Since 2011, KYLE has released two albums, toured endlessly and garnered millions of views across both YouTube and Soundcloud. With a Spotify stream-count of 55 million for “iSpy”, which also features Lil Yachty, Kyle is already making a name for himself and is ready to take his unique SuperDuper sound across the world.
I had a phone call with KYLE to catch up with him, congratulate him on his recent successes and his raved-about SXSW appearances and to see how his tour was going.
He explained, “Tour is going phenomenal, SXSW was phenomenal too. You know – there are three different ways to do SXSW – you can do it the entry level way, which is you just mobbing around with zero sense of direction; you can do it the next way where you’re still mobbin’ with zero sense of where you are, but you know you have at least one party to go to later that night, or you can do it the way we did it where it was just completely lit the whole time Shoutout to SXSW, that was completely epic.”
Although this wasn’t KYLE’s first SXSW appearance, it was his first since getting signed to industry giant Atlantic Records, who have since began to push his single “iSpy” as his big breakthrough. It’s hard to imagine seeing as even before his signature to Atlantic, KYLE had already built up a huge fan-base and was touring very successfully in front of people that had supported him since he released “Lemonade” as K.I.D in 2011. when he was just 18. Similar stories can be told of Billboard megastars Kehlani and G-Eazy, two of KYLE’s contemporaries, friends and collaborators – but, did the Ventura native ever expect this meteoric rise to being on the cusp of superstardom?
“You know what, I always knew it was gonna happen, I just didn’t know how. If you asked me back when I was K.I.D, i would said “Lemonade’” was the one! 50,000 plays? We outta here! I thought I was going to the Grammys back then. So, I always thought it was gonna happen, I just didn’t expect it to happen like this. I can’t lie to you, I didn’t expect it to come out of the blue.”
KYLE’s team – known to his fans as the Super Duper Crew – have stuck by him since the early K.I.D days, helping him put together tours and albums, with the dream that one day KYLE would make the big time.
On this, he said, “You know, you work so hard for so long. It’s one thing if I was a one-man show, but I’m not, it takes everyone around me to produce this product whether its an album, a tour or a music video. It takes mad people that are super dedicated and loyal to me. They’ve been working at this as hard as I have for the last four or five years, I feel like we all knew it was gonna happen. When it just happened we were kinda excited, you know? It was really cool.”
The “iSpy” rapper released his first full-length project, Beautiful Loser in 2013. The album epitomises everything that KYLE stands for – positivity, good-vibes and staying true to yourself. With song titles like “Sex & Super Smash Bros.”, “Fruit Snacks & Cups of Patron” and “FUN”, Beautiful Loser is a memoir of high-school experiences that is a puzzle-fit representation of his fanbase.
This well-received, excellently-crafted debut laid the ground work for KYLE’s tours and further successes. “Beautiful Loser meant a lot to me. I would definitely tell people that it was the beginning – obviously theres a deeper beginning with everything K.I.D, but for me feeling like I’m really tryna do this, I feel like Beautiful Loser was everything.”
He goes on to explain, “It was the first time I worked with actual producers. It was the first time I’d been in a quality studio. For me, it was that moment that every rapper waits for, that every kid with a dream waits for. You have to imagine, at the time it meant everything for me – especially “Raining Love”! That was a banger! It meant everything to me.”
Following Beautiful Loser, KYLE released the massively successful, M-Phazes produced record “I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” a year later, which, on the day of writing this article, has over 6 million streams on Soundcloud.
The track got it’s own visual treatment in October, 2014, and has it’s own impressive view-count of 5.4 million. The video is quirky, funny and brilliantly choreographed and opened the door for KYLE to work with Australian producer M-Phazes who has experience working with Eminem, Logic and Lupe Fiasco among others.
KYLE explains that the song has an interesting story behind it, “You know what it was, I was actually with my little shawty, my thang, and we was riding around in my car when he played me the song – the beat was crazy. I was like, “This beat crazy, what this beat is?” then she showed me the beat and I was like “Damn, I hear myself on this; easy.”
“Anyway, she showed me the song, I downloaded it ‘cause the beat was so wild. It was my first introduction to M-Phazes, it was crazy. I just had to be a part of it. I downloaded the beat from Soundcloud and my homie knew M-Phazes, so I talked to him and got it cleared. M-Phazes really liked it and that’s how our relationship started – me stealing his song and him happening to like it. But now, he produces everything for me. It was definitely a turning point.”
“I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” acted as a spearhead for KYLE’s sophomore LP, Smyle. The 13 track long deluxe version also featured the rapper’s song “Really? Yeah!” which is a certain crowd-exciter at his shows.
Speaking on Smyle, KYLE reveals, “Beautiful Loser was more or less me making a lot of different types of songs, but Smyle was like damn, I found a really talented producer, lets see what type of sound me and him can come up with together.”
Smyle also featured another rising young star in Chance The Rapper. The two have collaborated twice now, once for KYLE’s album and once on Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s “Wanna Be Cool” from their LP Surf. The song also features Big Sean, but Kyle’s story with Chance goes back to 2011.
“When Chance first started crackin’ and first visited LA, I got to become friends with him early on because we both knew Donald Glover, Childish Gambino. I opened up for Chance at one of his concerts in Santa Barbara and he was just like the nicest guy. When I walked in he was just hella nice to me.”
“I’ve known Chance for like four years and we’ve only made two songs, the rest of my stories about him are just about how cool he is and how cool of a friend he’s been, we really just kicked it.”
KYLE goes on to explain how their song “Remember Me” from Smyle was created, “Remember Me” was made at the end of 2013, even though it came out in 2015. I used to live on Skid Row and Nate Fox from The Social Experiment cosigned me and was super cool to me. He came over and we started making the beat for “Remember Me” and then all of a sudden he was like, ‘Yo, Chance is downstairs.’”
“Chance pulls up to my tiny; dirty, sweltering Skid Row apartment and literally sat down on the couch and came up with “Remember Me” then just gave it to me at a time when he didn’t have to do that, he was already completely crackin’.”
KYLE and Chance are the same age, but KYLE considers the Coloring Book artist a true role-model of his.
“The thing that’s super dope about chance is, he’s so against the grain of every aspect as to what it’s like to be a rapper. That was my plan in the beginning, I always wanted to just do myself; do me.”
He continued, “Watching him be able to break all the barriers he’s broken down; keeping his own sound, making a gospel album and having it be the hottest rap album; not needing a record label, all these things reassure me that I can do what I wanna do too. Me watching him achieve reinforces my belief in myself, that’s why I’d consider him a role model. It’s like, ‘Damn I can actually do whatever I want to do too.’”
But, with his own Billboard Top 10 under his belt, KYLE finds himself being a role model to a new audience and a whole host of younger artists that see his come-up as a perfect template for success. This doesn’t phase the Californian.
“It’s not weird because I’ve always wanted to be a role model. Before I was a rapper, just for my family, for my friends or for that person I see every day on the corner, I’ve always wanted to be a mood-booster.”
“I don’t think I’m like the smartest person in the world, like I don’t know all the right answers, I just wanna boost peoples’ moods. Even if it’s for a minute, I just wanna make people feel like Kirby from Smash Bros.”
When quizzed about the UK and our culture over here, KYLE had a surprising wealth of knowledge. After reciting a whole Wiley verse to me, the rapper explained:
“My family is really diverse. I have Japanese family and family from Wales who showed me Ed Sheeran and Wiley hella long ago. I’ve known for a while that Skepta was that guy. I love Skepta, I love MNEK – he’s hard, and Little Simz goes crazy. Shoutout to Big Narstie too!”
He even went as far as putting Skepta in his top five list:
“Oh my god, Skepta is my favourite rapper. He goes so crazy. I would say, in the world, at this moment, talent wise – because I grew up differently, I won’t always relate to him – but if you put rappers in a ring together, Skepta is one of the top five in the world. No-one else can rap like that, how do you even switch up the cadence like that? And the pockets, oh my god.”
As a fan of Kyle since his K.I.D days, I would’ve been remise if I didn’t ask him when he expects to perform at his debut UK show. “I wanna come sometime towards the end of the year, I wanna see if I can make it happen.”
With the success of “iSpy”, KYLE’s future looks bright. On the phone, the rapper confirmed that he has an album in the works, saying, “The best project I’ve ever made is coming out soon.”
KYLE is an enthusiastic, humble and ambitious artist that has been grinding for a hot minute now. It’s always good to see artists achieve the success they deserve, and KYLE’s career in the spotlight is only just beginning.