Bobby Raps, Spooky Black, Psymun & Allan Kingdom
Interview by Kelly Merlo
Images by Dicko Chan
“We’re trying to set a new precedent, we’re trying to let people
know you don’t need 50k for videos and marketing. It’s all bullshit.
—The Stand4rd If you want to do it, you can, just don’t let anything stop you.” — The Stand4rd
Minnesota-based music collective of Bobby Raps, Spooky Black, Psymun, and Allan Kingdom. Their eponymous album was co-produced by Twin Cities-based Doc McKinney. The group releases and promotes tracks for free via the internet, and wants their music to speak for itself, not be overshadowed by money or internet fame. Download their new album for free, or buy it.
Tucked away in the cutty hills of El Sereno, we sat down with The Stand4rd from St. Paul, Minnesota, a new collective consisting of Bobby Raps, Spooky Black, Psymun, and Allan Kingdom. They had just released their first eponymous album and stopped by LA on their first ever tour to play a sold out show at the Roxy. Many people know of the collective because of Spooky Black, the 16 year old internet sensation who has been melting the hearts of sad girls across the world. But they are not here to talk about Spooky Black. The Stand4rd is here to introduce a new genre of music which embodies the generation raised in the informational era. Influenced by a diverse range of artists from Aphex Twin to Lil Ugly Mane to Keith Sweat, they believe that to make quality music, you don’t need stacks of cash. All you need are laptops and best friends.
Bobby Raps: I would like to encourage everybody to raise a family there…
Kelly Merlo: In Minnesota? Why?
BR: It makes sense, because it makes you have a serious appreciation for places like this.
KM: So how do you guys feel about LA?
BR: When you come from Minnesota; you can go to LA and be like OMG! But it is not home though. We got our own home and we kind of have that as an advantage. No one really knows what being from Minnesota is really like, people are like, “Where are they from? We want to see what they’re about.” There’s a whole life out there no one really knows about or understands.
KM: How many interviews have you guys done so far in LA?
Spooky Black: None.
Psymun: This is some exclusive shit. We’ve turned down most of them.
KM: Is there a criterion you guys are going for?
BR: Not really.
KM: So you’re just going off of the vibe?
BR: Yeah, pretty much. We said no to [others]. Most of these places just want to talk about “Spooky Black, Spooky Black, and Spooky Black!” He doesn’t even want to talk about Spooky Black, and you can’t fucking blame him at all. What Corbin (Spooky) is doing is so cool you know what im saying? He’s trying to create opportunities for people that he admires; we all admire him as an artist too. So the second a publication shows up, and they’re just in it for the du rag and the turtleneck, then we’re like fuck them, no. We have some really beautiful shit going on here.
KM: So tell us how The Stand4rd got started?
BR: I mean it literally came out of nowhere, it wasn’t premeditated or anything you know. Back in Minnesota there’s not a whole lot of shit going on, a lot of isolation, a lot of saturation, a lot of people trying to do stuff, but no one actually coming together. One of my friends were like, “Yo there’s this kid at Central High right now that wears a du rag and calls himself Spooky Black.” I thought that was fucking hilarious.
KM: So how did you guys meet?
BR: Minnesota is a small place with a lot of big personalities. Friends of mine were like, “Yo Spooky Black just dropped a project.” I was like oh shit, let me check it out. This is probably when it had about 5k plays on Soundcloud. I listened to it and I watched the video and was like “Oh shit, this is fucking hilarious.” Then he started singing and I was like “Holllly shit.”
“We got our own home and
we have that as an advantage.
No one really knows what
being from Minnesota is like.”
— Bobby Raps
The South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival, which has been held annually in Austin, Texas since 1987 featuring eclectic local and international artists. In 1994, SXSW added a film and tech companies to the conference.
Stage name of British electronic musician Richard David James, who also goes by pseudonyms AFX, Caustic Window, and Power-Pill among others, and is co-founder of Rephlex records. Since the 1990’s he has been an innovator in electronic and ambient music, and coined “braindance” to describe his music.
Lil Ugly Mane
A rapper from Richmond, VA, who has been around since the 1990’s as a solo artist and has also released music with Shawn Kemp. His enigmatic career has spanned genres from rap to noise music to black metal to electronic, and includes self-designed graphics for album covers and merchandise.
An American R&B singer popular throughout the 80’s and 90’s, especially as an innovator of New Jack Swing, a genre that fuses the rhythms, samples and production of hip-hop with contemporary R&B. He’s known also for his R&B supergroup LSD, and his discovery of the groups Silk, Kut Klose, and Ol’ Skool.
1990’s Tanzanian hip hop music derived from American hip hop, with influences of reggae, R&B, afrobeat, and traditional Tanzanian music.
Hip hop group of rappers Lil Wayne, Juvenile, B.G. and Turk, which was active from 1996-2001 and reformed in 2007, but is now inactive.
Two Door Cinema Club
Northern Irish indie rock band formed in 2007 and released two studio albums, Tourist History (2010) and Beacon (2012).
106 & Park
A BET countdown show featuring hip hop and R&B music, which ran Monday through Friday from 2000-2014.
KM: (Laughs) I think we all felt that way.
BR: I watched it four more times and I was like, “Yo I think my life has changed.” I DMed him on Soundcloud, and ended up in the studio on a Friday. That night we made our first song “Ready.” Later I met Psymun at SXSW through Tiiiiip, one of our producers. I always admired his music, but we never got to work together. Then finally that night I was like “Yo! You’re fucking dope, come by the studio.” He was down, and it was done.
KM: So you guys just sort of naturally gravitated towards each other.
BR: Yeah! Then with Psymun we made “Blind.” Shortly after, Allen came into the picture. I think we all liked the idea of actually giving an accurate representation of where we are from. After spending quite some time in the studio together we formed a relationship, we just knew. In reality, it feels like we’ve known each other forever now.
KM: How did you guys decide on a name?
BR: All of a sudden it’s like oh shit we got four people that collaborated on one song, how do we do this? Then we came up with this cool idea to not credit anyone and left it just as music. We kind of agreed to do that, before we came up with the name.
KM: Isn’t choosing the name the hardest part?
BR: Well fucking Corbin [Spooky Black] was just like “The Stand4rd!” We all agreed and said fuck it. We’re trying to set a new precedent, we’re trying to let people know you don’t need 50k for videos and marketing. It’s all bullshit. If you want to do it, you can, just don’t let anything stop you.
KM: Who influenced you growing up in Minnesota?
BR: My homie had GarageBand on his parent’s iMac and we started making songs when I was 13. I started listening to Lil Wayne, 50 cent, Three 6 Mafia, and Akon. My mom had a piano at the crib while growing up, so I had music around my whole life. In Minnesota we get shit later then people out here, but mainstream culture hits just like anywhere else.
P: Growing up my parents were really into music—I started playing guitar when I was six. I had a lot of older friends that listened to really good stuff too. I was into the White Stripes, Arcade Fire, mostly rock. When I was really young I got into Aphex Twin too. That’s probably when I started wanting to make my own music.
SB: In 7th grade I was singing secondhand serenade then I got into the emo shit. I was in the choir in the 9th grade and I think around the same time I heard a Lil Ugly Mane song, that’s when I got into the underground. After that, I started rapping which was direct inspiration for the Forest Mixtape. I started listening to people like Keith Sweat and a lot of vocal inspiration came from different folk artists. Then I got into R&B and decided to make an album, which became Black Silk.
Allan Kingdom: My musical influences growing up in Minnesota were mostly comprised of musicians from outside of Minnesota, besides my peers. Most mainstream hip-hop, African music, Pop, Indie Rock, just a real medley of anything and everything trending as well as just random stuff I’d find on the Internet. Bongo Flava music, Hot Boyz, Lionel Richie, South African Choir, Lil Wayne, Nelly, Pharrell, Andre, and Kanye of course. Vampire Weekend, Two Door Cinema Club. I also watched “106 and Park” everyday after school like everyone else (laughs).
KM: How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard it?
BR: When people ask I don’t know what to say. It’s like R&B, hip-hop, electronic stuff? Like I said, it’s the Stand4rd. There’s no actual word to describe it.
KM: What’s next?
SB: Well when we get home we are going to start working on an album. We’re always going to be making music together, that’s not going to change.