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Usually, when rappers talk about going back to the basics for a new project, the promise is more of an appeal to fans disappointed with a past work for marketing purposes. For Kyle, it’s been more than a mission statement or a selling point; it was actually his philosophy going into See You When I Am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!!, his recently released follow-up to 2018’s Light Of Mine.
The story behind album closer “Mr. Man & K.i.D.” is a prime example of this; Kyle hasn’t released a song with his junior high buddy Mr. Man since 2013’s “Bang” from Beautiful Loser, the Ventura product’s debut mixtape. Yet, Mr. Man has been there all along, as part of Kyle’s entourage and as a confidant throughout Kyle’s rise to stardom, as I learned at the video shoot for the Tyga-featuring “Money Now,” being invited to the Westlake Village shooting location to get more background for this review.
Kyle and Mr. Man not only explained how the reunion came to be, they also shared details of their long friendship that brings the overall theme of the album into clearer focus. Kyle prompted his old friend to record the verse while on a trip to Vegas but when he heard it, he insisted he come re-record it in person at Kyle’s own studio on Mr. Man’s birthday. Mr. Man insists he had no idea the song would even appear on the album, but Kyle says it had to, because it captured exactly the feeling he was going for — a reminder that nice guys don’t always finish last.
That same insistence on capturing just the right vibe led Kyle and his manager Ben to pursue the Beastie Boys sample on “Girls” with Rico Nasty for eight months, until finally, Kyle reached out to Rick Rubin personally on Twitter hoping to get the song cleared. He expressed doubts that it would be ready in time for the release, but it’s now one of the album’s standout tracks, thanks to the aforementioned nod to hip-hop history and Rico’s stunning tongue lashing of a verse.
Everything about See You When I Am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!!, from its cover to the video for lead single “What It Is,” is permeated with the sense of Kyle tapping into not just his nostalgia for his early career, but also his hunger to push his pen game to new heights. As he says on “Bouncin,” “Man you n****s made me wanna rap again.” That’s not just a regular flex; while reminiscing at the “Money Now” shoot, Kyle and his friends regaled with stories of his battle rap days, when he outrapped grown men as a junior high student.
That doesn’t mean his album is brimming with aggressive, rappity-rap bars though. The thing that has always made Kyle stand out among peers has been the cheerful, upbeat expressiveness of his delivery. He can rap his ass off; he doesn’t feel the need to, instead serving the needs of the beat, from the bouncy flexes of “Money Now” to the warm introspection on “The Sun.”
On the latter, he once again displays his dedication to and passion for the art and history of music by connecting a contemporary with an inspiration. The song features Bryson Tiller on its mellow choruses and one verse, but it’s produced by and contains a feature credit for Raphael Saadiq, a dream get for the two ‘90s kids. Kyle repeats the feat on the title cut, which he calls the bonus track because of its sonic inconsistency with the rest of the project.
Knowing that AzChike is a huge Too Short fan, Kyle made sure to connect the two for the track, because he feels obligated to use his platform to “make people happy.” And while that may not be good enough for some hip-hop fans, See You When I Am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!! proves why the game needs artists like Kyle. Most hip-hop fans are probably closer to Kyle’s story than Pusha T’s; there are way more class clowns and passionate hip-hop fans than there are shooters and drug dealers.
See You When I Am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!! isn’t about shining on haters, or proving how tough Kyle can be. Instead, it’s a call to action, an affirmation. Kyle isn’t stunting out of spite, but to show that anyone can be a star, so long as they remain true to themselves and pursue what they love with determination, dedication, passion, and joy. It’s about naming your dream, then claiming it, taking that moment to savor it — then becoming an example for the next generation to keep chasing their own.
See You When I Am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!! is out now on Independent/Atlantic Records. Get it here.
Kyle is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.