot more polite, but on the same path,” the rapper said. “I didn’t try to be tough on the left. I just tried to raise the mark.
– Writer Ryan S. Kim can be contacted at [email protected]