Whether you know him as Kyle Harvey, former Ventura High student, or as K.I.D., his first rap moniker, or as Super Duper Kyle, his fan-given nickname, one thing is undeniable: Ventura’s favorite hip-hop son, Kyle, is on his way to the upper echelons of the hip-hop stratosphere. With an old-school D.I.Y. ethic applied to new-school platforms such as social media and YouTube, Kyle and his team have built an underground following across the entire country. With his tremendous record Smyle released last month, a sold-out headlining tour just completed, and a massive homecoming show at the Ventura Theater later this month, VCReporter sat down with the super-duper busy young rapper to talk about his seemingly unstoppable career trajectory, his advice for young artists and all things Ventura.
Photos by: T Christian Gapen
VCReporter: You’re not on a major label, you’re not with a big management company, but you just got back from a completely sold-out tour across the country. How is this happening?
Kyle: Hard work. Time. Dedication. Sweat. Arguments. Instagram. (Laughs.) A lot of effort from a lot of different people helped take it to here. It is really hard to get to the point where you’re touring and selling out shows without some huge power moving the ball, but we have an amazing team and we know we’re accomplishing something really rare.
It’s like you’re using old-school grassroots promotional tactics but on new-school platforms.
Yeah we’re doing it 1980s style but with modern technology, and I kind of like it that way. It feels so much more organic. We owe this to ourselves. Nobody gave this to us. Nobody handed this down to us. We fought hard to get each and every person that comes to a show. It’s my team. The people around me. We have total control. No one is guiding us or telling us what to do. The ship wouldn’t move if we weren’t doing the rowing.
You grew up partially in Los Angeles. When did you move to Ventura?
I moved to Ventura in high school. My very first day of high school was at Ventura High. It was definitely a culture shock, definitely for the better that I moved here. In the [San Fernando] Valley, I always felt out of place ’cause my whole family was white, I was living with an all-white family but everyone I went to school with was black and Hispanic. I always felt like there was something different about me. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I noticed I didn’t always feel 100 percent comfortable that I fit in. Moving to Ventura I got a whole new sense of life, introduced to a whole new culture. I developed my personality here. Everyone was super-accepting. Everybody knows everybody. I hadn’t felt that before. Once I moved to Ventura, I started growing into who I am today.
Was there a music scene here that you became part of?
Actually, my first week of high school I ended up rap-battling someone at lunch, and a dude named, I think it was DC, he heard about my rap battle and invited me over to his house to make songs. That was my earliest taste of the Ventura music scene. (Laughs). Me and Nolan [Nolan Smith, Kyle’s manager and Buena High graduate] kind of created our own scene.
It’s interesting that even with a fairly big music scene here, you really didn’t come from it.
I think the music scene was pretty oblivious to what we were doing, especially when I was performing as K.I.D.. I think there’re still people that don’t know me or what we’ve been doing, but that’s due to the genre. There’s not a big hip-hop scene in Ventura, and I’m proud we kind of launched the one there is now. It was super-organic.
As an artist who is having legitimate success during a challenging period in the music business, what advice would you give to a kid who is sitting in class at Ventura High, just as you were not too long ago, and wants to have a career as an artist?
Three pieces of advice: Be yourself with the music so you can be relatable. The first obstacle course any artist faces is finding a way to relate to someone. You can only do that by being yourself. People don’t know what to talk about, talk about you. Talk about what you actually go through. Don’t make up scenarios that aren’t real ’cause you think that’s the standard a rapper has to be. Second. You have to learn how to maneuver the Internet. I’m at a comfortable enough place where I don’t have to sit on it all the time, but back in the Facebook and YouTube days, I was a guru. I knew how to spam my video all over the place. I would friend-request kids from Buena, Oxnard, all over. Send them my videos . . . they weren’t all into it, but the ones that were stuck around and helped spread the word. The Internet is media now. That is the only platform. You have to understand how to promote yourself on it. The third one is, surround yourself with the right people or else you’re gonna crash fast. I’m not saying the most accomplished people but the most passionate people. A lot of people that are doing tasks for me now, they didn’t start out knowing how to do that task. They believed in me and we believed in each other. You build a team of people who love you, appreciate your talent and work ethic and want to see the very best for you.
Let’s talk Ventura real quick. Do you still live here?
No. I consider it home for sure, but I live in L.A. now. My mom still lives here so I try to come back every week or two. See the family. Go to a movie or a show at the Ventura Theater. I used to live at the Ventura Theater. I opened up for so many people there. I know the Ventura Theater like the back of my hand. I grew up there.
How do you keep levelheaded? How do you stay grounded with things moving so fast lately?
You know what? I have a girlfriend. I work with just my friends. We kick it and play video games, eat tacos. I still live the same life. I know my music career is getting bigger and I’m excited about that, but all the things that would ruin a person have never been things that I was attracted to. I stay levelheaded with the people and things I surround myself with. I’m more concerned about getting that extra day to spend with my mom than hitting the club. That’s always been me. The simple things make me happy.
Are you living your dream right now?
Keeping it 100 percent real? Yeah. I remember when I was opening for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at the Ventura Theater for, like, the seventh time. It was during that show, and this is gonna sound cliché, but everyone was arms folded, mugging me. A sold-out crowd not feeling me at all, and I remember looking out at the crowd, I was damn near daydreaming on stage, and thinking, one day this is going to be 100 percent my crowd. I didn’t know what it was going to take to get there but I just felt it. Then the last time we played the [Ventura] Theater, I was headlining, and at the end of a song, I stood in the same place on that stage, looked at all those people there just for me — I was like, damn, this is crazy. I’m right where I wanted to be all those years ago during that daydream.
Sounds like the definition of joy.
Exactly. Joy. I shed a thug tear. (Laughs.) Seriously, I know I’m very blessed and I’m very thankful for everyone’s support.
Kyle will perform at the Ventura Theater on Saturday, Nov. 28. For more information visit www.superduperkyle.com or www.venturatheater.net.