In an evermore crowded rap landscape, it seems as if the pressure is on for every artist to emerge onto the scene with a developed voice and identity – or risk falling by the wayside before they’ve even had a chance to to find their own lane. For Orlando native and independent rapper Kaiydo, this means rising early on Easter Sunday to shoot his first official music video – and to reshoot, and reframe, and redo it until it aligns with his clear aesthetic and vision; a tall order for someone with a background in graphic design and visual art. Nonetheless, the young rapper and visual artist acknowledges that the competition is only getting tougher.
“Hopefully I have some longevity in this career,” he shares over the phone, his voice deep and commanding, and in stark contrast to my Sunday morning croak. “I see myself as part of this new generation of artists coming up right now that are way more talented than the last. Maybe I’m biased, but I see a lot of kids producing their own stuff, making their own graphics, mixing and editing the whole thing.”
Although Kaiydo is relatively new to the rap game, it’s clear that he’s learned a few things from predecessors whose careers have flamed out after failing to follow up on initial hype and promise. There are no days off in the hustle. Not when you’re trying to be the signal amongst all the noise.
“I feel like the playing field is about to step up and I’m just trying to be at the forefront of that.”
Kaiydo is performing at Washington, D.C.’s Rock and Roll Hotel on April 18 and New York’s SOB’s on April 20 as part of the Pigeons and Planes No Ceilings Tour. His music is available on SoundCloud and Spotify.
Brightest Young Things: Most of the tracks you have released thus far have really good, uplifting energy. Do you always set out to make this kind of “party” music? Is this a reflection of your personality?
Kaiydo: Honestly, I think I’m still kind of finding my voice. I feel like for this first project I focused on music that makes me feel good. So many artists make really heartfelt music and don’t have anyone to receive it, and I was kind of disheartened by that. I’d rather come into this with something that captures energy from the beginning, and then do something that’s a little more “me”, I guess. But either way, this is a side of me, and everyone likes to have fun, you know?
BYT: I found it interesting that you sampled Sampha on “Arcade.” He’s finally getting the recognition he deserves, but he definitely had to work up to that – most people first got to know about him through those records with SBTRKT. So I get what you mean.
Kaiydo: Yes! Definitely, bro.
BYT: You’ve got a background in graphic design and the visual arts, and I know you’re a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat. How did you first come across Basquiat’s work? Is there any piece or art of his that resonated with you particularly strongly?
Kaiydo: I don’t have any specific works I look to – it’s more about his story, and his style, and how he communicates through his artwork. I came across him, I think in this AP Art History class I had in high school that I absolutely hated. But the one thing I took out of it was learning about Basquiat; that got me really excited. As far as individual works by him…I mean, that’s like Andy Warhol. He’s bigger than any one piece.
BYT: Do you still design and put together the art work for your music? What is the correlation between the song and the artwork for you? Which comes first?
Kaiydo: Yeah, I mean, I usually have the artwork first. It’s rare that it happens the other way around. Most of the stuff that I have the artwork first comes out – I’ve got a lot of music that I created before making the visuals for it, but that’s mainly unreleased. It’s kind of my process – I just feel like the artwork should match the vibe and have an overall cohesive aesthetic to it all. It doesn’t feel right to upload the song to SoundCloud with some random image, you know?
BYT: You’re obviously a very creative person, and remarkably skilled at both of these mediums of art. Did you always feel like making music or visual art was your calling? Or did you just find yourself doing it?
Kaiydo: I’ve always had an interest in art, but I thought I would be doing sport honestly – like playing basketball. Honestly, I was pretty heavy into basketball for a long time. The reason I moved to Orlando from my hometown of Ocala was because I was on the (high school) basketball team and doing the whole thing – point guard, starting point guard, everything’s good. And then I hurt myself, and it let me back to graphic design, which led my back to music. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I guess it’s one of those life things, you know? How it plays out.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: who do you think is the best Orlando Magic player in history, and who do you think is their best current player? Actually – are you even a Magic fan?
Kaiydo: [Laughs] I used to be a Magic fan! I’m not gonna lie – I wasn’t the kid who was into watching basketball; I much preferred to play it. I still rarely watch basketball. But I liked Penny Hardaway, of course. He had a Nike contract and he was killing it. He was the king of Orlando. But currently? I don’t really have any favorite Magic players. Hopefully whenever we get the city poppin’ we can get some more good players down here.
BYT: There’s a long-standing relationship between hip hop and basketball, most recently witnessed in the way the Atlanta Hawks have embraced rappers like 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane at their games – Gucci even proposed to his fiancée (Keysha Ka’oir) at a Hawks game. Are you open to having that sort of relationship with the Magic in the future?
Kaiydo: Man, definitely. Definitely. That’s the dream – I drive by the Amway (Arena) every day. Hopefully we get to work with them someday, that would be dope.
BYT: A lot of interesting artists have been coming out of the Orlando area recently, and putting an unconventional spin on rap and R&B – yourself, Kilo Kish –
Kaiydo: [Interrupts excitedly] She’s from Orlando?
BYT: Yeah! She moved to New York and had her breakthrough there, but she grew up in Orlando.
Kaiydo: Man, she is dope as fuck. She has songs with A$AP Ferg, Vince Staples. That’s dope – I didn’t even know that. Everyone who comes out from Orlando like that never really says they’re from Orlando.
BYT: How do you see the local rap scene in Orlando? It’s an interesting, modern take on the art form. It’s pretty progressive.
Kaiydo: Honestly, I feel like that. Me and my friends talk about that a lot. I think it comes from the isolation of Florida music in general – there’s no real industry around here. People come to Miami to vacation – they’re not knocking on some door and meeting a record label executives. Florida has a really do it yourself attitude to music. This isn’t like LA, where you are always a couple of degrees of separation from someone you can network with. Orlando is one of those places that’s cultivating different types of people – and there’s a lot of different types of people here anyways. This city as a whole is really pretty diverse. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it feels like that.
BYT: That isolation can definitely breed a different perspective. A sort of left-field creativity.
Kaiydo: Absolutely, that’s how I see it. And I don’t know man – that and a rebel attitude. Everyone who comes up and comes out – at least hip hop wise – isn’t trying to do the normal thing as an artist. Everybody’s an outlier, in a different lane, and that’s pretty cool. I like it.
BYT: You’ve been blowing up over the last year, playing SXSW and now heading on tour with the Pigeons and Planes crew. What are you hoping to get out of this experience? What do you hope to learn?
Kaiydo: Really, to just grow as a person. I’m excited to travel and see the world. With regards to learning, of course I’m excited to become a better performer but overall I’m just happy to live and see the world through doing something that most people don’t think is even possible. When you tell people you make music they’re like “oh, that’s cool.” [Laughs] It’s not really something people take seriously, so to be able to see the world from doing that is kind of special.