The sun is setting on one of Houston’s most recognized and esteemed hip-hop acts of the past decade.
It’s been over a year since a farewell letter written by tenured Houston-based rap artist, Kyle Hubbard, was published by Houston Press, delivering the bittersweet news to the public that he was relocating to Little Rock, Arkansas for reasons of love and family. The local music community has had to endure the lack of his presence since then, but in that same reflective and thoughtfully worded letter, Hubbard reassured followers and friends that he wasn’t done creating music just yet and would return to visit and perform. He also predicted, with a level of certainty, that the move would alter his relationship with hip-hop altogether.
Well, Kyle Hubbard is a man of his word. It was announced in May that he would finally be returning to perform in Houston on July 26th for an anticipatory homecoming show, aptly titled “Hubbard’s Houston Homecoming”, at Satellite Bar. A month later, however, Kyle dropped even bigger and more shocking news: the show, along with the release of a new song titled “Adult Rapper”, would be the last and final acts he would be committing as a musician — ever. That’s right, Kyle Hubbard has officially submitted notice of his resignation from music for good.
The news is sad, of course, but to borrow from the work of the man himself, All Good Things Come… To An End. Besides, Hubbard sees this as a positive, and the natural next step in the right direction. Beyond showing support and looking back on all the fond memories, all that’s left to do now is learning all we can from the career of one of the brightest minds to emerge in recent Houston hip-hop memory — which is why an exit interview may be the most appropriate way to mark this end of an era.
Traditionally, exit interviews are conducted to gain insight, advice, and constructive criticism from a departing employee based on their experience working at a company. Now, with the music scene filling in the role of “company” and Kyle Hubbard being the “employee”, Byline Houston has the honor and pleasure of presenting: A Music Scene Exit Interview With Kyle Hubbard.
Byline Houston: What initially prompted you to consider the idea of exiting the music scene?
Kyle Hubbard: I knew that my relationship with the scene and my role as an artist in general was going to radically shift once I moved to Little Rock, AR in 2018. The longer I was away, the more detached I became. For the past year and some change it really hasn’t been on my radar at all. With that being said, the decision to exit came gradually and organically. I hate to say I don’t care anymore. but I don’t care anymore.
BH: What ultimately made you arrive at the final decision to leave music?
Hubbard: I’ve held jobs the entire time I pursued music, but they never felt like anything I could build my future on. That has changed this year. My work life is the best it has ever been by a significant margin. In a lot of ways, I was using music to fill a void during my last few years as an active artist. Now that I am on a career path that fulfills me, I am ready to give all of my energy over to it. I feel complete without music.
BH: Are there any circumstances that could change that might lead to you reconsidering?
Hubbard: Aside from 6 bajillion dollars, I don’t think so.
BH: Where will you now be focusing your efforts from here on out?
Hubbard: My professional career, my education, and my family.
BH: Which aspect of being a musician would you say you liked the most?
Hubbard: The people.
BH: Which aspect of being a musician would you say you disliked the most?
Hubbard: The people.
BH: How satisfied are you with the body of work you’ve produced and are leaving behind as a rap artist?
Hubbard: I am very satisfied with the body of work I produced. I found an incredible partner in my producer, Djay Cas. He and I had to work remotely and I think we overcame that challenge with great success. However, I can’t help but fantasize about all we could’ve done had we been in the same room during the whole process. I also often think about all I could’ve done with bigger budgets. My last album, “All Good Things Come”, saw me begin to explore the world of studio musicians and it resulted in some of my favorite moments across my entire discography. I wish I would have had the resources to go even further with live instrumentation. With all that said, I think I played the hand I was dealt to the best of my abilities. People legitimately connected with my music and that is truly the only sign of success that matters.
BH: What goals and objectives did you set for yourself as a hip-hop artist that you’re most proud of accomplishing?
Hubbard: I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine back in 2010 and telling them all I really wanted was to matter in Houston. I was nominated for my first Houston Press Music Award that year and from then on out I was pretty much a staple in Houston’s indie music scene. In other words, I am most proud of mattering in Houston.
BH: In your experience, what was one of the most challenging things about being a hip-hop artist?
Hubbard: Lacking the skill set and budget to really make the music I always wanted to. I am immensely proud of the work that I did produce, but I feel like I will go to the grave with my best ideas. Also, the constant self promotion very likely took away a piece of my soul that I’ll never get back.
BH: Given the opportunity to start over, what things in your career do you feel you would do differently, if any?
Hubbard: How much time do you have? I could write a book based off of this question. I guess to summarize, I’d believe in less people. I know that sounds super negative, but you will encounter a litany of experts that don’t know anything when working in music. I wish I had more faith in my gut in the earlier stages of my journey.
BH: Are you satisfied with the amount of support and recognition you received by both people and media in Houston?
Hubbard: Absolutely! I was extremely lucky in that regard. Houston media really showed me a great deal of support throughout my entire run. I was always pretty confident that my releases would gain some coverage from the notable outlets in the city and there are a handful of writers who were integral to some of my most successful moments as an artist. The people have been great to me as well. It isn’t rare for me to get kind messages from people out of the blue who connect with my work. It is kind of corny to say, but those messages make it all worth it.
BH: In your opinion, how would you describe the culture of the hip hop scene in Houston?
Hubbard: Honestly, it is really hard for me to say. I definitely feel that it has passed me by, so I don’t even think I can comment on it anymore. I really don’t know what is going on within Houston’s hip-hop scene these days. Maybe it was always that way. There were people I was for sure were going to blow up that didn’t and the people that did blow up weren’t even on my radar until the rest of the world knew about them. Either way, I am not going to lose sleep over the fact I am so far removed from it. To be frank, I feel like my “class” has aged out. I moved on a while ago, I’m just making it official now.
BH: Which venue in Houston was your favorite place to perform?
Hubbard: There were so many great venues that were gracious enough to allow me stage time. Personally, I had a lot of great moments at Fitzgerald’s. I had my first ever show there in addition to some of my best shows. It is a real shame that place ended up turning heel. White Oak and Satellite also gave me some great moments. I think the single greatest moment in my performance history was performing to a nearly sold out crowd in The Ballroom at Warehouse Live though.
BH: What, if anything, could be done to make Houston a better place for hip-hop to thrive?
Hubbard: I don’t think that is Houston’s responsibility. That falls on the shoulders of the people within Houston’s hip-hop community. Houston is huge and the opportunity is limitless. Do right by the city and the city will do right by you if you deserve it.
BH: What advice would you give the next generation of Houston hip-hop artists and rappers?
Hubbard: If you’re still young, go to school. It will be the most beneficial thing you can do in regards to building a fan base early. If you aren’t terrible and make efforts to put yourself out there, you will have a captive audience. Spare some of your focus towards developing skills outside of music. Be aware that the goal post is always moving and maintaining success is a lot harder than catching success. Know that you are at the bottom of the totem pole. Your producers, graphic designers, engineers, etc. are always going to eat first. Above all else, don’t neglect the other things in your life for music. Stop romanticizing the idea that your art is more important than everything else as soon as possible. You’re not that special and you never will be. The most successful artists I’ve ever known were aware of that faster than the rest of us.
BH: In what ways do you feel your experience as a musician and rap artist will be useful for you in the future?
Hubbard: Given that I’m the most type A person in the history of Houston hip-hop, I feel that my experiences as a musician have already paid off substantially. Rapping is the smallest part of being a rapper. I spent most of my time in music coordinating schedules, fostering relationships, and writing emails. I learned a ton of real world skills throughout my time in music. Being able to see an album through from start to finish takes a lot more than musical talent and I did that multiple times. That’s called “project management” in the corporate world.
BH: Are there any other creative endeavors that you may pursue now that you’re closing the chapter on music?
Hubbard: I’m not entirely sure. I’ll always love writing and I am pursuing my degree in Professional and Technical Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Who knows what doors that will open up. Either way, I think my audience for any future potential creative endeavors will be much more focused and narrow.
BH: What is something you hope that people can take away or learn from your tenure as a rap artist and one of Houston’s most recognized hip hop acts in recent memory?
Hubbard: That is a very kind description of my tenure. The main thing I hope people learn is that there is a lot more to be gained from being likable than there is from being the coolest person in the room.
BH: Pending the release of your final and last ever song, “Adult Rapper”, what was the inspiration behind it, and what significance does is represent to you beyond it being the final touch on a storied career?
Hubbard: Honestly, I just wanted to poke fun at the idea of a grown man still trying to be a rapper after the window has very obviously closed.
BH: Any last words of encouragement or wisdom you want to share as Kyle Hubbard, rap artist?
Hubbard: I think the most important thing to remember is that doing and pursuing something you love is never a waste of your time or energy. Even if the love you have for what you’re currently chasing changes or withers away, it only does so to set the stage for what comes next. The dreams we chase always were, and always will be, worth it. Life is all about those dreams, be they far-fetched or not. The nuances of your journey may change along the way, but it remains a single road throughout. The steps ahead of you will always be contingent on the steps behind you, even if you had to stumble your way to where you are today
You can catch Kyle Hubbard along with Full Metal and Sean Fresh in Houston at Satellite Bar, 8 p.m. on Friday, July 26th.