Article written for NME.com
The Californian rapper is upbeat and mature on his impressive debut
Storming the US charts last year with his Number Four hit ‘iSpy’, KYLE has quickly made a name for himself as an exciting prospect in rap. More than a year on arrives the Californian’s debut ‘Light of Mine’ – a courageous effort doubling as a self-help soundtrack to anyone struggling with life’s endeavours, including impressive tracks featuring the likes of Kehlani, 2 Chainz and Khalid, and an especially strong sense of character for a debut album.
Fans of KYLE will already know his distinctive style – uplifting lyrics, happy-go-lucky beats – and that’s a running vibe throughout this 15-track collection. Opener ‘Ups and Downs’ immediately calls out personal battles with mental health issues: “I set the record for being upset / truthfully honestly I am mess / I am depressed, I am obsessed / with self-deprecating and blaming myself” – but in typical KYLE style, it’s immediately undermined by the rest of the track (and by the majority of the album, which acts as a reminder to himself and to anyone listening of his achievements, and of his ability to stay true to himself). It even finishes with a chat with his conscience, encouraging him to “leave negativity in the past“.
There’s a sense of maturity found throughout ‘Light of Mine’ that’s unusual for a debut effort. Wise words of wisdom are intricately scattered across it: ‘Zoom’ utters the eerie advice “listen please/ approach your early 20s with some caution”, while ‘Ikuyo’ outlines the importance of true friendship maintained through the peaks of success KYLE enjoyed last year. Musically, too, ‘Light of Mine’ acts as if it’s trying to get out of its own box. Immediately it establishes a simple, sombre drum and bassline, which plays against the oppositional happiness in the tone of KYLE’s vocals; ‘Ups and Downs’ starts that trend, and ‘Zoom’ includes some atmospheric jazzy synth. Standout ‘iMissMe’, meanwhile, includes a beat that’d make Tom Misch proud. ‘Games’ and ‘Babies’ pull the sound in a new direction, too, but fail to achieve similar results – their structure and use of autotune feel fairly lacklustre – but towards the album’s second half the chart-toppers pick up the slack.
Last year saw KYLE reach both the UK and US charts with ‘iSpy’ – an upbeat summer tune meant to be chanted under a scorching sun. It’s accompanied by fellow summer great ‘iMissMe’ feat. Khalid, and the infectiously catchy Kehlani collab ‘Playinwitme’. Later this year, KYLE will follow in the footsteps of Donald Glover and Will Smith as he accomplishes both music and screen achievements, starring in the upcoming Netflix original movie The After Party; judging by the strength of ‘Light of Mine’ alone, though, 2018 could be his for the taking.
By Nathan Smith