Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somehow, Kyle Hubbard has operated in anonymity (from us, anyway) for the duration of his music career. His plain tenor vocals (think daytime accountant) don’t do much in the way of broadcasting his intent, but what’s lacking in style is made up for in lyrical dexterity. And when we heard “Passive,” a politically charged track on his debut album, Tea Time With Alice, the decision to sign him to our Artist of the Week record label wasn’t exactly difficult.
Hubbard gave us a few minutes to discuss the non-dilemma of him being white, why your vote yesterday was pointless (not really) and the merit of Do or Die’s “Po Pimpin” ideology.
Kyle Hubbard: I don’t hold any punches about being a dorky four-eyed white kid with an affection for comic books and video games, but with that said I don’t feel its an element of myself I have to advertise or warn people about. I am fully aware I don’t look like most rappers -trust me, I have had enough raised eyebrows to drive this point home more than a few times - but at the end of the day I don’t care. I am not a white rapper, just a rapper. I feel the fact I am white is not relevant, and to make it so would reduce me to some sort of gimmick or novelty act.
RO: Well said, sir. So, how did you get started doing this? Did your indie-rock band not come to fruition? Just kidding. But seriously, did it?
KH: I’m not going to lie and say I came out of the womb with a pen in one hand and a pad in the other.
RO: Yes, that does sound highly improbable.
KH: My writing and the medium in which I presented it changed drastically when I discovered the Wu-Tang Clan. The Clan already had a plethora of material out when I came of age, so I spent all of sixth grade absorbing everything these men had done. Every single time I threw 36 Chambers on I found something new to love about it, and in all honestly my desire to start rapping all came from my obsession with those guys and wanting to be just like them, especially Ghostface.
RO: You've got some great lines in your song "Passive" - "I ain't gonna lie to ya'll and tell ya go to vote, cause I ain't even registered," and "The revolution [will be] televised, right after The Hills" are two of our favorites - but the general tone of the track seems to be that voting is pointless. After last night's result, do you still feel like that's the case? It seems a stark contradiction now, doesn't it?
KH: First off, let me say that I am beyond happy that Obama won the election. It is great for so many reasons. It’s history making, it puts someone genuine and intelligent in the most important office in the country, and it’s not Bush!
In that song, I was trying to show how frustrated we the people have become. I think it’s safe to say the people of this country have put up with a lot since the Declaration of Independence was news, but with that said I feel that these past eight years have been particularly exhausting. People my age really only have two presidents in our heads, and we’re too young to be impacted by Clinton.
As I say in the song, we are Generation George Bush. After eight years of behavior that we should have never accepted in our president, it is hard to put faith in the system. It is hard to imagine that we have any kind of control over anything; I mean, they stole the 2000 election, for God’s sake.
I do have to say, though, Obama is a ray of hope. I believe in my heart of hearts that this country is in serious need of change, and I believe Obama represents that. That song was more to illustrate my frustrations about the state of the country than to say don’t vote, at the end of the track I even say “Go vote Barack Obama on the 4th.”
That song was not meant to persuade people not to vote, and let’s be honest, it’s not like someone who already has their heart set on voting is going to come across my song and decide not to vote because of it. I would love to eat up every single word on that song. I really hope Obama can change how I feel about this country, but for now that song is a testament to my personal feelings toward the state of things.
RO: Are you a fan of Do or Die? We ask because parts of "Queen of Hearts" sound an awful lot like "Po Pimp." If so, are you in agreeance with their contention that you're a player if you hit them ends and got the dividends when she came to holler, but you're a pimp if you can get the same girl to wanna sleep with your friends?
KH: I am a fan of Do or Die, and now that you mention it I can see the similarities in the tracks but I assure everyone that was not intentional. As far as that line goes, I can’t say I can relate. I am not much of a ladies man. Most of my conversations with the fairer sex come to a screeching halt when I get into the all the nooks and crannies of the Batman comic I just read.
And call me old-fashioned, but my school of thought is that if a girl wants to sleep with you and with your friends that’s not a good thing and you should fit an HIV test into your lunch break.
RO: Let's say a record label called you up, a big label like Universal, and they said they wanted to sign you to a badass Lil' Wayne-type contract, but you had to do a remake of Snow's "Informer." Would that be a dealbreaker?
KH: Wel, first I would have to thank them for not asking me to remake “Ice Ice Baby.”
RO: Dude, there is no way that “Ice Ice Baby” is more of a culture bastardization than “Informer.”
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KH: My honest answer to this proposal would be no, but that’s not to say it is a decision I would make instantly. It is the dream of any artist to score that major deal, have all the promo money in the world, and to be treated like God’s gift to music. However, my assumption is when you sacrifice originality for something safe and instant you are only pissing on anything you could have become.
My dream is to be a respected MC/writer and I don’t feel like this is something I could accomplish trying to mimic someone else, and this goes beyond just doing a straight cover of a track that has already been a hit. I also feel following someone else’s formula to success is wrong. You are not going to hear me sounding like a robot just because it sells records for Kanye and Wayne.
I want to be successful on my own terms, any other way and it’s not really something I could be proud of or call my own. - Shea Serrano
Hubbard's album release is Friday, November 7, at Toc Bar. Purchase Tea Time via www.mrrickmusic.com.