Rapper Super Duper Kyle Proves Jolliness Has A Place In Hip-Hop
When you hear the words “super duper,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I know my instincts tell me to tense up and get kind of uncomfortable. Because, if these aren’t the last words a clown utters to me before eating me alive, then it’s surely part of a practical joke that I will not fall for. Either way, I’m wary—very, very wary.
It’s not that “super duper” is an inherently sinister phrase. It’s just that most of us, in witnessing the endless hate and vitriol in the world, have been almost conditioned to be suspicious of the purely joyful. It’s what makes Ventura, California bred Super Duper Kyle such an anomaly—and even more so in hip-hop.
At 22 years old, Kyle, who released his second album Smyle this past October, is crusading for a new ilk of rap that neither relies on copious blunts nor for women to be on their knees. Instead, it’s much more likely that you’ll find millennial-friendly shout-outs that could only come from a young artist on the come-up like himself. Like “Just A Picture,” in which he laments our current culture’s obsession with social media and our phones. “Don’t follow me, walk with me (Damn),” he raps. “Don’t tweet to me, talk to me (Yeah).” Aside for that, it’s mostly cartoon, Pokémon, and anime references.
You see, Kyle likes cartoons—and not just in an “oh look at me, I’m such a nerd!” kind of way. He, like, really likes cartoons (and video games). He’s the type who would never sit around modestly boasting about how much he likes them—he’d much rather be watching them. The type who likes to casually bring some swords on an In-N-Out outing, and who keeps a salacious photo of Bulma from Dragon Ball Z as the screensaver on his phone. Y’know, the type of guy who thinks he’s a superhero.
“At one point in time—it was really in high school—I started to become myself and I just started feeling invincible.”
Which, by the way, is what “super duper” is all about—this heroic, perennially positive, can-do attitude. “At one point in time—it was really in high school—I started to become myself and I just started feeling invincible. Like I just had complete control of my life and my happiness and all that, and I just started to feel like I was a real superhero. And, I kind of wanted to let people know that,” he told me. Tacking “super duper” onto his name was his way of officiating this—his suit of armor, if you will—and his way of, as he put it, “let[ting] people know I can do anything.”
You can discern this valiant, sunny temperament in the way he talks; you can see it in the vibrant, Nickelodeon flavored, smiley face-stamped clothes that he wears; and most of all, you can hear it in his music—in his playful, half Auto-Tune, half Slim Shady esque cadence; his empathetic, animated rhymes (“Baby come on by, I can teach you how to fly,” he raps in SuperDuperHero. “I can be your super hero, super hero, super hero.”); and in his typically breezy, buoyant beat. It was certainly apparent at his performance last week in Milk’s JamRoom for the Google Play Music x Milk JamRoom program supporting young and emerging artists, where he happily left his elevated perch to perform amongst the crowd.
Because that’s the thing about Kyle; as much as his fans appreciate him (and they do), he seems to appreciate them more. He feeds off their energy, the crowd’s enthusiasm, and the more intimate the space in which he’s performing, the better. “I haven’t been put in a room like that in a long time. And I love being that close to people,” he said. “Doing a show where everybody is screaming the words, you get to see individually on this person’s face, how this song or line or moment in this song affected them and helped them.”
Perhaps because he’s close in age to most of his fans, Kyle knows how to connect with them in a way that few artists out there do. Meet-and-greets, for him, are more like stay-and-chats. He’s even given out his phone number on Instagram, asking fans to hit him up when he visits their town for a show. And his rhymes are just as intimate. Rather than rapping about some exclusive “Illuminati,” he raps to you. “I try to talk in a song like I’m talking to someone,” he said. And so we end up with tracks like “Just A Picture,” in which he raps, “So uhm ay, listen bae / Since you’ve been dating your phone all day / Why don’t you come back down to Earth / You spend too much time in cyberspace.”
To say that Kyle was the first to inject warmth, happiness, and empathy into rap would be neglecting all the other compassionate, chirpy rappers who came before him. It would be neglecting the Will Smiths and the Drakes, it would be ignoring Kid Cudi’s grand pursuit of happiness. Yet for every one of Drake’s romantic ballads, there’s a ho lurking in the background; for every one of Kid Cudi’s uplifting anthems, there are ten blunts that need to be tended to. What really sets Kyle apart is that he’s made this positive, can-do attitude not one of six personas, but his only identity.
Most of Kyle’s friends have begun to adopt the moniker too. “They all have Super Duper in their names because they believe they can do anything too,” he said. “You gotta let kids know that.” Indeed, anyone can be “super duper.” They just gotta believe.
Photographer: Andrew Boyle
Creative Direction: Paul Bui
Art Direction: Kathryn Chadason
Styling: Cyle “Zini” Tahsini
Stay tuned to Milk for more from the Google Play Music x Milk JamRoom emerging artists program.