Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: Fade to Mind
Genre(s): Electronic, R&B, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Bass Music, Alternative R&B
Kingdom's reputation precedes him. As a producer, he's played a huge role in kickstarting the current wave of artists who are now unafraid to fuse different sounds when making their music. Tracks such as Kelela's 'Rewind', a gorgeous, nuanced club banger that exemplified Kingdom's skill as a producer and curator - it's sharp, clever music for the club that draws inspiration from across the musical landscape.
In the 21st century, there's an increasingly sad and desperate quality to pop culture hedonism. Oddly, this is perhaps most evident in the way that R&B has given way to club music. When former R&B producers and performers embraced dance music, you might have expected an increase in euphoria, an influx of ecstasy. Yet the digitally-enhanced uplift in the records by producers such as Flo-Rida, Pitbull and will.i.am has a strangely unconvincing quality, like a poorly photoshopped image or a drug that we've hammered so much we've become immune to its effects.
Since co-founding Fade To Mind, LA's Kingdom has been leading the charge for futuristic takes on club music. He trailblazed the (now rampant) use of r'n'b samples in the club sphere, while his work with vocalists such as Kelela and D∆WN is responsible for creating some of the freshest sounds out there. He continues with the same approach on his debut LP, crafting sleek beats with touches of bass-loaded darkness, and often combining them with affecting vocals from various guests.
Ezra Rubin (aka Kingdom) is an architect of the post-club sound--a new profile cleaved from caustic synthesizers, herky jerk percussion, and crying on the dancefloor. The melting pot of sounds he and his collaborators in Fade to Mind (Nguzunguzu, Total Freedom) and Night Slugs (Bok Bok, L-Vis 1990) offered pulled from UK garage, dancehall, and diva-driven house that still seems prescient. Rubin, in particular, helped shaped a postmodern vision of R&B alongside Kelela and Dawn Richard that's influenced everyone from FKA twigs to Justin Bieber.
Writing a decent hook is hard, and only a chosen few have the knack for it. That's why pop stars often have an army of songwriters behind them, not to mention the producers, instrumentalists and engineers who contribute. But Kingdom's career is peppered with hits--big, charismatic vocal tunes that stick in your head--and he's done it without a team of professionals.
Tears in the Club, the debut from Los Angeles-based electronic producer Kingdom, is a hypnotic offering that is more likely to inspire those eponymous waterworks simply by way of its sparse beauty. At times hallucinatory and narcotic -- like on the sample-heavy ruminations featured on half of the album -- Tears is a futuristic journey that transports listeners into a cloudy, swirling inner space. Inspired by house and R&B music, the artist born Ezra Rubin may have built a name for himself with toe-tapping body-movers, but here he relies on atmosphere and space (the pulsing title track is the closest he wanders into earlier territory, and even that remains an ominous and claustrophobic experience).
It's hard to overstate the quantity of hot beat-based music bumping out of Los Angeles, and the new year has already produced some keepers. In fact, Los Angeles is riding another crest in a wave of synthesized sounds that over the last decade has made the region a hub. Below, a few highlights from the L.A. beat sector.
"What Is Love," the opening track of Kingdom's debut full-length album Tears in the Club, immediately establishes itself as a highlight of his catalog. It has everything we've come to expect from the Los Angeles DJ and producer born Ezra Rubin: downbeats that arrive a split later than you expect them to; a bevy of samples that another producer would deploy for their percussive force, but that Kingdom uses to extend his cavernous atmosphere; a bell-like synth patch that should come off as 1980s retro but instead sounds cleanly modern; and crucially, a lead vocal from SZA, who navigates the unorthodox beat and deftly makes it her own. Kingdom is at his best when he's working in collaboration, shepherding the talents of his peers.