Bayou City

Farewell, Houston: Kyle Hubbard Says Goodbye

"I trade my crusade for the people I believe in,...I'll see ya."
"I trade my crusade for the people I believe in,...I'll see ya." Photo by Daniel Jackson, courtesy of Kyle Hubbard

In any music community there’s bound to be attrition. Houston’s no different. Artists establish themselves and appreciate their H-town followers but always hope to spend less time here and more entertaining audiences elsewhere. Some succeed. Others decide to chase these fortunes from different zip codes. And a lot defer their dreams to do the things that are required to pay the bills. As an observer of these activities, you get used to musicians moving on and always hope your favorite artists just don’t stay gone too long.

Some of the musicians leaving the Houston music scene in 2018 are also some of its best-known in their respective genres. In January, ‘60s-pop-rock specialist Chase Hamblin departed for New York City. He’d spent the better part of this century creating and playing music for Houstonians in a myriad of bands before his move. Later this month, Alisha Pattillo leaves her adopted hometown behind for Arkansas. The saxophonist has established herself as one of Houston’s busiest and most notable musicians by lending her considerable talents to a wide array of projects.

And, this week, we say goodbye to Kyle Hubbard. The longtime Houston rapper is pulling up stakes and moving to Arkansas (what the hell, Arkansas?!) He may be on Interstate 30 even as you read this, hauling his belongings and tons of accolades from his hip-hop career here, all crammed in a U-haul tugged by a Ford Focus. Hubbard’s departure comes only months after the release of All Good Things Come, arguably the best and best-reviewed album of his career.

Hubbard’s been covered by lots of media as an artist, but he’s always had a special connection to the Houston Press. He’s shared his ongoing music story with a bunch of its writers. His music's been lauded by Press reviewers. And, he once told us what he’d do should music ever make him mega-famous. We’ve wondered what a longtime musician leaving adoring fans and a solid local gig behind must be thinking; so we asked Hubbard to tell us, since well-placed words and on-the-sleeve sentiments are his craft. We wish him and others who are parting ranks continued success and hope they'll be back to visit soon. Here's Hubbard's farewell letter:

click to enlarge Fullmetal (L) and Hubbard rock the mic at Walters - PHOTO COURTESY OF KYLE HUBBARD
Fullmetal (L) and Hubbard rock the mic at Walters
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hubbard

"I am moving to Little Rock, AR at the end of this week. Given that the internet is largely a scary place full of scary people I am going to withhold major details as to why, but to summarize I am doing it for love and family. I am fully confident in my decision and my excitement for the future is boundless, but there is certainly some sadness attached to the fact I am leaving the place I’ve called home for the majority of the 3 decades that I’ve been on earth. Even more so when I consider the fact that Houston granted me permission to be myself and even (at times) celebrated me for it.

All I ever wanted to do in life was rap. I’ve sacrificed relationships, personal growth, and normality to hone my craft. I feel like I started writing a rhyme at 15 and by the time I looked up I was 27 at a friend’s wedding desperately hoping none of my buddies’ parents were about to ask me “How’s that music thing going?" There is a lot of alienation that comes with any artistic pursuit, especially when you struggle to rise above local status. I used to ask myself, “Is there any sadder combination of words than local rapper?"

click to enlarge Hubbard at his first show, Fitzgerald's, circa 2008 - PHOTO COURTESY OF KYLE HUBBARD
Hubbard at his first show, Fitzgerald's, circa 2008
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hubbard

I’m 30 now and in the past few years I stopped asking myself that question. I realized being local in Houston isn’t something to be ashamed of. No matter how you feel about me or my music, there is no denying that I became a decorated participant in the hip-hop scene of America’s fourth largest city. There is a lot of ground I likely won’t ever cover in the larger scheme of rap music, but I’ve been allowed to do much more than I had any right to. Houston gave me that. I have every intention of continuing to make music, but I know that leaving Houston will also alter my relationship with hip-hop. I know, artistically speaking, I will be leaving a piece of myself behind when I hit the road for Arkansas in the next few days.

Even if I were to take all of the amazing things I will gain in my personal life off the table, I would still not be entirely torn up over closing this chapter. I am immensely proud of the art that I have created thus far. I feel, strongly, that albums I’ve made will retroactively be considered tide changers in regards to Houston hip-hop as a whole. I feel that I have earned, albeit smaller than many, a role in the story of Houston. If my artistic output were to completely end this very moment, I’d still feel accomplished. If my most recent project ended up being my last album, I think I would be content with that. It won’t be, but the sentiment still stands. My confidence in Kyle Hubbard the rapper will never waver again, and that’s why I am focusing on Kyle Hubbard the person moving forward.

There was a time that my most joyful moments were explicitly attached to my artistic progression, but that is no longer the case. Now my joy revolves around the people in my life. It is a strange and unexpected shift. Sometimes you have to be blindsided to see clearly. When you have the opportunity to combine your path with the one walked by the greatest person you’ve ever know, you do it. From now on, I’ll be making the art instead of letting the art make me.

With all of this said, I will certainly be back often. I will always bleed Houston and one day my grandchildren will come back here to rummage through the shelves at Cactus. I will always do my album releases here and I would hope to do additional shows here throughout the years, when the time is right, as well. I also know that I’ve reached an age where, at times, I have to gracefully stand to the side so that the younger generation of Houston artists have the opportunity to accomplish what I have and to, more importantly, reach beyond me.

Leaving Houston hurts because it is the greatest city in the entire world. I believe this to be true because of the people that make this city. The list of people who have played a pivotal role in my own story here is endless. To try and express my proper gratitude to all of them would be a fool’s errand. I would certainly leave some important people off by mistake, so this isn’t a mountain I am going to attempt to climb. However, there are a few people so absolutely essential to everything I’ve done that not mentioning them would be the equivalent of writing a novel with entire chapters missing.

click to enlarge Hubbard flanked by his "brothers," Gabe Bravo (L) and DJ Discipline - PHOTO COURTESY OF KYLE HUBBARD
Hubbard flanked by his "brothers," Gabe Bravo (L) and DJ Discipline
Photo courtesy of Kyle Hubbard

The friends you make in music are unlike the friends you make in other arenas of life. The bonds form quickly and with great strength. I have no better friends in music than those that I’ve most consistently shared a stage with. So to Fullmetal, DJ Discipline, and Gabe Bravo—I love you fools. I cherish every moment I’ve shared with you guys. From rehearsals, to playing for nobody, all the way up to rocking for damn near 1,000 people on the main stage at Warehouse Live. It was all the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m glad I got to share those moments with my brothers.

I’ve never been more excited for the future and I’ve never been more receptive of the unknown. My life is about to dip into some completely uncharted territory but because of who I will have by my side, I am calm. Though I can’t predict what the next few years will throw at me, I know that I’m prepared because Houston made me and Houston has my back. I am going to miss this city with every fiber of my being but…

All good things come to an end."

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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.