R&B music isn’t all flowers and candy; just ask Rakim “PnB Rock” Allen.
The 23-year-old singer’s earliest inspiration didn’t come from the bedroom, but from the streets. “At first I would look at R&B artists like they’re all about love, and soft. Then I saw you could be a street boy and sing and still be hot. I knew I could do that shit,” he says.
PnB Rock hails from Pastorius and Baynton Streets in the Germantown section of Philadelphia — that’s where he found the “P” and “B” in his name. That’s also where he found himself in a bit of trouble.
When Rock was 13 years old, he got sent away to a youth detention program for fighting in school and committing robberies. When Rock turned 19, he was sent to prison; it was there where he learned to blend calming melodies with hard street stories.“There were people up there singing in the yard. They were doing the same thing that I was doing, but they were serious with it,” he remembers. “There would be crowds around them and that was our entertainment, everybody loved it.” PnB wrote his entire first mixtape RNB (Real Nigga Bangaz), while he was locked up and eventually released in 2014. “My first mixtape was highly anticipated in my city and I drove around selling them hand-to-hand,” he says, remarking that he barely made any money off the sales after he factored in the cost of gas. “It was all love because people got to take pictures and meet me face-to-face.”
The bubbling singer/songwriter explored his musical side; a side which was fueled by his mother’s massive CD collection which included albums from the Temptations as well as 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay Z. “My whole life I was surrounded by music. I didn’t really like anything else,” he says. “I didn’t watch cartoons, I didn’t play sports, I just liked music, money and girls.”
When RNB2 dropped in February 2015, Rock’s loyal following had propelled him way past his native Philly blocks. It was enough to earn the attention of a number of major labels, including Atlantic Records, where PnB Rock signed earlier this year.
If RNB and RNB2 laid the foundation, PnB’s newly released RNB3 will set the stage for a long career. Led by tracks like “Fleek” — a song which Rock wrote during his last day in prison and now has over 2.4 million plays on SoundCloud — RNB3 will be PnB Rock’s biggest yet.
On the Sonny Digital-produced “Alone,” he opens up about his shortcomings as a man, admitting that he hasn’t been the most faithful. “Maybe I could turn down 10, but I can’t turn down 20,” he sings about the amount of advances he gets on social media.
Then there are his more laid back tracks like “Feelin Like Diddy” and “No Time,” better known as the ultimate hustler’s anthem. “I’m just telling a female that I could give you whatever you want, but I’m not trying to be tied down,” he says. “I could entertain you and fuck with you, but don’t expect me to be committed to nobody. I’m committed to the grind.”
You see, when it comes to PnB Rock, it’s best to leave the flowers and candy behind. You won’t be needing them. “I got a new sound for sure,” he says. “I could touch different topics that these other artists can’t touch, because I’m in the streets.”
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