Harlem rapper Kyle Rapps is gifted with the type of plainspoken, motormouth, socially progressive underground hip-hop that’s not exactly fashionable in the age of fashion-label Tumblr rap, but is more than welcome when done with his head-knocking brio. Rapps is clearly a student of hip-hop—so deep, his mixtape EP Re-edutainment is spiritually (and sample-ally) linked to Boogie Down Productions’ third-best album. “Bully” flips a few BDP samples into rollicking “How to Roll a Blunt”-style narrative, seamlessly bringing the conscious ’90s style to the “It Gets Better” 2010s.
What inspired “Bully”?
With “Bully,” I just wanted to explore as many angles on it—on what it means to be a bully—as possible. From the more personal level, to the larger societal level, without being preachy.
What are your personal experiences with bullying?
I never had the freshest clothes when I was in middle school; they used to call me K-Bum. Plus, I was mad skinny and light-skinned, so they thought I was soft and took my lunch money. Once I got past puberty, I got some size and got a job to afford some dapperness… and I bullied the middle school kids.
Do you remember when you first heard the Kev Brown beat?
Yessir! The way he flipped the samples from the classic Boogie Down Productions album, Edutainment, had me open. I had to get on it. If you listen close, you can catch which tracks he pulled from.
Why did you shoot the video in Bed-Stuy?
Bed-Stuy has the classic “get mugged” parks. As far as stories go, the director, Alex Ghassan, has a pit bull that will eat your face off.
You got to work with KRS-One himself for the EP.
We met in Jersey at a mutual friend’s studio; it’s like meeting a superhero. He’s larger than life, mad positive. I’m not gonna lie: I was a little star struck. But when it came time to nailing my verse in the booth, instinct took over.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
When Southpaw threw my On Air mixtape release party. That was lovely. My dude Homeboy Sandman hosted, and we packed it out on a cold, rainy day. People came out of the woodwork, friends I hadn’t seen since eighth grade type shit. I’ll never forget that night.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Harlem?
Mobay on 125th Street. Their ginger beer will mess your mind up.