Even if you never knew hip-hop’s MC Kyle came from the golden state that is California, once you listened to his sun-soaked, West Coast-heavy music, you immediately would get a sense dude grew up around a lot of beaches.
Born in North Ridge and bred in that surf mecca of Ventura, Los Angeles resident Kyle is a California boy through and through.
“Growing up in California has completely made me the person that I am,” says the rapper (real name: Kyle Harvey), 23, on the phone from Panama City Beach. “Oh my God, bro – it sounds like a nightmare to have grown up anywhere else other than there. Like, obviously, I know everywhere is cool and all but, at least for me, I was lucky enough to be in southern California. I feel lucky to be from there. … I feel like it taught me how to be polite.”
But even though Kyle – also known as Super Duper Kyle – grew up listening to California rap titans Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, it was the hip-hop of the East Coast that he fell in love with.
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“The first rapper I heard was ODB (Ol’ Dirty Bastard),” he remembers. “My favorite rapper of all time is Jadakiss – hands down, no question. Pete Rock, CL Smooth, all this East Coast stuff – that’s kind of, like, the rappers I first admired. I wanna rap just like them because I just thought they were so hard. I thought their delivery was so crazy.”
However, when he was in high school and started listening to the likes of Drake, Big Sean and Kid Cudi, that’s when he realized he could still be both a rapper and himself.
“Without them, I’d still have (Timberlands) on,” he says, laughing. “I’d currently be wearing Tims on the beach right now. Like, I would just be somebody I’m not. … All those artists, they kind of just, like, showed me to stop faking it. Like, don’t fake in your music. Before I heard them, all I was rapping about was guns – guns and pushing (drug) packs. And I was like, ‘I don’t have any guns and I have never pushed a single pack! So, this doesn’t connect to me.’”
Keeping it real has definitely paid off. His latest single, “iSpy,” featuring Lil Yachty, climbed to No. 10 on the April 1 Billboard Hot 100. According to Kyle, he and Yachty were initially supposed to get together not to collaborate, but to compete.
“The internet was trying to get me and Yachty to dance battle – like, on some ‘You Got Served’ vibes,” he says. “Thank God it didn’t happen, but that’s how we became friends. And then, when I was making the song, I knew he would just sound perfect on it.”
Those who think Kyle just showed up out of nowhere (there have been news reports inaccurately listing “iSpy” as his debut single) should know he’s been out there grinding for more than a minute. Before he signed to Atlantic earlier this year, he released two independent albums, “Beautiful Loser” in 2013 and “Smyle” in 2015 (which featured a guest appearance from Chance the Rapper), on the aptly named Indie-Pop label. He also dropped mixtapes at the top of the decade under his original moniker, K.i.D.
“I understand it,” he says. “I totally get it – like, they don’t know the other songs. But, for the real fans that do know everything that came before, to all the fans that looked at ‘Keep It Real’ as my big, breakout single, I just definitely appreciate them a little more. But, as for anybody else, that’s all good. I understand. You’re a little late to the party. But, hey, we still rockin’ – come on in! Have a drink!”
Local folk can certainly join the party when Kyle makes a stop on his “SUPER Tour” this Sunday at Lincoln Theatre. So, what can people look forward to at a Kyle show?
“I’m just gonna keep it real and talk about Pokemon and video games,” he says. “So, let’s get it!”
Who: Kyle, with Cousin Stizz
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Lincoln Theatre, 126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh
Details: 919-821-4111 or lincolntheatre.com