On his 2014 song “Positive,” rapper Allan Kingdom says, “Lately I’ve been thinking about maybe doing good in my hood.” Last year, the opportunity to fulfill that lyric came to him.
Now 27, Kingdom first moved to Minnesota as a child. He attended Woodbury High School, Creative Arts High School in St. Paul, and the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis before launching a music career that has sent him around the globe. A three-time Grammy-nominated producer and rapper, Kingdom has released numerous albums, mixtapes, and EPs, and collaborated with Paul McCartney and Kanye West on the 2015 single “All Day.”
After some time away from the area, Kingdom returned in 2020 following George Floyd’s death to found the Yebo Life nonprofit. He saw his community in turmoil and began working to provide short-term aid and long-term solutions to communities affected by COVID-19 and civil unrest in the Twin Cities.
The Meaning of Yebo
“Yebo,” pronounced yaybo, is a Zulu word, meaning “yes.” But colloquially, Kingdom says, it is an exclamation of positivity used throughout Africa. Kingdom’s dad is from South Africa—which helped inspire the name—but the name has meaning beyond family.
“The word ‘no’ is a word we hear all too often,” Kingdom explains. “I believe words are powerful, so hearing ‘yes’ more is a good thing. It’s fun and it’s positive, so I used it.”
Philanthropy has been in Kingdom’s life for a long time—his mom has built wells in Tanzania, her home country, he notes. As a son of immigrants, a Black man, a Minnesotan, and an artist, Kingdom sees himself as a person of many identities, which has influenced his music, his perspective on life, and the work of his nonprofit.
“To me it was obvious,” Kingdom says. “I now have the connections and resources to do it. I’m at a point where I can bring people together for positive change.”
In the past year, Kingdom has collaborated with dozens of brands and sponsors, including artist Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club clothing brand, to bring resources to disenfranchised and low-income communities, according to a press release. The nonprofit has hosted events and donated thousands of pounds of food, feminine hygiene products, and pandemic cleaning supplies to public housing offices. One of Kingdom’s proudest moments was donating a car to a community volunteer and mother.
On Saturday, Yebo Life is hosting “The Big Give Back” to aid families and students in need. The event is a partnership with U.S. Bank and will be held at the Refuge Church in St. Paul.
Artistic and Philanthropic Future
Kingdom has more live events in mind for Yebo Life’s future. Meanwhile, his work as a philanthropist has changed his view on music, and he wishes to use his music to expand his impact on the community.
Kingdom’s last album was released in 2017, but he put out an EP and a few singles last year and says he is launching his own record label, Mogul Sound Music. He has signed a number of up-and-coming artists, he says, and hopes to help them find success as he continues to pursue his own.
“I’m excited not only to reach my new level, but to cultivate a roster of musicians who, I feel, are extremely talented in the younger generation,” Kingdom says. “I find passion in being able to help the next person, and give my knowledge to them.”
After all this, Kingdom has one thing to say: “Stay tuned.”
The Big Give Back is Saturday, May 29, at 11 a.m. Donations can be brought to the Refuge Church on Friday, May 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or made through the website Yebo.life. The focus is on technology and school supplies, but they will accept clothing, backpacks, and other items helpful for students and families working remotely.