I’ve enjoyed birthday parties for as long as I can remember. I grew up going to movies and eating cheesecake for mine — and the presents didn’t hurt, either. But this week, my concept of birthday parties widened dramatically; I might never see them the same way. On Friday, I joined at least 500 others at the Fine Line Music Café, celebrating Allan Kingdom’s birthday at the most energetic party I’ve ever seen.
Kingdom, a St. Paul rapper and member of thestand4rd, has had a big week. He turned 22 on Wednesday. He’s been teasing new music for a while now, but he finally followed through on Jan. 6, dropping his album Northern Lights online for free. The album is good; it’s tough to say how good just yet, since it’s still less than 72 hours old, but “Believe” is a dance-friendly track with an electric guitar riff reminiscent of Kanye West’s “Gorgeous.” “Northern Lights” and “Monkey See” hit hard and will surely gain attention. Most songs have serious depth to them — I’ve listened to the album three times over, but I’m still picking up on lyric twists and smooth production moves.
Kingdom intrigued me last year by producing his own music. In March, I wrote, “[Kingdom] ‘couldn’t find a producer that fit exactly what [he] wanted to do,’ so he started designing beats for himself.” Since then, he’s sketched out his own sound, and other producers are now welcome in the studio. Plain Pat (colleague of Kid Cudi, Drake, and Kanye), Ryan Olson, and Kingdom himself contributed heavy lifting to Northern Lights. Rex Kudo and Swizzymack also produced songs.
Like the album release, Kingdom’s birthday party was just announced earlier this week. Over social media, organizers asked attendees to submit an RSVP, and 100 advance tickets sold out in fifteen minutes. Six hundred fifty more tickets went on sale at the door Friday night.
The only problem: the venue had to physically sell a lot of tickets. With credit cards not being accepted, the ATM line swelled. The ticket process crawled, and I waited outside for an hour after doors opened. It happens — and according to DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip’s Twitter, the party’d been planned for another venue — but it was cold.
Thankfully, once everyone got inside, the party heated up. DJs Tiiiiiiiiiip and Boogie Wonderland shared time on the turntables, and the club jumped, cheered, and grooved. Tiiiiiiiiiip played hits from Chief Keef, Post Malone, Drake and Future — and even Soulja Boy. Mr. Dolo G.I.P. enjoyed his work: “[Tiiiiiiiiiip’s] so cool he’s eating Pizza Lucé while Djing! And he’s still got this place f—ing lit!”
Allan Kingdom’s role at the party was guest of honor, not performer, per se. But he did play several songs at the Fine Line, including “Evergreens,” “Renovate (feat. D.R.A.M.),” and “Fables (feat. Chronixx).” The show climaxed with “All Day,” the Kanye song that amplified Allan Kingdom for the whole world in February. Kingdom started the song on his feet, then fell to the floor. Lying on his back, he cried, “This song changed my whole life!” And in that moment, we could see him: the kid whose mom didn’t believe he could make it. The kid whom the world has oppressed and hindered. Well, world: Allan Kingdom made it, and he’s continuing to make it.
Cecilia Johnson is a freelance writer from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro. Her favorite things include Ta-Nehisi Coates, ginger tea, and Christine & The Queens.