In 2017, KYLE has found a way to spear his way through the barricades of rap with his catchy single “iSpy.” While the record teeters along the lines of Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues, his Lil Yachty-assisted track ballooned into a hit, earning a home on the Billboard Hot 100.
In a matter of weeks, KYLE’s whimsical record sped its way to the No. 4 spot on the Hot 100, and earned him his first No. 1 single on the Billboard rap charts. His success also led to performances at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards, this year’s VMAs and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Despite the song’s occasionally sing-songy lyrics, Kyle made sure to supply his day one loyalists a hearty supply of raps when he released “Nothing to Lose.” Brimming with confidence, KYLE morphs into his alter-ego Superduperkyle and dropkicks his adversaries: “I think another platinum plaque is coming soon,” the 24-year-old raps.
With a multitude of accolades under his belt, KYLE is ready to blossom into a mega-star with his forthcoming debut album. He spoke to Billboard about his “epic” 2017, dreams of collaborating with Jadakiss, and how “iSpy” helped Kodak Black get over his depression while in jail.
How would you describe your 2017?
KYLE: 2017 has been super epic. 2017 has been like — you know in a cartoon where it’s like, randomly everything is going good for some reason and you’re like, “I wonder why?” And then it’s because they’re in like a dream? I feel like I’m ready to wake up at any second. Like, this shit has been phenomenal, and it just happened so unexpectedly. It all feels like, “Damn. All this great stuff is happening this year, why?” But then, you think about the past five years of work you’ve been putting in and you’re like, “OK. Maybe that.” It’s been dope.
What was your initial reaction when you learned “iSpy” hit the top five on the Billboard Hot 100?
I’m gonna keep it solid — when it went 82 on the Hot 100, I was like, “Oh my God. I’m on the Hot 100? What?” Then, when that shit dropped from 82 to 42, I was like, “Oh my God. Bro, I’m about to have a top 40 song!” Then, when I had a top 40 song and it jumped to like 30 something, I was like so gassed, it was ridiculous. Then, it went to 20 and then 10, bro. Then, that shit went to 4. No, it went from like 8 or 7 first, then it went to 4. I had the No. 4 song in the world, and when it to No. 1 on the rap side, that was even crazier.
I’m not even gonna lie, I played Jadakiss “We Gon’ Make It” and shed a thug tear, and was like “Damn. Me and all my homies did it.” Jesus shed a thug tear, too.
We’re still waiting for that Jadakiss collaboration.
Oh my God! Yes! If I can force a feature right now… like if a genie came out a bottle and said, “I’d give you one feature” — even though I know if I do some shit with Drake, it’ll go instantly platinum and make me mad money — I’d still pick Jadakiss. Not even a beat, bro. I just need a snare, literally. Just me, Jadakiss and a snare, bro. Like that’s how much I love Jadakiss.
Even though I feel like when Jadakiss finally meets me, he might just punch me in the chest or some shit off of light skin GP. Like, ‘Get this light-skinned, curly-headed…’ and I’d still be cool with it because that’s how much I fuck with Jadakiss and the whole Lox. I love all of them.
With you being from Cali’, not a lot of people would have thought htat you appreciated the East Coast sound so much.
You know, randomly enough, all of my favorite rappers growing up were East Coast rappers. I don’t know. I just related to them a little more at first — because if you’re born in L.A. and you lived there your whole life, Snoop Dogg literally sounds like cars driving by. You feel me? You hear Snoop Dogg so much. You hear all that shit so much that it becomes normal to you by the time you’re 10, you feel me? And I feel like there was a moment when the West Coast didn’t have mad shit out, and it was around that time that I wanted to dive deeper into rap.
I felt like I related to East Coast lyricism a little more. Because I couldn’t be super gangsta. Like, I’m not super gangsta, as you look at me, even though the East Coast shit was super thugged out too. I could like kind of ease my way in there with a little De La Soul, you feel me? Then, step it up a little bit with some Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, then, get like Big L and I’m like kind of thugged out. Take that, mix that up and go over to Gang Starr, take that and I finally find myself on The Lox’s doorstep like, ‘Teach me about bars.’ Because they have the most.
Were you dropping “Nothing to Lose” directly after “iSpy” intentionally, so that you can show people you can rap too?
Definitely. Bars. Definitely, because it was happening so soon. It was happening so fast that I was like… I knew that “Nothing to Lose” wasn’t gonna probably go off the same way numbers-wise like “iSpy,” but “Nothing to Lose” was more like a statement record for me. Because at first, I was going to drop “Nothing to Lose” before “iSpy.” That was where I found myself in rap at the time. I was like, “Damn n—a. I’m like half fallen off, who gives a fuck, but I got nothing to lose. You don’t gotta fuck with me. I fuck with me. You feel me?” That’s what “Nothing to Lose” is about. After “iSpy” popped, I was kind of like, ‘I told y’all,’ and I just wanted to drop “Nothing to Lose” to kind of reinstate that.
What made you decide to get Kodak Black for the “iSpy (Remix)?”
Man, you know what, first and foremost, everybody hated that remix for some reason. Like bro, my fans were so pissed. I was like, “What’s wrong?” The thing is, me and my friends, we legitimately fuck with Kodak. Kodak is hard. “No Flockin” is an amazing song. So we fuck with Kodak. When Kodak was in jail, ‘iSpy” was his favorite song. We found out from his A&R, who said ‘iSpy’ was getting Kodak through jail. He said while he was in jail, he was hella depressed. He was hella sad. ‘iSpy’ was getting him through jail. It was making him happy.
So he said that was his favorite song. He was on the phone and shit and wanted to do it when he got out. So when he got out, he did that shit literally the first day he got home. He called me, like, ‘Man. I just killed that motherfucker, man.’
The thing is, I don’t judge people. I feel like my fans are a little sheltered. They’re not necessarily ready for that.
They want the Kyle that hangs out with Chance the Rapper and Taylor Bennett.
Exactly. But everybody from the hood ain’t bad, you feel me? If Kodak said that song helped him get over some depression, I’m fucking with him.
With your debut album coming up, are fans going to get the “iSpy” Kyle or “Nothing to Lose” Kyle?
Man, you know what? Fans are just about to get this real. That’s what they’re about to get. I mean, there’s “Nothing to Loses.” There’s some like up-beat shit, then there’s some R&B shit, and then there’s some real life shit, you know? I gotta show people both sides. Like, the high moments with “iSpy” and the low moments, because every person has both. That’s what I’m trying to portray to people.
I think with social media and all the famous people people see nowadays, I don’t think we understand that’s it OK to be normal. It’s OK to be a little broken. Like, everybody is. Everybody has problems. Everybody goes through shit. I think we’re so used to seeing perfect people that that’s not what I want to give them. I could give them a whole album full of “iSpy”s and be like, ‘It’s all good!’ the whole time, but I wanna show kids that you can be a little messed up too and it’s alright.
Lastly, we have to know: Is it Superduperkyle or Kyle?
I’ll say, it always depends on you. It depends on your mood, you feel me. Like Superduperkyle is an alter-ego that I invented for myself.
I thought you were referring to yourself as a Dragon Ball Z character and saying you’re going Super Saiyan 3.
Nah, it is. Superduperkyle is the version of Kyle that can be anything, you feel me. He can beat anything. Nothing can bring him down. Kyle is just chilling on the couch playing Zelda. Superduperkyle is the one that’s like, ‘Damn. I gotta go save this world. Let me go and put on this cape. Go out there and conquer all the wack shit that’s happening in my life.’
This story was first posted to Billboard.