Drew Allen seeks authenticity over vanity in ‘Jenesis’
Drew Allen is an Oakland, Calif. native with a background infused with music being “raised in the studio,” he said.
He sings, writes and produces his music. After the music stops, he works at a middle school in Hayward, Calif., leading an after-school program. Personally and musically, Allen seeks authenticity over vanity and genuine relationships over religious rituals.
Not only is Jenesis Allen’s first album but an expression of what he wants to bring to the table, he said. It may be hard to believe that the album, which will drop on June 9, has been three years in the making and was only intended to be a six-song EP.
Last year, Allen let close friends hear the music, and they questioned why it wasn’t already out. The urging words of one friend, though, stuck in his mind and changed it.
As an independent artist, Allen works hard grinding diligently, absent from the backing of label or a manager.
“Sometimes I feel like this is impossible,” Allen said.
Fortunately, friends and supporters have helped along the way with gigs, marketing and other opportunities.
The singer-songwriter has opened for known artists in and out of Christian hip-hop like Grammy Award-winner Chrisette Michele, MC Jin and Social Club. Allen was also a recent contestant and gold ticket recipient on American Idol. He was ecstatic to make it to Hollywood and receive great feedback from all three judges, he said. Though he didn’t make it beyond the Hollywood performance round, he feels privileged and honored to have had the experience.
Allen’s musical interest and lead singer abilities derive from his mother, who played guitar, he said. Michael Jackson was also a huge inspiration growing up. He got his feet wet producing during his teen years before he began songwriting. He even started out as a rapper before he became a singer.
“I was the guy that came to church on fire for God,” Allen said. “I wanted to be a youth leader but lost it in college and turned my back on God.”
Following college, he got the opportunity to write for the likes of Pitbull, Ciara and Omarion. All the spoils of fame were in front of him. It was difficult to fight the temptation of indulging in an ungodly lifestyle, he said.
He tasted and saw the emptiness of the music industry, though.
“When you’re in the industry, you start to see the emptiness in all the things people glorify,” Allen said.
He witnessed firsthand how vain and conditional certain relationships and friendships could be.
Allen became very double minded in everything during that time, he said. It was a constant battle of wanting to live for God and doing what he wanted to do. While spending time in New York one day on the way to work, God spoke to him in his car, he said.
Running back to God was one of the biggest decisions of his life that he will never forget. That was four years ago. Choosing to share Christ through his music was the result of his transformation from living for himself to living for God alone.
Allen doesn’t believe that because he’s a Christian and sings that he had to sing gospel music. Although initially he thought he would, it wasn’t authentic to him. Neither are religious traditions absent from truly living for God, like wearing only slacks and not being able to wear jeans to church.
“I think the church has been socialized to behave a certain way,” he said.
He cites the message of Lecrae’s Church Clothes mixtapes that speaks to the way some Christians have been told to act and look like. He doesn’t believe he fits the mold.
Though Allen likes Kirk Franklin and Hillsong just as much as the next person, he chose the genre most authentic to him. Aside from R&B, hip hop and gospel, he listens to a wide variety of genres like folk and rock. Tori Kelly, Andy Mineo and John Mayer are artists he listens to most.
Allen describes Jenesis as real, genuine and honest; identical to the principles he lives by. Each song with the exception of one was written solely from his life experiences, he said. All but four of the 11 tracks on the entire project were produced by him.
One night, Allen heard the loop and bassline in his head of what became “December.” It all came at once, he said. In the middle of the night he wrote the hook, came up the melody and produced it. The track speaks to his struggle with his flesh when it takes hold.
“You thought you put something away, but it still lingers, he said.
Black Knight produced and penned the hook of “Beautiful Mess.” After Allen wrote the first verse, Black Knight just gave him the song. The overarching theme is that God loves you in spite of your mess, he said.
“Fire” was produced by Digital Beatz and is a personal favorite of his. It speaks on the troubling times in America, how people are slowly turning from God and the pressure on the Christian community. Allen is aware that “Generation Y” has a much unexpected sound, but it’s dedicated to today’s youth, he said.
Allen captured the situation of a woman he once dated in “Heal.” She shared the story of her first heartbreak and deep hurt from it with him. The story stuck with Allen, and he wrote about it from the perspective of how he felt God would minister to her, he said.
He never planned to record it. The woman contacted him some time after, Allen remembered he had wrote the song and sent it to her.
“She was speechless,” he said.
He was floored at God’s power in using him through the ministry of the lyrics.
Though “Shoot Me Down” features Black Knight, Allen produced the popular track. Last year, the song hit No. 1 on Rapzilla’s Top 10 chart.
As of late, Allen is working on a lot but can’t talk about any of it. The singer with a love for football (Denver Broncos in particular) and travel wants everyone that hears his music to know that he’s all about having a real, genuine relationship with God. It’s not about the Sunday-face.
“Every time I’m writing a song, there’s a line that I want to punch people in the face,” he said. “I want it to impact, relate or cause them to reflect; and lead them to repentance. It’s my prayer that God would speak to the listeners — that God would minister.”