Every little kid you meet will tell you what they dream of becoming when they grow up; firefighter, space cowboy, or even Batman. The list goes on, but the answers we all get are as real or ridiculous as any dream should be. When the answer coincides with anything music related, I laugh to myself and become instantly giddy for my inner child that always dreamed of working in the music industry. I recently schmoozed it up with one of Houston’s hidden hip-hop gems, Kyle Hubbard, and when I asked, he methodically answered.
The story starts out a lot like the rest of ours; Kid finds dream. Kid chases dream. Kid achieves dream and what the hell life is awesome! That’s everyone’s story, right? But it’s all in the details how Kyle Hubbard grew up from just a kid chasing his dream to a relevant place holder in Houston’s rap game.
Being raised in Houston, TX, Kyle explained where he got his start, “I had an older brother who played the drums and being the little brother looking up, I wanted to be like him.” We all have to start somewhere, and Kyle used the folks closest to him to create reality out of a dream.
I was surprised when he told me he started DJ-ing for his friends’ birthday parties in jr. high, and after doing that for a couple years, he started doing his own recordings. (Who is this business man in 7th grade being hired for gigs already?) “I figured out how to record with just my mic and a computer; your most basic recording, and it went on from there.”
Kyle went on to say that he grew up just a few streets away from another Houston hip-hop favorite, Roosh Williams, and together they fueled both of their careers to where they are now.
“I can remember being in my parent’s study, on our family computer, recording with Roosh. *laughs* Thinking about some of the stuff we started off recording makes me cringe, but it’s real, and we became really good friends.”
When he made the awkward jump from jr. high into high school, and it became apparent to everyone where he should be. “I felt like going through high school that I was looked at as the “rapper dude”; I was definitely labeled that, but I also had a serious hand in orchestrating it.”
After countless recordings and graduating from high school, things got serious for Kyle. He remembered talking with Roosh about their future as artists, “Someone is going to blow up out of Houston…and it could be one of us. It should be one of us. It’s gonna be somebody. Why can’t it be us?” His story looks almost picturesque at this point, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Kyle said he really hit his own creative stride; staying focused, writing, recording, repeat.
In 2012, fans and critics finally got a taste of what Hubbard had been working on. You’re Not That Special was Kyle’s first LP release, and made everyone think just the opposite of the humble artist. The Houston Chronicle even took notice, wrote a full-page feature, and named You’re Not That Special number three on 2012’s top ten albums of the entire year. We live in America’s fourth largest city; Kyle Hubbard was definitely special. When an artist pours their blood, sweat, and tears into a project, overcoming said project with the next one can sometimes be an incredibly hard and daunting task. Spending the time in between You’re Not That Special and the next phantom project, Kyle made one of the biggest decisions of his career.
In April 2014, he publically announced his retirement from hip-hop.
“I reverted back to the person I was before that You’re Not That Special release. I couldn’t even listen to rap music. I had writer’s block; I basically wrote and re-wrote You’re Not That Special over and over again.”
When I asked him about that decision, and if there was any backlash from fans, he simply stated, “That was just my mindset at the time. I know it sounds childish, but I just needed to see that people really cared. I’m not proud. My biggest regret is being so public with the announcement. I hate the fact that there’s a Houston Press article about it. It was also something I considered when I did that gig with Slick Rick a couple months after. I didn’t want it to come across as…”well, it’s not that I don’t mean what I just said, but…” but the fact is that you say yes to opening up for Slick Rick; it’s just what you do.”
*Fast forward almost a year*
I asked Hubbard what took him so long to come back from the hip-hop dead to rejoin society as the creative monster he is, and naturally he just said, “I had finally reached a different headspace. My priorities had changed, my idea of success changed. Not putting pressure on myself, I cannot quit. It is such a part of me; to deny it, is to deny myself. I need food, air, and music; that’s it. I’ve let go of judging my own success by the standards of others. I’m an artist and I want to be able to make my art for people that appreciate it.”
Fresh off the retirement block, Kyle Hubbard is once again back at it and just released to the public his newest track, “Rip The Page feat. Truck North”, produced by Djay Cas. (Who just so happens to also be the producer of his upcoming project. Stay tuned.)
And speaking more on his new single, it’s been a long time coming- “The hook is from 2013. Truck North came on board, recorded his parts, and then I started writing the hook/verses for my own part. I literally took off right where I left off. It was a mountain for me to climb, I was nervous to be on my own track. Truck North was on it, Djay Cas produced it, Patrick Marshall from Knifight played sax; I wanted to give the song justice.”
You can see for yourself this Saturday, March 7, at Walter’s Downtown. Kyle is set to be back on stage with Roosh Williams and friends for Williams’ Unorthodox album release party.
This is how we can all give thanks to the hip-hop gods for the return of Kyle Hubbard. Go pay your respects.