Kyle Harvey loves to talk about love, light, and positivity. “We really have the power to illuminate all negative things in our life, but we have to find that light source inside of us and really tap in with it and reconnect with it,” says the rapper, who is perhaps better known by his cheeky stage name, SUPERDUPERKYLE. Rocking a light-green jacket, with an iced-out smiley face sitting at his chest, KYLE leans into a cozy lounge chair in a large conference room in the heart of midtown New York.
KYLE seized 2017 with “iSpy” featuring Lil Yachty, and continued to win over new fans with his happy raps and wholesome personality, advertised by a gold cap-detailed, toothy grin. Warm, earnest emotions have sort of become synonymous with the Ventura, California, native, as has his knack for telling vivid stories through quirky, free-spirited rhymes.
Still, KYLE makes it clear that being happy all the time is obviously impossible. Which is why his forthcoming debut album, Light of Mine, out on May 18, his 25th birthday, will be a little more nuanced. The full-length project, which includes “Playinwitme” featuring Kehlani and a bundle of high profile features, goes past surface-level happy feels to paint a picture of love, angst, pain, and sorrow.
Why did you choose SUPERDUPERKYLE to be your stage name?
The most powerful, most insightful, and most important part of my music is honesty and inclusiveness with my fans — giving them as deep a story as I can give them. With a stage name, that can only reach a bottom floor with how real you can be. I wanted to be more honest, and it's like, what's more honest than my first name? It's really just me.
The SUPERDUPER [part] is because I'm also aware that I can do anything, there is no impossibility. I'm a superhero and I can save my own day as well as others’ with the power I have from this music and the power of being kind to people. That's what I'm here to do, I'm here to save the day.
Light of Mine seems to include a more personal tone from you; what inspired that wider range of feelings?
On my last albums, I was very good at telling a specific story but I felt like there was a destination I hadn't reached yet. I felt like there was more about myself that I needed to express, and there was heavier issues that I needed to touch on. As an expressive person, I need to share all sides of myself, and there were certain sides that weren't being expressed. With this one, I wanted to make sure that I went more in depth with the lyrics to every song, I wanted to make sure I went more personal and showed people a deeper struggle. Like, there's people out there struggling with shit, and if you don't show them know that you struggle with shit too, they'll never know that it's okay to struggle.
What are some of those struggles you dealt with?
Well you know, it's one thing to tell people be happy, but it's another thing to tell people… not to feel like shit on the inside, but “this is how I got through it” type of thing. This one was more of a survival story, and that's what I wanted to explain. That was a lot of the themes on here: survival, being your own superhero and saving your own day, being your own light. A lot of people, we get stuck in the darkness, whether it's a dark time that we're going through or dark thoughts inside our mind.
I have a line on there where I say, "I GPS'd my way back to myself, I thought I lost it," because on this album I really had to spend a lot of time just rekindling the love I have for myself. I spent so much time loving other people and giving everything I had to other people — which is not [necessarily] a bad thing, but it's a bad thing when you don't actually remember the most important relationship and that's the one that you have with yourself.
I feel like you opened up about love more on the album, whether it was falling in love or spreading love.
I think love is by far the strongest force in the entire universe. Love is so strong it'll make you do something that, in any other circumstance, you would never do. Love will make you fuckin' drop everything you have. I think about love being so important because, to me, that's the reason we were put on earth. Love in a sense is god to me.
“If your whole friend group looks like you, you might be ignorant.” —KYLE
Do you have a song that you're most proud of on the project, or one that's your favorite?
My favorite song, for me — because there's a lot of different songs that I love the most — I guess would be "It's Yours."
That one was about losing your virginity right?
Yeah, just the story on that one, like, there's not a lie told in that story [laughs]. That's how I really, you know, got the buns. It's about the first time that me and my girlfriend ever hooked up, and the music sounds just like how that experience felt, you feel me? Nervous, anxious, slow, heavy: When is this. Gonna. Happen. Playing that song feels like I'm creeping up to her house.
"To The Moon" off the album sounds like the biggest ode to Kid Cudi.
Definitely, big time, bro. That's an homage to the GOAT, the chosen one, Cudi. I want him to get even more respect. "To The Moon" is almost me being a part of the Kid Cudi army and letting the trumpet be heard [for] Cudi supporters, the people who know how influential he is, and how he's the best artist in the game. We're here, you feel me, and we gon' be reppin' for ever.
When did you know that you'd be a musician?
You know what? It's weird, I never had a different plan. Ever since I could plan what I wanted to do with my life, I never had a back-up plan, I never had a different option. From the time I can form memories I remember just singing. There's pictures of me singing that I don't remember being alive [for]. So I've always been doing this, and I have one of them really supportive families that told me that I could do anything, so I was fully convinced I was gonna be a singer [laughs].
I know that you're into anime; how has it influenced your life and music?
I always tell people that Goku [from Dragon Ball Z] taught me how to be a man [laughs]. I learned how to be a man from Goku, not from anybody else. And Yu Yu Hakusho. Besides that shit having the most epic fight scenes of all fight scenes, the story of that shit, I just loved it. When I finished that series, it inspired me for how I wanna live the rest of my life.
And that's such a wild thing to be inspired by, but all of the themes of anime are so deep, [and have] big-time character development. If you were watching anime as opposed to kids that were watching regular cartoons, you're not learning the same type of life lessons that we're learning. Goku had the power to kill all his enemies out of spite but he always taught mercy, peace, and being fair even when you are the top dog. There's so many people that finally make it in life and start being dicks to everybody. He taught you that even when you have the power to stunt, don't. Show love instead.
Anime has dope-ass music, it always has some type of jazzy influences, and I feel like anime was always geared towards a cooler audience in a sense. Or at least a little bit of a mature audience. If you watch little kid cartoons, they're gonna have little kid-ass music, but when you're watching anime, they have more complex music. I guess it just made me a little more advanced, more mature-sounding, and more emotional-sounding in my music.
“There’s people out there struggling with shit, and if you don’t show them that you struggle with shit too, they’ll never know that it’s okay to struggle.” —KYLE
What's some advice that you'd give your younger self?
Trust yourself more. You're gonna get discouraged and things are gonna get hard. You're gonna feel like you're making the wrong decisions because you're not popping off over night, but fuck all of that; keep going with your idea. You're gonna waste time thinking that you should be doing something else and trying to impress someone else, when it's like, impress yourself and watch everybody else be impressed.
Being that you're biracial, did you ever feel any sort of pressure to conform and appeal to your blackness or whiteness?
Definitely. That's the hardest thing for anybody who's mixed. Everybody is just gonna basically give you a title and judge you for the way you look.That's what we do as humans, we put people in boxes: this is what you look like, this is what you are. Whether you're a person who looks white, who is also half-black, they're always gonna have this weird thing where they [have] to prove to people that they're black. We don't have to be there when they're going through whatever it is. Maybe they live with an entire black family and have this black experience but they don't look it. My mom is white, my whole household that I grew up in with my grandparents and my aunt and my cousin — they're all white. All my friends were black, but I'm with my mom all the time so I talk like this.
I grew up in the [San Fernando] Valley and everybody on my street was Latino or black. We had one white kid that went to my school, his name was Steven. My whole family was white, and I was the kid that was "white" even though my skin is black. I was always getting made fun of for being too "white." I didn't really feel comfortable talking about what I do at home and stuff because of that.
And then I moved to Ventura, California which is all white people, and now there's like four black kids that go to my school. Maybe more than four, but very little. I almost had to deal with being pre-judged in literally the exact opposite way. Once I got to high school, and I saw the other side of life, I was like, "Fuck all of this." That's what really gave me the confidence to be like, "I am a regular human." Once I got to live with both [white and black] people, I started to notice similarities in both. I think that's a unique thing with being biracial person, you don't really have to spend the next 20 years of your life learning how to not be racist.
For a large part of my life, I used to rap with a different voice that's not this. I love Jadakiss so I was tryna rap like that, but I'm not that. As soon as I got comfortable with being like, OK, okay I have the "lamest" voice to be rapping with, like a white mom gave me my vocabulary and tone of voice. That's my voice though, and as soon as I got comfortable with being like, "This is me," I'm not gonna shy away from the fact that I'm half white, because I am.
If somebody were to ask me what I am, I'm gonna say I'm black and white because I'm both. I'm not gonna shy away from it, I'm gonna embrace it and my soccer mom voice and talk about the shit I go through and actually do. If people can respect it, they can respect it. If people don't like it, they don't like it. I feel like sometimes I make rappers uncomfortable because when I am in person with them, I'm so comfortably this — all the things that they would consider taboo, lame, that they would never wanna get caught being like. There's a lot of pressure to conform to one side or the other, but I feel like you really break boundaries when you really decide you're not gonna conform to the way society wants you to be.
In an age where everything is hyper-scrutinized and labeled, how do you handle that?
I almost get a revitalized energy from being labeled because I know that everyday that I am labeled. And because I have the career I have where I'm under a microscope and everybody gets to look at what I'm doing, I know that I'm kicking down boundaries every time I go on some shit like BET and I just keep my voice, and everybody has to be like, "What’s up with this black dude acting white?" I know people are labeling me. I also know that their label is getting fucked up, though. It gives me a purpose to do it, I guess. Dealing with labels...you have to ignore it. You can't change the way humans are going to label you. Anybody that's out there labeling, I encourage you to kick it with people that don't look like you. If your whole friend group looks like you, you might be ignorant.