Known for upbeat lyrics and a general air of positivity, KYLE is one of the most charismatic and genuinely “Fun” artists in the game today. Whether he is crowd surfing at live shows or giving fans advice on social media, the 22-year-old rapper/singer from Ventura, California makes it a point to interact with his audience as much as possible.
Fresh off his guest appearance on The Social Experiment’s genre-bending Surf album, KYLE is receiving even more buzz as of late. His critically acclaimed debut album Beautiful Loser was released in August of 2013, and though he hasn’t dropped another full-length project since, he’s kept fans satisfied with singles such as “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” and “Just a Picture,” as well as his three newest songs: “Angel”, “iThoughtWeWereN*****” and the infectious banger “King Wavy” featuring G-Eazy. He has also collaborated with some of the most promising and notable young talents in hip-hop and R&B including Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, and IamSu!.
We spoke with the budding star about his next album, being a “West Coast” artist and how he’s been able to keep his buzz in the last two years without dropping a project.
EBONY: You often refer to yourself as “The Happy Rapper.” Was this always your style or was there ever a point where you used to make darker or more “West Coast-sounding” gangsta music?
KYLE: Yeah definitely. I definitely rapped about guns and moving a ton of drugs for some reason. That was my whole focal point with music. It was just about moving all these drugs and having all these guns and causing all these genocides. I don’t know what I was rapping about. It started off like that because I thought that’s how you were supposed to rap. Around when I turned 17 and I bought my own studio equipment and started recording myself, I kinda found my own voice. I just started rapping like my normal self and this happy guy.
EBONY: What can your fans expect to hear on your new album? How will it differ from Beautiful Loser?
KYLE: This new album is crazy. It’s light years different from Beautiful Loser. It’s a total progression of me. I started making “Beautiful Loser” 3-4 years ago. The music that’s in this one is just…I feel like I’ve grown up a lot as an artist. I really found my own sound. Beautiful Loser had a lot of great records. It had a lot of really heartfelt songs on there. But I felt, at the time, it didn’t have it’s own cohesive sound. This one totally does.
EBONY: Can we expect the next project anytime soon? Can you give any details on features or production?
KYLE: I can tell you the majority of it is produced by Sunny Norway and M-Phazes, who is an awesome guy. You can expect it really soon, but I can’t tell you a date.
EBONY: I had to try! It’s been almost two years since “Beautiful Loser,” and you haven’t released a project since then, yet your buzz has grown significantly. How have you managed to give fans just the right amount of content without over-saturating them with 15 mixtapes, but also not giving them too little?
KYLE: I feel like what’s important is to interact with your fans online. Touring is really important to stay connected with your fans. I haven’t released an album in two years, but I haven’t really been missing either. All the tracks I’ve released have really just been tracks that I make and a couple days later I’m like “You know what, I should put this out.” I’ve really just been having fun with it for the past two years. I’m getting ready to release the singles for my new album.
EBONY: Do you consider yourself a “West Coast” artist or do you see that as more of a restrictive label/box?
KYLE: I’m DEFINITELY a West Coast artist, so much so that I’m gonna get “Thug Life” tatted on my stomach one day. NWA is my favorite group. I’m wearing Chucks right now. Pink ones. I’m definitely a West Coast rapper.
EBONY: Who are your biggest musical influences?
KYLE: Jadakiss is definitely one of my biggest inspirations. He’s my favorite rapper. I know that’s gotta catch you off guard. It’s so weird, right? I don’t know if anybody has ever answered with that. Michael Jackson, Kid Cudi, Big Sean is a huge influence of mine. Yeah. People like that.
EBONY: How did the “Super Duper” nickname come about?
KYLE: It started early when I first started recording myself. I went from rapping about all this hard stuff with this hard tone of voice. Then, I just let all those barriers down and started rapping and talking like myself. My mom’s vocabulary, which has been passed down to me, has a lot of neat words in it like “Okie dokie” and “Super Duper.” I was honestly just walking around school saying: “Oh man! Wow. Last night was super duper tight!” Or “That girl there is super duper awesome!” That’s just a word I use and when I started rapping, I was using that all the time. I made a mixtape a really, really, really, really, really long time ago called “Super Duper.” After that, I feel like people latched on to it. It was unique stuff. It really just became a part of who I am and I was “Super Duper” KYLE from here on out.
EBONY: How did the collaboration with the Social Experiment come about?
KYLE: Well, I’ve known Chance and the whole Social Experiment [crew] for a really long time. I’ve known them since the Beautiful Loser days. I met them before I put that out. We’ve always been friends. It was kind of like a Hail Mary type of situation. Their album was really close to being done and they didn’t have a feature on that part yet. We asked Nate if I could try and do something on it and he sent it to me. It was just too perfect. It was a song about not wanting to be cool. Who is more fit to talk about that than me? [Laughs] That’s my story. I had to just let it all out. I was like “Dude, I gotta get on this.” We sent them the verse back and they really liked it. That’s how that happened. Then Big Sean got on it and I just completely cried. I was like “Oh my God! This is my hero.”
EBONY: Do you have other stuff with Chance that you haven’t released yet?
KYLE: I have a lot of really sneaky features on here. I don’t wanna ruin any surprises. I got some really good stuff that you’re gonna be excited about.
EBONY: You’ve worked with G-Eazy a few times in the past and your styles mesh really together. Will he be on your next project?
KYLE: Oh yeah. That’s my bro. We got more stuff coming up. I’m always gonna collaborate with G-Eazy. That’s like my older, cooler brother. You know like when it’s your first day of high school? You’re hella worried. But then you’re like “nah it’s all good. I gotta an older, cooler brother that has all the girls.” That’s kinda what he is to me.
EBONY: Your visuals are shot really well. Do you work with the same directors for each one or do you switch it up?
KYLE: I’ve been switching it up as of late. Usually, my go-to video guy is Jakob Owens. He’s done all of my videos since I was like 17, 18. He’s been the one doing them even before my rap name was KYLE. I usually go with him but lately I’ve been using a couple other guys. I shot a video with Calmatic. He did “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love.” I’ve worked with a guy named Mister Whitmore, who’s legendary. James McCloud directed “Wait on Me” and Brick directed “Just a Picture.”
EBONY: Talk about “Just a Picture” and the message behind that. Kehlani is starting to take off and get really, really popular, but that song came out before her buzz started to grow.
KYLE: Yeah. She just posted an Instagram pic saying Trey Songz was on the remix of her song. I was like “Whoa. That’s crazy!” I’ve known Kehlani for a long time too. This was awhile ago, maybe early 2014. Kehlani came over to my house and we were playing her records and whatnot. We were having a conversation about how all of our time is spent on our phones, all of our interactions with each other, all of our socializing. We can be in the room with somebody and we damn near would rather socialize with them online than in real life. There are people who live out complete relationships online. We were just saying how weird that is. Where’s that gonna go? How are we gonna be interacting with each other 10-20 years from now. Are we all gonna be in little wheelchairs with virtual reality screens over our faces just tweeting each other? Are people gonna still hold hands? What’s gonna go on? We decided to come up with that song to let kids know that sometimes you should probably put down your phone and having a genuine interaction with somebody. Your life online is not actual life. It was an awesome song. She crushed it. We came up with everything in like 5 minutes and it was like ‘wow this is genius.’
EBONY: What is your favorite song that you’ve made so far?
KYLE: My favorite song I’ve ever made has got to be either “Fruit Snacks” because it’s about nothing and it’s just the most fun thing or probably “Wait on Me” because that was the most personal song I’ve done. That was the hardest song for me to write. If I ever tried to perform it, I’d probably cry.
EBONY: How would you describe your music to a fan who isn’t familiar with your work? What makes KYLE different?
KYLE: I think it’s music for everyone. It doesn’t matter what genre you’re into. If you like country, you’ll find something on this album you like. I think it’s genre-less. It’s just a mash-up. I’ve been influenced by so many things growing up, in general. I’ve been around so many different cultures and experienced so many different people. I was kind of just born in a melting pot. I have an understanding of how to make a song for everybody.