A while ago Jamsphere Magazine published a review on Allen Gates which you can read here. It went something like: “Allen Gates is proof that you don’t have to be hard or anti-social to make a statement as a Hip-Hop artist. He is breathing new life into the game right now with his positive attitude. Moreover, Allen proves that he is a talented rapper who can maintain a steady and catchy flow on almost any beat. “The Proof” album is able to speak to people on many levels. Here Allen poured his heart out in every song and left it there. The beats are well made, and every song contains great lyrics which could work great as singles. Allen has a lyrical style, that in places is nontraditional to the standard hip-hop formula, but it works and it’s great, giving him an original edge.”
To get inside who Allen Gates is, and what exactly he does to craft his art, Rick Jamm of Jamsphere, setup an exclusive interview with the upcoming artist. We republish that article here on request for our readers.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Allen Gates: Honestly my first introduction to music as a career was around 16 years old which would be ten years ago. Before then it was more just spitting in the hood or poetry to get chicks. When I was in grade school I had a pretty hot temper and needed a way to convert that anger into something productive. So a very important person in my life at the time was always telling me how much writing out my pain and anger could really help with dealing with things. So one day I was pissed and had planned on beating the sleeves off of one of my class mates after school and word got out, and my counselor found me and explained to me that if I got suspended one more time I would be kicked out of school. Being that my mom would’ve killed me if that happened, I was inclined to figure out a new release. So I started writing and it was pretty rough at first because I was so used to just using my words to express myself, but eventually I caught on. I started writing poetry and everything. It was all downhill from there. When I was in High I was at one the most FEARED and popular schools in my city “VASHON” and that’s where I crafted my skills, mainly because if you sucked there EVERYONE would know about it. I got the opportunity to go back to my old middle school and participate in a program were I could work with kids that were “Troubled” as I was ,and help them put on a concert, one kid ended up not showing up, so I had to jump in and ended up FREE-STYLING a concert and from there I got the confidence to make it a career.
2. Who were the first influences on your music and style?
Allen Gates: My first big music influence came from my twin cousins Chris and Curtis. They would always play and listen to the music, as a little kid I wasn’t allowed to listen to, and they kinda taught me how to freestyle. My first musical influence was the Ladies Legend LL COOL J. His flow was so much more charismatic then everyone else’s, he was so damn cool. Then as I got older an artist came out that had just as much anger as me. DMX is the artist that helped me feel comfortable with my natural aggression and pure passion. What I liked most about DMX is that whatever he said, YOU KNEW HE MEANT IT. Then at the same time I was introduced to JAY Z, and things ain’t been the same since.
3. In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
Allen Gates: JAY Z. His ability to not only start off with his own flow his on sound and then the ability to ACTUALLY do the things that rappers only imagined doing when they would write down metaphors, then add to that he has been able to adjust to every big musical shift since he first dropped on the scene and continually elevate and progress each time. There are approximately 30 hit singles made just by his lines ALONE plus he can still out rap most cats DAILY. Dude is the goat.
4. Which famous song or sound production, ultimately describes what you’d like Allen Gates music productions to sound like?
Allen Gates: I can’t lie, JUSTICE LEAGUE’s attention to detail musically, is almost unfair. It’s like every track is an event. It’s an emcees wet dream. Their talent and willingness to not settle for the same BOOM BOOM clap that every beat maker tries to “CALL MUSIC” is admirable.
5. Do you think your music is enjoyed more for the beats or for the lyrical flow and content?
Allen Gates: I believe it’s for the flow, THE PASSION and EMOTION I allow to display with every line. Anybody can get a catchy beat or save up their bread for a dope track. But the PROOF is in the emotion.
6. Do you make your own beats and write your own lyrics and which software or equipment do you prefer to use to achieve your sound?
Allen Gates: I have tried to focus on the production before but it’s not where my passion is. I am a writer and I take pride in creating a verbal picture of my life and can’t see me ever being comfortable with having another person write my story. I write my own. I am my own.
7. If you could choose to work with some of today’s established artists or producers, with whom would you like to collaborate and why?
Allen Gates: I would love to work with Justice League or Kanye West because of their willingness to go past the norm and set a new standard. I always wanted to do a song called real O.G.s with Will Smith, LL Cool J and M.C. Lyte. I think that would be DOPE. But as far as today’s artist I would say J.Cole, Lupe, and Eminem just to see where that would push me. See if that would pull some CRAZINESS out of me.
8. Which of your original compositions is currently your personal favorite, and tell us about your latest project?
Allen Gates: Truly my favorite is the new one. Not because it’s out now but because it’s the most professional, thoughtful and complete project I’ve ever done. Plus, it’s a direct view of every element that’s in me. It’s aggressive, passionate, lyrical, plenty story telling aspects and motivational. Mostly not even using curse words. Its proof that a young man from ST. LOUIS can make music that can compete with ANY ARTIST ANYWHERE. THE PROOF.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does?
Allen Gates: PASSION. Without that I am nothing. When that’s gone… so am I.
10. Do you think video is important to your music and music in general, and how do you handle your video productions?
Allen Gates: I think that visuals are just as important as the audio, rapping is just us painting a picture with words. The only thing better is doing it in ACTUALITY. I like to use common sense when it comes to my visuals. Telling a story with view, as well as the words.
11. What aspect of the music making process excites you most, and what aspect discourages you the most?
Allen Gates: The most amazing part of this whole journey to me is when I perform! It’s a feeling that I have never been able to explain. To get on a stage in front of people who may not have even heard of you and leave them surprised at my talents… CRAZY!!! My least favorite is the lack of respect most artist in my peer range have for the people who did it before us, the disrespect for those who blazed our trail. That’s my least favorite.
12. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering and other processes needed to produce and market your music, and do you outsource any part of this process?
Allen Gates: I am the most enthusiastic person when it comes to my music, I’m my worst critic most times, so I hear things that’s not even there… lol. I leave the hard stuff to the PROS but I do what I can.
13. Do you think the advent of internet and all the new technology, has helped your music and independent musicians in general, or do you think it just creates a mass of mediocre “bedroom artists” who flood the web, making it difficult to distinguish yourself?
Allen Gates: I think there are good and bad effects from that. Clearly it has enabled us to be more self-sufficient. But it’s like if anybody could have sex with Halle Berry, she wouldn’t be “HALLE BERRY”. There is a value in exclusivity.
14. In your long experience, what is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far? And one you didn’t follow, but now know you should have?
Allen Gates: The very best piece of advice I got from dealing with this business is “Treat your music with the respect you want to be treated with.” If you allow yourself to record trash, how dare you be mad at ending up in a trash can. The one wish I would have is GOING BACK TO SCHOOL… FLAT OUT…
15. Being an independent artist, which is the one factor you currently desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, club performances etc…)?
Allen Gates: More media exposure. I am fully confident that I have music that can compete with any major. I have a stage presence and passion that can reel in fans of all ages and culture. But I haven’t figured out a way to get more people to HEAR IT effectively. I am confident that once I get out there, I’ll be fine. Hard work has never been a problem for me. I can PROVE THAT!
16. Where do you distribute and promote your music (Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, Your own Website, Youtube etc…) and why?
Allen Gates: , My own website, Youtube, and a few local stores here in St. Louis…. AND COUNTING.
17. How do you handle criticism? Who has been your worst critic, if any?
Allen Gates: I’m a work in progress, LOL. Well besides myself, my little cousins are MEAN.
18. Is going platinum or winning a Grammy important to you? Where would you like to see your career within 5 years?
Allen Gates: I think that if I was able to GO PLATINUM, that would be HUGE with the landscape of album sales or lack thereof. But a Grammy is on my ‘to do’ list. I would like to be recognized as one of the most overall artist in the world. Killer stage show, dope lyrics and amazing presence, with the ability to translate that charisma to the BIG SCREEN.
19. What in your opinion is the biggest barrier an artist like yourself, has to face and overcome, to gain any commercial success?
Allen Gates: Personally it would have to be letting go of the thought of making it here in ST. LOUIS, as dope as I am if I don’t pop off in New York, Chicago, or Miami, my hometown won’t really care. I know that and I accept that. So it may be time for a change of scenery.
20. If you were not a music artist, what else would you be doing today?
Allen Gates: Bartending… getting girls drunk is a great second choice. LMAO
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