The born and raised Californian rapper first fell in love with rap music when he was 10 years old, after hearing it for the first time when his dad played “Got Your Money” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the car stereo. Since then he has been honing his craft, practising tirelessly in the studio and releasing mix tapes and his 2015 album, Smyle, which featured heavyweights like Chance the Rapper.
Now, KYLE is back, releasing two killer tracks with last year’s absolute banger “iSpy”, featuring Lil Yachty, and last month’s “Want Me Bad”. Both incredible singles, KYLE’s ability to create entertaining and engaging tracks is evident, and his self-proclaimed “anti-cool” factor adds an infectious level of fun, with “iSpy” becoming so successful it just jumped into the Billboard Top 10.
Undoubtedly, about to achieve huge success worldwide, we talked to the 23 year old charmer during a break from wowing audiences on his US tour to find out all about him.
How’s touring going? We saw on Twitter that you broke the floor at a gig?!
Yeah, it’s going really well. We’re in Dallas. I would like to reiterate that it’s not really our fault, it’s the venue’s fault for having shady floors. But we did indeed end up breaking the beam that supported the floor. I don’t know, man, these KYLE fans, they go hard.
Well that’s better than them just standing still with blank faces…
You know, it’s crazy, that’s what the venue asked us to do. No joke. They grabbed my DJ and tugged him on the shirt and they were like, “You’ve got to stop telling them to jump or else we’ll shut it down. So make sure nobody jumps anymore.” And he relayed that messaged to me and I was like “Bro”. I mean I get it, I totally understand, but I’m sorry, I work too hard and they paid money to get here. I can’t tell them, “Yo, I know you paid all that money to get in here but due to the venue’s super trash floor, you have to just sway like those inflatable things they have outside all the car places”.
How did you first get into hip-hop music?
Well oddly enough, I didn’t really listen to hip-hop until I was about 10. Before then I didn’t really listen to it at all. If I did listen to it, I don’t remember it. So I was 10 years old and I went to visit my dad and he started playing this song. And this song was so crazy to me. My mind was ridiculously blown. And then ODB comes on. Mind. Blown. I’d never heard anything like this in my life, and I’m looking at my dad like “What is this?” and he was like “Oh, this is ODB” and I was like “No, not the person. Just, what is this?”. And he stops the car and he’s like “What the hell do you mean what is this? What have they been force feeding you over there?” Because, you know, my mom’s white so all I really listened to was K-rock and my grandparents are also white so it was just Dean Martin. So between Dean Martin and Weezer, I had no idea what hip-hop sounded like. And it was just crazy. Ever since then I just fell in love with rapping and my dad was also a rapper, so rapping became our thing. He helped me get better and took me to studios and made me practice.
Was there a moment you can remember when it clicked that you really wanted to be a rapper?
I had one of those super, super, super supportive families. You know when your mom tells you some wild stuff like “You’re gonna be a president one day”, and then by third grade you’re looking at your grades and you’re like “I’m probably not gonna be president” but they keep telling you that anyways? I have one of those families. They always told me “You’re gonna be famous. You can do whatever you wanna do”. So even from early memories I was pretty much convinced that I was gonna be a singer. That’s how I knew. So when I learnt how to rap, there was never a moment when I knew I wanted to be a rapper, but I was already in love with music and it was already my dream. All that was already established. I’m not going to college, I’m going to be a musician, period.
How do you think you’ve grown as an artist and a rapper since your 2011 mixtape?
Oh my god, that’s crazy that you even know about that. Let’s keep that under wraps! I think I feel like I’ve honed in on the right part of my music making craft. I’ve just been trying to get better with the songs that I’m writing. I want the songs I’m writing to have a purpose. The production grows with your taste, you know? So I think the production gets better just by me surrounding myself with better producers, instead of ripping beats off of Soundcloud and YouTube like I used to do back in 2011. My priority is really just songwriting. I don’t want to sacrifice anything, I want every single part to be something that people remember. Or else it’s just average, and that would suck, no one wants to do that.
“I kind of want my music to be like a cup of coffee, so even if you’re doing really bad in the morning you can just listen to it once and you’re on!”
Can you tell us about your single “iSpy”?
I was in the studio with Ayo one day and I’ve always tried to make positive music. I kind of want my music to be like a cup of coffee, so even if you’re doing really bad in the morning you can just listen to it once and you’re on! And I noticed I didn’t have any of those, all I made was really sad songs. So I was like “Ayo, I’ve got all this pent up happiness, so we just need to make the most feel good song ever right now.” And so I started sitting down at the piano and I was just playing those little chords, and I was like “Hey, I think we’ve got something over here.” And in the back of my mind I knew that only one person would sound good on it, and then Lil Boat’s voice just ran into my head and was like “Come on, bro. You already know the answer to that, bro. You already know it’s me.” So then I hit up Yachty, and Yachty was down. He’s very tapped in. That’s one thing people don’t give Yachty enough credit for, he literally is tapped in to what kids like right at this moment. Not in the future, not tomorrow, right now. He knows what’s tight and he was literally just like “That’s a banger, let’s do it”.
What was the inspiration behind the track?
I’m just so over social life on Instagram especially when it comes to attracting women, because they’re awesome and Instagram is making it so hard to be friends with some of these girls. Because if you are beautiful and you’re on Instagram, you probably have like a million followers, or even 50,000 followers. Once you hit 50,000 followers your position towards other dudes changes so much. I have followers on Instagram so it’s not even a massive deal for me, but I’m thinking in general. I’m thinking about my homies that don’t! It’s like so depressing when you see some girl online and she’s amazing and then you click on her account and she’s got like 2 million followers, like “Well you will never talk to me”. People don’t know it now, but the new thing is gonna be girls on Instagram with no followers that are bad and are private and only let a couple of people follow them. That’s gonna be the new thing, because that’s what I’m searching for right now. When their account is private and the only people following them are like Drake and Barack Obama, wait I can’t talk about the president like that, but you know when the usual suspects are following a real baddie on Instagram? That’s the one. Exclusivity is the future.
The track is super funny and theatrical. Why did you want to incorporate these elements into it?
I would still like to consider myself anti-cool. Before I started being a rapper, I was a drama kid. I was doing musical theatre and dressing up in outfits, and shit like that. So, that’s my background. I was writing plays and singing in plays. You know once you go drama club, you can never go back. It’s in all my music really, not just that song. I’ve been putting skits on songs for ever, but I know Boat does it too. If you check out his first mixtape, he’s talking about the difference between Yachty and Lil Boat. I thought that was awesome, so when me and him did the song, I knew that we had to do an intro thing. So we freestyled it, and he was just being my conscience talking to me about how life is awesome.
Most importantly, do you actually have a selfie with Oprah and, if so, what’s the story behind it?
Damn, wouldn’t you like to know! You know what, I do have a selfie with Oprah and one day I’m gonna auction it off for millions of dollars. That’s the only information I can give you.
“iSpy” has just gone into the Billboard Top 10, how did that feel?
Yeah, damn, that was a super huge accomplishment, especially for me and my whole team. They’ve been so loyally gliding with me for the past five years for some of them, seven years for others. To have this song go so far was phenomenal for us. I can’t even describe that feeling. Like, wow. I look at the rest of the people who are up there and when I was a little kid I hoped that one day I would have a song like that. I’ve always paid attention to the charts and I was always on it. So to see my own name on there is crazy. It’s a whole different type of feeling.
You released your newest single “Want Me Bad” in February. Can you tell us a bit about the track?
We made that one before “iSpy” actually. Are you all spiritual or not? I’m off and on with this shit. But with “Want Me Bad”, I was so depressed at the time that I felt this little glimpse of hope to keep trying to break out and I just wanted to feel awesome. I had so many negative people around me and I had so much negativity trying to break me down. If you’re getting ready to be something great and you’re trying to do something great, that’s when the devil gets really excited because that’s when they’re gonna try their hardest to keep you back. So that’s what “Want Me Bad” is about. I just felt at the time that there was so much stacked up against me. I just felt like the devil wants me back, he wants me to be this terrible, sucky person, and I am not gonna be that. So that was the energy of “Want Me Back”. I feel like a lot of that had to do with pushing that out of my system and making “iSpy” next. It’s featuring the rawest rapper ever right now, a kid named Cousin Stizz from Boston. He is so good. And on top of that he’s a really good person, and a really cool dude.
It’s been two years since Smyle. When is the new album coming out?
There is an album in the works. It’s kind of done. Almost done. Not so much done. It’s there. It’s gonna come soon. My only date is soon, that’s the only date I can give you. Sorry. I love you though!