American producer Kingdom's forward-thinking, energetic productions, merging U.K. bass music influences with contemporary R&B, have been widely influential to underground dance music and left-field R&B throughout the 2010s. In addition to his own releases on Night Slugs and Fool's Gold, he co-runs the acclaimed Fade to Mind label, and helped introduce the world to alternative R&B star Kelela.
Born Ezra Rubin in Massachusetts, he moved to New York City at age 18 to study art at the Parsons School of Design. Though he had been making music for years beforehand, he initially made a name for himself in the late 2000s as a DJ on the New York City club scene with a couple different residencies: Vortex, which was launched in 2008, and ddarkk, which included contemporary R&B and U.K. garage mixed alongside electro and house. In the summer of 2010, Kingdom made his commercial production debut with "Mind Reader" on A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs' Fool's Gold label. Featuring vocalist Shyvonne, the ecstatic tune was a big hit on the electro scene, and a concurrently released DJ mix for Fact Magazine also proved popular. As a follow-up, Kingdom released That Mystic, a five-track EP on Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990's Night Slugs label.
Dreama, a four-cut EP of fierce club tracks on Night Slugs, and the poppier dance single "Take Me" for Fool's Gold both appeared in 2011. During that year, Rubin moved to Los Angeles and started the Fade to Mind label/collective along with Nguzunguzu, Prince William, and Total Freedom. Acting as a U.S. counterpart to the British Night Slugs, the label aimed to release experimental yet accessible dance tracks that tore down boundaries between mainstream and underground culture. Kingdom's late-2012 EP VIP Edition included his remix of Ciara's "Goodies."
Kingdom made his biggest impact yet in 2013. His Vertical XL EP included the single "Bank Head," which helped make a breakout star of its vocalist, Kelela. An extended version of the song (along with two other Kingdom-produced tracks) appeared on Kelela's widely acclaimed debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me, which appeared on Fade to Mind in October of 2013. For the next few years, Rubin was musically active as a producer or remixer for other artists (including Chvrches, Glass Animals, and Dawn Richard), but didn't release any of his own productions until "Shox" surfaced in 2016. "Nothin," sung by the Internet's Syd, appeared later in the year. In 2017, Kingdom released his long-awaited full-length debut, Tears in the Club, a further refinement of his experimental club sound. In addition to Syd, other guests included SZA and Najee Daniels. ~ Jason Birchmeier & Paul Simpson