Q&A: Raleigh Rapper Sean Kyd on Ambition

“I hope my music can help people realize the greatness they have within,” says the Raleigh native.

Sean Kyd hunches over a table in a dark room, clipping coupons over otherworldly whispers. Then, he flips the table. The coupons cascade to the floor. And the bass drops.

This all takes place in the music video for Kyd’s song, “Coupons,” an ode to “working too hard, too long,” and flinging the actualization of his dreams into the faces of his skeptics. Kyd raps about forging empires, setting up his descendants, reaping the fruits of his labor. Kyd and company dance in the pile of coupons on the floor, celebrating that “money ain’t a thing.”

Most of Kyd’s lyrics are about ambition- getting it, sustaining it, the toll it takes ultimately being worth it. The Raleigh native has big dreams, and he wants the world to know it. Kyd lets us in on his formative experiences, the source of his drive, and his future plans.

What is your origin story?

Well, I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. Lived here for most of my life outside of me living in Atlanta for a year. I first got into music and wanting to make music by sneaking and listening to my brother’s rap albums before school. We shared a room so when his bus picked him up I’d run to the boombox, load up a CD and press play. My mom is a single parent of three so I refrained from asking her for a CD player for myself. Eventually I saved up and got my own CD player from a thrift shop (way before the iPods) and would listen to rap albums on the bus to school. When eighth grade rolled around my school decided to put on a talent show. My friends talked me into being in it with them and decided they wanted to rap, I was all for it. That night I went home and wrote a rap, came back the next day (the only one who wrote a rap), rapped it to my friends and they loved it. I kept writing and saved up some more to buy basic recording equipment, installed it onto the family computer, made a few songs to put on my Myspace page (way before Soundcloud) and the rest is history!

Which artists did you listen to the most growing up? How did they influence your style?

Most of the artists I listened to growing up were mostly because of my brother’s CDs until I was old enough to buy my own music. Even with that though he had pretty good taste. The artist I gravitated to the most in the beginning were Ludacris & Busta Rhymes. I loved how they mastered the art of rapping fast, breaking apart words by syllables to make a word longer than it is, and how they would tweak vowel sounds to make words rhyme that wouldn’t otherwise. When you listen to my early music you can hear their influence a lot. I also listened to A LOT of Lil Wayne (Hot Boyz Lil Wayne) and A LOT of Master P. When I was twelve I got introduced to Kanye West’s music by one of my cousins who was the same age as me. The College Dropout. That album taught me that even though I didn’t have a “street” background there were still ways I could flip everyday experiences so every listener could relate to the story I’m telling.

You open your Twitter bio with the words, “You deserve what you settle for,” and ambition is a theme you touch on quite a bit in your music- “Buckle Down” and “Coupons” especially. Where does your drive come from? How do you want to push yourself going forward in your artistic career?

Growing up I learned quickly that ambition is something NOBODY can take from you. My grandpa never finished school but was able to provide for the family off of a business he created from scratch. My mom was a single parent, worked two jobs and still found a way to provide for my sister, brother, and myself. “If you don’t work you don’t eat,” my grandma would always tell me. I’ve been able to accomplish a good amount solely off of my drive and ambition. It’s not easy, far from that, but in a moment of breakthrough or achieving a goal it feels good to take a moment and say, “I did this, I accomplished this.” There may be someone in the world more talented than me (I’m sure of it) but hard work takes you places talent can’t. I want my art or anything I create to be able to provide for my family forever. ANYBODY can work hard and I hope my music can help people realize the greatness they have within and motivate people to chase their dreams.

What’s your favorite verse you’ve written and why?

I have two favorite verses. One is from a song I made when I was sixteen called “I Got It.” This was one of my favorite songs of mine when I first started making music. It ended up being the standout song on my first mixtape “Just Kydding.” This is back when my artist name was Kyd Daze. Everybody from the local scene loved the song as well which had me pretty excited. When I would show up to local showcases at Pour House, The Brewery, or Shakedown Street (rest in peace Shakedown Street) they’d request me to come on stage and perform that song and it solidified the idea of “I can really do this.” My next favorite verse is from a newer unreleased song called “Hold Me Down.” I’m learning to become a lot more vulnerable with my music and the first verse does a good job of conveying the place I currently am mentally.

If you had to characterize your writing process in three words, what would they be?

My writing process in three words would have to be patient, relaxed, and focused. Sometimes it takes me minutes to write a song, sometimes a week or two. I’ve learned over the years that forcing anything won’t give the best results. I give myself some time to rest my mind if needed as well. I don’t put too much pressure on myself to make “the greatest song ever,” I just create. I know what sounds good to me and from there I make adjustments or experiment with sounds, my voice, or patterns. I mentally go to another place whenever I write music and I try to stay in that mindset until the song is finished or I can find a good stopping point. I hold things in- writing is my release so sometimes the tone is angry, sometimes it’s mellow, sometimes it’s somber, but they’re all different elements to me as a whole.

What would be your dream venue to perform in?

My dream venue would be a sold-out Madison Square Garden, hands down. I remember growing up, if a rapper sold out The Garden it was a HUGE deal. I know today more concerts are leaning towards the “festival” atmosphere and there are plenty of festivals I would love to perform at as well, but being able to say “I performed at Madison Square Garden” would be a dream come true. It would be my “I worked my ass off and now I’ve arrived” moment. Outside of that, being able to perform overseas would be cool too!

If you could collaborate with any living producer, who would you choose?

If I could collaborate with any living producer it would be Pharrell. His ear is crazy and he isn’t afraid to take risks and I like that. It doesn’t matter if it’s his beats or his singing/rapping, his sound is one hundred percent authentic.

You have an exciting project coming up that’s under wraps- what can you tell us about it?

Yes, there is a project I’ve been working on for about a year now. I’ve been taking my time with this one. My goal is to create a body of work to where my old fans can hear how much my sound has matured and also bring in new listeners. I’ve been compared to Big Sean a lot in the past (because our voices are similar) so I’ve been taking time to make my sound one hundred percent Sean Kyd, no room for comparisons. It’ll basically be an album to motivate listeners that anything is possible. When I say that I don’t mean the cliche “anything is possible” that you see at the end of a movie that makes you feel all good inside. I mean ANYTHING is possible: happiness, sadness, death, life, depression, anxiety, triumph, success. It’s a project that takes you from rock bottom to optimism, and I hope when it is complete it will change my life as well as the listener’s.

All images courtesy of Sean Kyd.

Follow Sean Kyd

Website: https://www.seankyd.com/

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/sean-kyd

Instagram: @seankyd

Twitter: @SeanKyd

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Twitter: @GuideTriangle

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