Let me introduce you to the rapper who vehemently denies that he sounds anything like Drake — and honestly he’s got a good point. KYLE has been making waves in the hip hop scene, working with producers DJ Carnage and The Cataracs, all while spitting thoughtful lines revolving around his personal life, the hip hop industry, and what he is searching for in his future. Rapper KYLE boasts a storytelling nature that lets you know exactly who he is and where he is coming from, a trend that is slowly gaining steam in the hip hop world as a whole.
KYLE’s full-length release, Beautiful Loser has gained fans in a multitude of people (including fellow rapper Childish Gambino), for his fresh approach to lyrical content and of course, for his comparison to a few other heavy hitters in the industry today. Musically, some of his melodies and vocals are a bit repetitive; however his lyrical content more than makes up for this lapse by creating unique hooks and one-liners that make the listener reevaluate the common values of your typical hip hop scenarios.
For example, what could possibly be his most popular track, “Keep It Real”, creates an almost tongue-in-cheek definition of the popular phrase that is constantly thrown around in the hip hop world. KYLE takes a literal and deeper approach to the phrase, while also giving a glimpse into his personal life, rather than candy-coating the term into a “cooler” diluted version of the truth. Just take a listen to the track by itself, then watch the video for the full effect; it’s as if the meaning of the song pops right out at you, and the surprise ending to the video is deep and alluring in a way that makes you realize you’ve been truly listening the entire time. It was not what I was expecting at all from the music video, and when I told him how surprising the video and its meaning were for me, KYLE agrees that it’s something he’s heard from his listeners.
“A lot of people say the same thing. “, he explains. “It is a real personal story and it is a little bit of acting. They hear the song and they kind of get the message, but at the same time it sounds normal to them. But then you see the video and it actually makes sense why it’s called ‘Keep it Real’.” The central theme of the song seems to float around a very important topic in the hip hop world, and as KYLE put it, “Money is not always what’s important.”
With his lyrics and musical style, KYLE offers more than the typical; in fact, he gives his listeners a glimpse into “the life” without masking his own personality and without segregating himself from the average Joe fan. A self professed “video game dude”, KYLE shakes off the online blogs who call him out as being a nerd, and instead simply accepts his guy-next-door status — if the guy-next-door also happened to be one of the most interesting young rap talents today.
He’s not out of reach, nor out of touch, and this dedication to who he truly is reflects widely in his music. He’s mastered the art of being an extraordinary talent and a typical male all at the same time.
And much like the typical 20 year-old male, his perspective on love and relationships isn’t quite humble — tracks like “Oceans” features the lyrics: “Bring it to my bedroom baby, I bet we won’t sleep at all.” And dance-themed track “Love For You” goes even further into that young love mentality as KYLE raps, “When it comes to sex do you do it the best? If not, I might move on the the next, though. Think about that before you give it a rest.” But this bravado only makes him that much more human, as he opts for relationship advice and flirtatious advances in lieu of the typical sexification of women in hip hop.
These lyrics, in my opinion, make him only more relatable to a generation that already sees a thin line between lovers and friends and moments and forever. But with any creativity comes criticism, and KYLE even admits that the critique he has faced can be more brutal in the hip hop world than with any other genre.
“I think hip hop sometimes, more than any other form of music, has a real bad stigma of: ‘if you don’t do your music a certain way, it’s not real hip hop.'” He points out that his musical tastes are vast, and therefore will reflect in the style of music he creates. “I like to experiment with a lot of different genres… and I think that because of that I’m really not afraid to make any type of song.”
The weight of criticism seems to roll easily off of him, and perhaps it’s because of the current growth in hip hop as a genre. Artists are slowly stepping away from a rigid definition of rap, and stepping into new territory as acts like Macklemore and The Weeknd are helping to pave the way for a variety of different styles and subject matter. KYLE is no exception to the rule. When he further speaks on criticism, he adds, “The only criticism I think I’ve ever faced… is that sometimes they think my sound can be too alternative or too pop or too this or that.” But once again, he seems unaffected by negativity and almost vows to continue on this path on which his musical tastes have taken him. “It’s not selling out or anything, it’s like, this is the actual type of music I listen to… and I’m inevitably going to make.”
Though he’s only 20, he has a serene knowledge that can only come from experience, proving he’s already learned and grown quite a bit since his earlier days rapping under pseudonym K.I.D. KYLE admits to touching on a few serious themes in Beautiful Loser, simply because it comes with the territory of growth. “I did write a little differently. I think what happened is I’m just growing up, you know?” He’s referring to the whirlwind of an early career, which includes over a million views on his music video and a big move from his home town to downtown.
Perhaps working with a close circle of music veterans such as DJ Carnage and the Cataracs also helped to add a bit to his wisdom and growth? And the wisdom is heavily apparent, as I had to constantly remind myself that he is only 20. However, he admits his playful side will most likely always be dominant in his music.
“A lot of themes…just matured. It’s not like I switched what I wanted to talk about, it’s just I’m naturally living a different life now. But at the same time you’re always going to have ‘Sex and Super Smash Bros’. Some of that is still going to stay the same.” He’s referring to what is probably one of the most energetic and animated tracks off the album, “Sex and Super Smash Bros”, a tune that’s catchy, flirtatious and fun-loving, while sampling in the video game at just the right moments of the song.
More evidence of this fun-loving and intriguing playfulness can be seen and heard in “Bang” — the video is a clever and comical ode to a famous scene from the movie Friday.
“It’s not to make fun of it, it’s just like a shout out to that whole movie. That scene is funny. We can’t make fun of a funny scene!” He says between laughter as he explains the mentality behind the video.
Other songs on the album include even more witty commentary on his personal life — “Love For You” is smart line after smart line, and “Fruit Snacks” is a unique ode to the good life. I forgot to tell him during our interview that I had fruit snacks that day and saw it as a good omen for our talk, but I did get to ask the video gamer side of rapper KYLE what was possibly the toughest question of the interview: Favorite video game franchise.
“Favorite video game franchise? That’s really tough! I love Final Fantasy, but I think I was too little to fully understand it, but it kind of blew my mind. Obviously the Grand Theft Auto franchise is fucking legendary, but also Elder Scrolls is really tough, I’ve been playing those for awhile. But I have to give it to Elder Scrolls.”
He writes plays, he writes rhymes, he plays video games — and if his music isn’t on your mind after listening to Beautiful Loser then you may need to check your pulse.
You can check in with KYLE on his Facebook page, his Instagram and his Twitter for more updates on his ever-growing music career, and the west coast can see him on his first ever headlining tour this month. Check out his website for all the tour dates — and if you’re in San Diego, head to Porter’s Pub for an up close and personal live show this Friday.