“I’m SUPER DUPER KYLE. I'm a superhero. I'm here to save the day. I'm not here to make it a worse place than how I found it” – KYLE, 2019
Remember those words. Have them ready the next time you hear some ill-informed critique that contemporary hip-hop is a banner for soulless, reprobate behaviour. With his 2018 debut album Light of Mine and slew of singles and mixtapes prior, KYLE showed the world that it didn’t always have to be high-tempo trap or party-blasting pap-rap. Its place as a high-value hashtag has blunted its impact but positivity is the essence of his music. Catharsis is one thing. But how about happiness as a musical totality? Not ‘happy’ music but music that vividly addresses life’s rollercoaster trajectory, and with its irresistible fusion of hooks and storytelling, blesses the listener with a megaton payload of happiness.
Invited to Singapore for his first-ever show by the ever-delivering promoter Collective Minds, the chart-topping rapper sat down with Bandwagon for an illuminating chat about how, despite all your rage, you don’t need to be rat in a cage.
You had a buzzing and busy 2018. How was the year for you, in retrospect?
You know what? My 2018 was crazy, bro. Surreal. When I was a kid, I always envisioned myself traveling to other countries but I had no idea what that even meant. You feel me? I've gotten so much more than what I thought I was going to get. I feel like I've been rewarded last year beyond my wildest imagination and I'm so grateful.
Grateful – that's the word I've been repeating to myself all year long as these wonderful things keep happening to me. I dropped my first album and it went gold, almost immediately. It was followed by a world tour. Now, I’m all the way in Singapore and people are singing all the words to my songs. I've been trying to teach myself appreciation. To be appreciative for every living moment because God doesn't owe us anything. We're born, we can breathe air. And if that happens to you, you're literally owed nothing. So I've been mad appreciative of everything and I continue to be out here making other people happy.
Positivity is the core of your artistry and it’s something you’ve been incredibly vocal about. Why is that important to you?
I grew up surrounded by a lot of love but I also grew up surrounded by a lot of negativity. I saw a lot of terrible things happening to good people. I know how important optimism is and I've watched families grow up without it and be destroyed. Seeing all that from such a young age, I know that those little things such as being nice to somebody can be the difference in making those life-and-death decisions. Since young, I felt this calling to only give out kindness to other people. And when I started making music, I realised that since I had all these kids' attention why would I waste time telling them something that wouldn’t make them feel better about themselves? Why would I say anything hurtful? I am SUPER DUPER KYLE. I'm a superhero. I'm here to save the day. I'm not here to make it a worse place than how I found it.
In the ninth or tenth grade was the first time I experienced one of my family members passing away and the thing is, when it happens, you can get so destroyed. I kept saying nice things to myself in the mirror. This whole positivity thing, I used it on myself first and that's why I am the way I am today. I figured out some way to make myself happy, no matter what. And now, I use it as a superpower and I try to spread it to as many people as I can. Remember the smile. That's all you need to do.
It’s known that you love both of Kid Cudi's Man On The Moon albums. What about those records got you wanting to make your own music?
I was in ninth grade when the first one came out. That inspired me a lot but my favourite Kid Cudi album is the second one Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. That album came at a pivotal time. And the reason it was so inspiring and so helpful is, that, it was the first time I saw somebody be vulnerable and honest about how they felt. All the things that you were fed, imagery-wise, when you were a young hip-hop fan growing up was just masculinity at its peak – six-pack abs, lots of girls and big cars. When I was a little kid, I was not that. None of those songs were going to help me get through my grandfather's passing. I wanted to hear somebody that I could relate to so that I’d know that I'm not the only person that doesn't feel awesome all the time.
After listening to Kid Cudi, I was really inspired to be on the same mission and be honest with my music. If I'm honest with my music, I can relate to people. And if I can relate to people, I'm helping them be okay with being themselves. As long as you're okay with yourself and you accept yourself, you're going to happy because you love who you are.
One of Light Of Mine’s most popular tracks is 'Playinwitme ft. Kehlani’, which chronicles the agony of unrequited love. What advice do you have for those that are in that situation right now?
Listen to me. Listen to me, bro. There's nothing I can do to save you. Somebody out there is going to break your heart. That is going to happen and it's going to hurt but all I can tell you is to try to realise that early on because the one thing you can never get back is time.
Time that was invested in a person. Once they walk away from you, they walk away with that time forever. If you're in that situation right now and you feel like this girl or guy is playing with your heart, definitely realise your self-worth and walk away before you're in way too deep. The deeper you're in when that explodes, the heavier it's going to hit.
One of the record’s most notable elements is your life-elevating sense of humour. Why make humour the conduit of your messaging?
My whole family, especially my dad, uses humour as the medicine for life. It's almost, as if, no matter what situation we're in, they'll find a way to laugh it off. I noticed that, humour, for me, is such a good way to express not only my good times but my bad times, as well. And it's a way for me to open up about being vulnerable. The thing is, rappers are so serious, they're afraid to laugh at themselves. Let me tell you something. All of them in their daily lives have done stuff that is funny. Your favourite rapper does some dumb shit every day. You just don’t see that.
I'm a whole person – I'm going to make sad songs and I'm going to make funny songs too. Be the you that you really are. I'm not going to care about that trend that rappers are going through. I'm going to figure out a way to be happy and to smile. Because I've been through way too much to let that get taken away from me just because it's not cool. Be yourself. Love yourself. Be happy with who you are and that's it.