I sat down with Kyle Lucas, a rapper from Marietta, Georgia. At 31, Kyle hasn’t reached the height of his career, though he’s gone from being signed to Big Boi’s label, Purple Ribbon and playing on Letterman to a solo artist in the past eight years.
Story | Sara Loretta
Lucas’ artistic influence stems from the early years of MTV and he continues to challenge himself by touring with punk bands and being the only rapper on the night’s roster. His close relationship with Jonny Craig (frontman of Slaves) has allowed Kyle to expand his lyricism into R&B on collaborative albums like, The Blueprint for Going in Circles, that he and Craig released back in 2013.
Sara Loretta: How did you get into rapping?
Kyle Lucas: I’m just really bad at singing. Like when I was in fourth grade I wanted to be in Boyz II Men, then fifth and sixth grade came around…Puffy and Mase. Biggie had just passed away, but then ‘Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems’ dropped, and I was going into middle school and then I feel it was right around that era where you stop listening to your parent’s music and you kind of start finding your own path. MTV was playing Puffy, Mase, Biggie, Mariah Carey with the The Lox. I’m such a Bad Boy Stan fan, I’m such a big fan of them. They’re like superheroes, they had the shiny suits and the fisheye lens, and I was like I wanna do that, I don’t know what that is, but I want to do that.
SL: You have a track, ‘Fear and Loathing’ where you talk about being a “frat rapper”, how do you respond to things like that and be taken seriously as a rapper?
KL: That was me pushing against when Frat Rap was a thing. You think back four or five years ago when there was a bunch of rappers out there, mainly white, and frat kids that just got a Macbook and were inspired by Asher Roth… and I think just Asher just got this crazy weird pigeon hole thing that birthed the whole bunch of frat kids who were actually in frats and have a Macbook and wanted to record on Garageband. That line was just a push-up against that, just because I am white, don’t put me in that situation.
SL: As a rapper who attended college, from your experience, what did you learn about the industry that helps your career?
KL: I didn’t learn anything about the industry in college. I just learned in college the act of showing up and doing what you are supposed to do. I thought I was just going to graduate and become a famous rapper, at 18 years old. Of course it doesn’t work that way. My dad enrolled me into the local college Kennesaw State and I just kept going.
Stage Francis has a line “I went to college to buy time, shit was expensive.” Basically I was just buying time at 18-years-old. I got a record deal when I was 22 and I didn’t go back until I was 28.
My grandfather who passed away and was super supportive of my career, [initially] didn’t know about rap. When we cleared out his house, he had a VHS that said “Kyle Lucas Letterman” from when I played Letterman. He would never tell me but he would tell my mom, “don’t worry about Kyle, he’s going to be fine.” He passed away right before the Australian tour with Jonny, and on the flight back I had an epiphany.
I cancelled all my summer gigs, except for the Slaves album release party (Jonny’s current band) and then talked to the people at Kennesaw and they worked with me and knocked out my degree over summer.
SL: There is a pushback towards whites not belonging in hip hop, and the genre being black music. Do you have any concerns about being taken seriously as a white rapper?
KL: It’s 100% a black music. And I do because now you have a bunch of white rappers, who no shots taken, but Mac Miller is the reason they started rapping. And I think, I do, it’s very much in the back of my mind, because my whole life I’ve been a white rapper – I was a white rapper in middle school and a white rapper in high school and I wasn’t popular then. That pushed me to be as legitimate so when I do make pop songs or I do make songs that are like woah, like this is like a Katy Perry type song – could be crossover, kind of weird; I always try to throw a little lyrical-word play in there….I still try to not water it down so much where it’s like “man he must only listen to white rappers.”
SL: On your new album, Almost Famous Almost Broke, you had a track called ‘Good Intentions’ with Jonny Craig. How did you meet Jonny and how has that friendship molded into its musical relationship today?
KL: I met him when my old band [Vonnegutt] and his old band Dance Gavin Dance on the Warped Tour in 2011. We met that summer, he was really fucked up that summer and I was really fucked up, not as fucked up as him, but he doesn’t even remember meeting me. But then my band broke up and I was putting out my mixtape, Always Sunny in Marietta 2, and my manager Nick hired this publicist and just by chance it was right after Jonny had gotten out of rehab and he had gotten kicked out of Dance again, and then he was trying to get back into it.
He wanted to do more R&B – more Weekend-ish type music; and my mixtape was done… and they asked him if he wanted to do a song, and sent him ‘Coffee Break’… Then he called me, told me about rehab, and said he wanted to do pre-PARTYNEXTDOOR but more Weekend-ish [music], I was like “I know this guy named Captain Midnight and have a folder of 40 beats of [his] on my desktop, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind [if I sent them to you].”
I sent him the beats and he said “I want to write a hook to all of those”, and I was like “cool, i’ll put it on my mixtape”. We just hung out for all of South By; he asked me if I wanted to come to Australia with him and I was like sure. Then he said he wanted to come to Atlanta and if I would help him with his album, and he actually followed through with it. And that’s how it happened.
SL: One last thing, where do you see yourself growing as an artist? Where do you think you fit in as a rapper?
KL: You can record on a Macbook and put it on Soundcloud, and put ‘Young’ in front of your name and become the biggest thing… I know it’s more content based, it’s more about content and bringing it. I’m still going to try and keep up but still bring quality over quantity. I still believe in that motto.
I have to get out of my head and release a song instead of dwelling over an adlib for three weeks, i know it’s a little more fast paced now…we’re going to do what we’re going to do; we’ve always been like well if they don’t like it then fuck em; I want to compete, I want to be fucking Justin Bieber. I want to be huge, who doesn’t want to do that?
I remember Big Boi told me, “Get in where you fit in.” When I was naming my mixtape Marietta 2, he said that’s the most gangsta thing you could do, because I’m not from Atlanta… Just get in where you fit in, keep working and things will work out.