'iSpy' Rapper Kyle Talks Balling Out on Broadway & Why Dreams Are 'How We Get Through Life'

Alex McDonnell


Calling from California, rising rapper Kyle says he’s “being a normal California bro in a Supreme hoodie. You know, the basics.” Kyle is far from basic, though.

After a handful of successful songs -- namely his collaboration with Chance the Rapper, “Remember Me?” -- Kyle finally made it onto the Hot 100 with “iSpy” featuring Lil Yachty

The song, now sitting comfortably at No. 27, has an upbeat backbone and playful lyrics. While Kyle says he knew the song was catchy, he never thought this would be his biggest hit to date.

He recently spoke with Billboard about how Lil Yachty ended up on the track (Kyle does a flawless impersonation of his friend and fellow rapper), his love for Broadway and why it’s so important to stay positive -- especially now. 

How does it feel to have your first Hot 100 hit?
Kyle: Pretty freaking awesome, not going to lie. I always try to do the humble thing, even when it’s fake humble, you know what I mean? But I really haven’t been able to do that about this. It’s a great feeling, [but] kind of weird. I’ve always been such an album driven artist that I never really stopped to think about how cool it would be to just have one really big song. So now that that’s actually happening for me I’m super appreciative of it.

Having said that, does it change your mindset about how you want to release music going forward?
It definitely shifts my perspective because I have always said my main goal as an artist is to spread a positive message and really to help people -- as many people as I can -- and I noticed it’s a lot easier for one song to travel the globe than it is for an entire body of work to travel the globe. So I’m still going to put my energy into making a great album, but at the same time, I definitely want to focus on making songs that can spread to everybody everywhere. 

How did you and Yachty link up for this track and what was it like working with him?
Early last year in the spring Yachty had tweeted some video asking, “Who should we [dance] battle?” and everybody was like, “You should battle Kyle.” That was our first introduction to each other, people were trying to plot us against each other for a dance battle. It never happened, but that’s how we met and started talking. Then, I was making “iSpy” with [producer] Ayo and we wanted to make something that feels good and is a banger. I FaceTimed [Lil Yachty] and he heard the song and within two seconds was like, “Yeah I’m down.” He said he was going to be there in 30 minutes and three hours later he showed up, but it doesn’t matter. He showed up and wrote his verse in a split second and it was flawless. 

“iSpy” is so upbeat. Why is it important for you to be a positive voice in music?
I think it’s not only important in the darkest of times -- the most important -- but at all times. Everybody lives off dreams, that’s how we get through life. That’s how we get through everything, the possibility that tomorrow is going to be better or down the road you’re going to have more or in a couple years you’re going to be a star. 

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, there are a lot of reasons to be mad, there are a lot of reasons we should be upset, [but] even more than just being angry I think we have to keep people’s spirits up because the moment you stop doing that is when you can just go to a really dark place. I’ve been there myself. 

The whole optimistic thing is not because I think everything is so f—ing perfect. It’s because I’ve been to some very dark places, and I know that you control the way you react to things. It’s important to reassure people that everything is going to be all right. Right now, shit is not all right, but I don’t want to know what our country would be like if we all gave up hope.

So that’s what I try to promote to people all the time. Obviously you’re not going to be happy every day, you’re not going to be happy every moment, but it’s about continuously trying to be bright, trying to put that smile back on.

On “iSpy,” you rap, “They can’t see the vision, boy, they must be out of focus.” What is your vision?
I think I’ve been floating around for a while but I finally want to kick open the door and I want to establish myself as an artist who is as good as anybody... I’m trying to take myself to the next level and show people that this is serious, not just a game. And I want to make a lot of people happy, that’s all. I want to make a lot of people smile. 

What is your most unlikely influence?
I’m a drama kid at heart. That is definitely where my heart and soul is. I did Hairspray in high school -- I was Seaweed. That s—t was awesome. I got to see Hamilton recently, which was super nice. But I remember growing up I never got to see any theater, I couldn’t afford it. Now I’m going to spend all of my money on expensive Broadway seats and flex like that. Like, “You think you’re balling at the club? I’m at f—ing Hamilton two rows back. What’s up.”    

On Twitter you said your new album is coming soon, which is a little vague. Anything else you can tell us about it?
I don’t want to announce anything about it, just know that it is coming and this is going to be a game changer for me. I’m very critical of my own music and this time I already know, “Wow. You really outdid yourself, Kyle.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feb. 18 issue of Billboard.


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