When you want to escape the perils of life, throwing on a track from the multi-Platinum-selling rapper KYLE is the right thing to do. Mostly remembered for his top five Billboard hit, ‘iSpy’ – which turned five years old last year – the Ventura rapper has been delivering the joyfulness in a rap world full of tough-guy bravado for a decade, but still feels like an anomaly.
In 2022, has KYLE released his third studio album, ‘It’s Not So Bad’, as he reflects on his life today, now newly independent having split with Atlantic Records, and releasing his album as an NFT for fans and friends to buy shares of. Fully charged with the same shining positivity he always exudes , the 28-year-old answers NME’s questions on love, his pop sound and his acting career. All this while dodging a call or two from his mum on the biggest day of his 2022 so far: release day.
There are a lot of references to love on ‘It’s Not So Bad’. Why is love so ingrained in your music?
“The best pieces of art ever delivered to the world are about love, in my opinion. Whether it’s you love something, or you love God, or you love another person, it’s all about that. And yeah, I’ve been in love for so long that whenever I need to genuinely tap into a true feeling, that’s at my disposal. That’s why my relationship is such a central theme in all my music instead of me trying to make these records about some other shit.
“Being in love is a gift. It’s really a blanket for life. Me and my fiancée got together when I was like 15 or something, and the blanket gets cozier the longer you wear it. I feel like you can break in love like you got to break into some shoes to the point, where it just fits you so perfectly.”
You take a very poppy approach to rap…
“I’ve been doing music for so long that it gets boring to me if I’m not finding some sort of new sound or sonic. I have to test myself every time I make an album, or else I’m just bored. And if I’m bored, I’m uninspired. And then who wants to hear that anyway? So that’s why I’m always looking for some sort of new signings. Pop is always at the centre of my music is because I’m an optimist, man. I’m trying to make the listener feel brighter and joyful. No genre has ever done that like pop. No song makes you get up and just move quicker than [Michael Jackson’s] ‘PYT’. I feel like so many people are always afraid of making pop music. People think like it’s lame and afraid of being joyous [but] the gates for doing pop music have always been so open for me.”
Does it ever get really draining being the ‘happy’ rapper?
“I tell people, my best way of describing happiness is sort of like a UFC cage fight. You’re not just gonna wake up and be happy; you got to wake up and fight for it. And being a happy rapper sometimes is draining because of how much negative attention it attracts. It’s always been an uphill battle for me to be this happy-go-lucky man in rap music. Nobody really wants to see that. But I know it’s who I naturally am. So if anything ever gets draining from [being the happy musician], it’s just the resistance I’m met with, but at the same time that resistance is the fuel that keeps me going.
“Also, [it’s fulfilling to see] the people that I hope I’m affecting in a positive way. Nothing rebuilds you like when some kid is in my DMs telling me, ‘Yo, you brought me out of the darkest time of my life.’ I feel that makes what I’m doing and how tough it is to always fight that battle.”
What do you want people to take from ‘It’s Not So Bad’? And how is it different from your other albums?
“I want people to gain the same freedom that I gained, making it. It’s called ‘It’s Not So Bad’ because they’re the words of affirmation I was telling myself in the mirror during the pandemic, and while I was trying to figure out this label thing. All of these really tough decisions on my head were trying to take the joy out of life. When you find gratitude, you will find joy. When I did, it freed me of all these bullshit expectations I was focused on that were just weighing me down. So when creating this album, I didn’t think I needed the record label. If I have to make records like this, and I have to wait for approval: I don’t think I need that. I need to go have fun. I want to see people dance and experience the same freedom that I’m currently feeling right now. It’s almost like albums are like a little soul capsule. ‘It’s Not So Bad’ is what’s going on in my soul right now. Take it. Use it. And yeah, I hope that freedom is what people take from it.”
How’s your acting going? You had the Netflix film The After Party and the crime movie Cherry…
“My acting has been going really well. It’s still one of the things that are really exciting for me and a new frontier in all aspects of that phrase. And every time I get an opportunity to work in film, it feels like I’m in high school and I’m meeting new people. I got the awesome opportunity to be in Cherry [with current Spiderman Tom Holland], which was great.”
What was it like meeting garage legend Craig David, who appears on new track ‘Unreplaceable’?
“I gotta tell you that I’m always nice to everybody but I’ve never been this impressed with meeting someone and them being just the nicest person I’ve literally ever met. And then he’s the rawest in-person singer I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It was stupid: bro was just going in for like nine minutes straight. Craig David was my first introduction to that kind of music and I have a pretty diverse family. I have Welsh cousins, and they will come over from the UK playing me Big Narstie, Wiley, Craig David, and all this stuff when I was like a kid. So there was already this fondness and this familiarity around it.”
‘iSpy’ turned five last year!
“I think the pandemic made us all jump through time. The last thing I remember, it was 2019. We were on tour in Asia and I’m still performing this song. Still riding on such a high. And then the pandemic happened and those two years didn’t really exist. It’s cool to look back on it. I’m paying attention to being more grateful, realising how awesome and blessed a time like that was. That whole era was really something that was just strictly a blessing.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m really focused on – even more than acting right now – my writing and film and TV development. I think while acting is something I’m still looking to improve on and learn about, I’m pretty well versed in storytelling. I’ve been telling stories in my music my entire life. I’m developing an animated series – like, an anime with [gaming site] Kotaku. It’s produced by me, Carl Jones – who is a producer of [2009 comedy] Black Dynamite and [cartoon series] The Boondocks – and [activist and former American football player] Colin Kapernick. He’s literally Superman in the flesh. So I’m really excited about that.”
– Kyle’s ‘It’s Not So Bad’ is out now