KYLE Spreads 'Sunshine' in 2017-18 College Basketball Campaign With ESPN: Interview
KYLE has quickly become a four-letter hip-hop entity, and so it makes perfect sense that the 24-year-old has partnered with sports' largest four-letter entity: ESPN. This morning (Nov. 9) it is official that KYLE will be ESPN's Sonic Blockbuster artist for the network's 2017-18 college basketball coverage, announced via a 45-second college basketball trailer provided exclusively to Billboard.
ESPN's Sonic Blockbuster games are the marquee matchups featured throughout the season -- the first of these will be on Tuesday, Nov. 14. when No. 2 Michigan State will visit No. 1 Duke at 7 p.m. ET followed by No. 5 Kentucky versus No. 4 Kansas at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
But back to KYLE. Yes, "iSpy" featuring Lil Yachty was massive -- the platinum single that propelled KYLE into a new stratosphere and to No. 4 on the Hot 100. He knows it, you know it, let's move on. Specifically, let's move on to "Sunshine" -- the collaboration with Miguel that will serve as the campaign's official anthem.
"We were looking for an artist to truly collaborate with, someone with a cool 'design' about themselves," ESPN Music Director Kevin Wilson tells Billboard. "KYLE is a great artist, and has a great image that's fun, upbeat and bright. His style and design really fit the tone of ESPN's college hoops coverage, as you can see through our new design and graphics package this year."
During a chat with Billboard, KYLE was his usual sunshine-y self, which might normally sound like a stretch, probably even cliché. In his case, though, to not describe KYLE that way would just be a disservice to his demeanor.
Before hanging up, KYLE said, "I'm just gonna sign off with I love my mom, and I love college basketball."
How did this opportunity with ESPN come about?
Like every other young person -- I think at this point, it's pretty much the whole world -- I grew up loving sports. Playing sports. I played football. I was pretty bad at that. I played baseball. I kind of sucked at that. They used to call me "The Buntmaster" because my coach never wanted me to swing. So he called me "The Buntmaster" as a way to make me feel cool about sucking at baseball.
I've just loved sports my whole life, and so when the opportunity came to work with ESPN, I mean, it was like pretty much a no-brainer. Something I've always been a fan of anyway.
Funny you opened with that because I was going to ask whether you were one of the millions of us who watched SportsCenter and ESPN growing up, which clearly you were, so which anchor or ESPN personality do you think best represents what you would be like as a sports broadcaster?
The OG ones, like Chris Berman. I remember watching him. He was sick. I remember watching him as a child and thinking, "Yeah, that's the sports guy! Tell me about all the sports stuff, like, you know, Mark McGwire!" My family loves Mark McGwire. It was crazy. Mark McGwire was like the president or something.
What would you say that Super Duper Kyle's mascot should be in theme of college basketball?
Super Duper Kyle's mascot in the theme of basketball would for sure -- oh, let me think. He needs such an awesome character for that. Probably like a rocket ship. I would say a rocket ship because that vibe feels -- like if there was a team that would be like Super Duper Kyle, they would have to be some type of rocket ship because that's how I feel the majority of the time. Like, "pew!" You know what I'm sayin'? Just excited and full of energy. That mascot would always beat the other mascot in a dance-off because it's got way more energy.
That's fair. And actually, the Toledo Rockets exist.
Why did you decide to go with "Sunshine" as the song to roll out with this campaign?
Well, I went with "Sunshine" for a very specific reason. When you go to a sporting event, or any gathering around sports, it was always interesting to me as a kid which music they were playing. And there's something about "Sunshine" as with all the other records that you love to hear at a sporting event that feels like it's a song for everybody. You know? You feel like it's a song you can get together and sing with your mom, with your dad, with your sister, with your brother, with your grandma, with your grandpa -- like, everybody that's there.
I think that's the dope thing about sports, how inclusive it is and how it is a family thing. And so, I felt like "Sunshine" has this great positive feeling of a family song. Another reason I went with it [is] at sporting events, you don't want to hear a sad song, you don't want to hear some super explicit song. You wanna hear that song that gives you that great warm feeling inside, while you cheer for your team while you're eating popcorn. That's what "Sunshine" has. It has that warm feeling that brings people together.
How do you think your music meshes into the college basketball scene?
The era of music that I came up on was -- remember, a lot of my first fans and first shows were at college schools, were at different universities and colleges around the country, There's a tight network -- musically, there's a tight network of college kids and college students that all listen to the same rap, all listen to the same music, and I am one of those people. So it's like my music career has always been deeply embedded in the college scene, and especially sporting events and stuff.
So while you've been on these campuses performing, did you ever get a chance to have a crazy college game day experience at a sporting event -- basketball, football or whatever?
You know what? I never got to while I was on the road, while I was doing shows, but I remember when I was a little kid I got to go watch -- because, you know, I never really got to a bunch of major sporting events because woe is me. Couldn't really afford it. But I remember one time we did save up, and we went to go watch the [USC] Trojans play the [UCLA] Bruins, and it was going down. It was so sick. I remember that atmosphere, being inside the Rose Bowl and being like, "Whoa!"
But yeah, I've never really gotten to while touring. I will soon, though. In the future.
You've got your acting debut with The After Party in 2018, which kind of has the same theme as this partnership with ESPN through college -- if I'm understanding it correctly?
You know After Party is about two kids trying to make it in the music industry, right?
Yeah. But do you play a college student?
No, I don't. it's like their summer after they've graduated from high school and them getting ready to figure out what they want to do. It's like they kind of don't want to go to college.
Based off of After Party and what you're doing with ESPN, do you seek out opportunities that fulfill experiences like performing at colleges through your work that you haven't been able to have in other places in your life? Because you bypassed college.
Yeah, I did, and that's a great question because I actually definitely do. Me even being a rapper when I got to L.A. with my friends, we treated that like it was our college experience because everybody wants to go to college. At least a little part of every person in America, every kid, wants to go to college, and I never really got that opportunity. When we first moved to L.A. and had all of my friends living [with me], we treated our house we were staying at like it was our dorm.
Whether it's that, whether it's even doing the movie thing. Felt like I was going away to go meet these new people and live in the same place and work on the same thing and kind of just find yourself -- I think that's a lot of what college is about, too. But yeah, I'm always trying to bring out that same experience when I'm choosing what project I'm gonna do.
Was there an actual shoot for this video, or were you edited into it?
There was a whole shoot. It was sick. The director was awesome. It was in New York. We dressed up in a bunch of different things. I sat there and named every single college, like, ever. I got to play basketball a little bit. It was fun. Everybody on the set was really cool, and they were all actually genuine fans of what they were shooting, which is dope. Sometimes you get people who are directing something for something they don't care about, and the director on this, he was a huge fan of college basketball.
Do you fill out NCAA brackets every year?
No, I don't. I've been pretty busy, but I might because I guess if you can fill out a college bracket and get it 100 percent right, don't you win like $1 billion?
Yeah. Warren Buffett --
Warren Buffett! Yeah! He'd pay $1 billion if they could guess the entire bracket right, so I've always thought about doing that every year, but I'm just like, "Damn, it's probably hard."
You're kind of stepping in Drake's territory a little bit here -- crossing hip-hop with sports and especially basketball. So how do you think, in his words, "music and sports are so synonymous?"
"'Cause we want to be them, and they wanna be us!" I'd say it's super synonymous, actually. I remember when I first heard that song -- "Thank Me Now," such a good song -- I was like, "Wow, that's so true." It hit me hard. Sports and music are, like, super synonymous. I think really just sports and hip-hop are super synonymous because for example, I'm really good friends with James Ennis, and he plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. Me and him went to high school, and it's like, we're two similar kids from almost similar backgrounds growing up and both just wanted to be something great. For him, he was already like 6'8'' so it was like, pretty sure you know what you're gonna do. And then for me, I've been singing my whole life so I wanted to be a musician.
Every time we see each other, it's kind of like -- even though it's two totally different fields, I feel like we both accomplished almost the same thing. I think it's synonymous because a lot of people who are becoming athletes in the league and people in hip-hop come from, more or less, an underprivileged background. And so, I think the synonymous part of it comes from people from the bottom growing up and achieving something great. I think we feel the same way. I think that's why it's so synonymous. And we're both famous! It's like there's so many things that add up about it. And it's like, musicians and athletes are [both] people's heroes, too. Kids look up to either their favorite artist or favorite athlete for a lot of guidance. So even though we're in two totally different worlds, to so many people around the world we represent the exact same thing.
Do you want to continue to do stuff in sports in the future like you are with this ESPN collaboration?
Oh, something I gotta add real quick: all artists out there wish we were a little bit taller and could dunk, and all athletes wish they could, like, buy a really big chain and dress cool. But, yeah definitely. Big time. ... I'd love to be more involved in sports. There's so much positive energy -- I have to be around it. Especially as I get older. I just wanna to try and branch out to more things that make people smile. Sports is one of those things, so you'll definitely catch me there.