CampusLATELY Entrepreneur Series: NBA Professional Turned Rapper, Meet Ky El, “The Young Lauryn Hill”
From the NBA office to the release of her first single, Ky El, is destiny for greatness. Whether she’s rapping, singing, or dancing she will always remember to be divine. Check out my interview with this upcoming new artist who wants her music to “help everybody to love themselves.”
So tell us about Ky El?
Well, I am from Newburgh, New York, which is about an hour and a half from New York City. I actually graduated high school when I was 16 years old and went to school at St. Johns University in Queens. I was a sports management major and immediately after graduation I actually started working for the NBA. I was 22 years old making upwards to 80K a year and I felt like this is exactly what I wanted and when I finally got there, I was like this is not what makes me happy. I was working 60-plus hours a week, drinking 2 to 3 [cups of] coffee a day and Red Bull. One day I just walked into the office, I didn’t give a warning, I didn’t give any two weeks notice or anything. I came in with jeans, Vans and a leather jacket and I quit. I decided from that day, I was not going to work anywhere that wasn’t going to make me happy. I moved back to New York where I actually became a middle school teacher, but that really wasn’t my purpose so after some deep soul-searching I ended up falling in love with music. Growing up, I used to record myself all the time like I probably have like a hundred cassette tapes of me like singing Britney Spears. I feel like the way that society is set up with a career as an artist is not really something looked at logical and it’s not something we know you’re not going to make this much money. So I allowed the outside noise to detoured me from my dream so it took me twenty-four years to find my foundation and figure it out. I actually just started making music this past December and through a lot of hard work, I’ve been able to gain a following of almost 10,000 followers via social media. Just from constantly putting out music with my first single, “I Got It.”
To be quite honest, it’s something that you can’t even really explain. It’s like a light went off in my head and that says stop caring what everybody else is thinking because that’s what was really holding me there. My job sounded good to say that I work for the NBA. It is good to have that much money in my pocket and I know that’s what my mother wanted me to do. I know that’s what everybody thought was the best thing for me, but until I decided you know what f*** it. I really don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m going to have to do what is best for me. I wasn’t able to make that decision or move to Atlanta to start making music. It was a very quick decision where I changed my phone number; I deleted my Instagram, my Facebook, and all types of social media. I just came and started from scratch. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life because I took that time. By me not having my phone and not having any social media, imagine what your life is like when you literally lived it with only your own heart and intuition, without any outside noise. Even my mother, I was like I love you but when I go down to Atlanta you might not hear from me for a couple of weeks. I just needed that time to myself to figure out who the hell am I? What do I enjoy doing, like what is my purpose? So sometimes you just have to say I don’t care, I’m going to be a little bit selfish and take that time for myself to figure out what makes me happy.
I honestly will have to say my pain, my hurt and everything that I’ve gone through and it’s not that my music is like super sappy, but it’s more as I feel like I can relate to so many people. I can understand where people are and all of the things they have been through. My pain, my hurt and everything I’ve gone through to finally be at this point in my life where I am so happy. I’m motivated to get other people to that place. That’s what I’m trying to do, I want my music to help people to find their purpose, to find their passion, to do what makes them happy. So everything that I went through and everything that hurt me, I’m able to use that and really just put that love ethic and to be that person that everybody can relate. So that’s really what motivates me, everything that I’ve been through and then just trying to help everybody to love themselves.
We need some more people like that is trying to come together as one…
Right now, there are so many things in the world that are dividing us. I feel like with me the reason that I can relate to so many people is because I look at the world from so many different views. When I say that I mean like there was a time in my life I was an extremist as far as I was a black conscious like militant type of person and then when I got out of that stage, I was super militant vegan. I found myself hopping around all of these different extremes and I just realize that the only way I’m going to find a balance in my life is when I stop trying to tell everybody else how they should be living and what they should be doing and I’m only 24.
Maybe before you started your career in sports management, what would you have told yourself back then to stop any mistakes or any hurt?
Well I know this is probably not the right answer, but I honestly wouldn’t want to change anything in my past. As terrible as the things that I’ve been through where I am right now I can look back and say okay I know why that happened or why that happened. I understand that, I’m thankful for that so I really can’t change anything in my past because you know it literally what molds me into who I am now. So I default on that question.
What is your definition of “Divine”?
I believe the way that society is set up it has us looking at God as if God is this big spirit in the sky that we pray to and prayers come down. I feel like when you look at it in that way it’s almost like God can be out of reach or sometimes God is not there. I actually believe that every single one of us where God has a human experience and that we all have the ability to tap into this divine power and when you tap into that divine power you are able to really truly live your truth and be authentic and real with yourself so that’s what my definition of divine. We all have Divinity within us, it’s nothing outside, but everything comes from within us. My EP is going to be called the Divine Message, but “I am Divine” is really like the slogan of the project. I want people to start saying the slogan and you don’t even realize almost like your programming positivity by saying I am Divine.
I’m very fortunate to have a family of strong men in music who is helping me right now. I have my cousin, Naj Murph, he’s an artist that’s been in the game for 6 years. He is really like lyrically and he is such an inspiration to me. As far as his talent, he can freestyle for like 45 minutes straight and he can literally freestyle hours upon hours. Then Chad is also a big inspiration of mine, my engineer. Also, believe it or not, my ex-boyfriend, Sam, we are great friends and he is even into music as well. These three guys just help me so much as an artist because I’ve been doing it for only 6 months so I really don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m kind of just going for it you know but they are really there to help me.
Lyrically, my inspirations are Nas and Rakim like whenever I listen to them I just feel like damn like I need to get my s*** together. Listening to Rakim, he shows me that I can talk about knowledge and deeper thinking and it can still be dope. I don’t see myself as just a rapper, I really see myself as an overall entertainer so I’m very inspired by Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Just their work ethic and their ability to master so many different aspects of their craft. To be honest, before all of these inspirations, my first music inspiration in life though I’m a hip hop artist was Britney Spears. Britney Spears made me want to be an entertainer. Nas, Rakim, and Beyonce are all Virgos like me, so it’s a Virgo thing.
So what advice would you give others? And do you see yourself as a mentor as to some artists say they are forced to be mentors?
Yes definitely, I want to be a mentor because I feel like people look at artists and think they have something that so special or something different that “regular people” don’t have. I really want to be that person to show people that we all have the ability to be whatever it is that we want. You just have to make the decision that you’re going to do it, you’re going to have to make the decision that I’m not going to care what anybody else thinks and I’m going to do what makes me happy. From the outside looking in, someone may look at my life and say this girl is crazy, hopping all over the place but I had to really just say I’m not going to care what anybody else thinks. That’s always my number 1 advice. That is literally the limiting factor in every single person’s life is that they’re always paying attention to what someone else is thinking of them. We just have to let go of all that outside noise and just follow your inner truth.
Tell me about the Student Union
The Student Union was created by my cousin and some guys, they actually all went to Morehouse College together. The way Morehouse is set up is that each dorm has their own “gang”. Originally, it was just to push music, so where we are now is that we really want to be a lifestyle brand that promotes love through our music and community programs events that we do. Also, we really want to be able to create schools. That is our long-term goal for children who don’t have the opportunity to have more interactive courses and provide organic and vegan options. Our goal is to empower and inspire the youth like “Hey, look what we did, you can do it, too.”
So we have this new portion during the interview called “10 Questions W/ CampusLATELY” where we ask 10 fun questions to learn more about the entrepreneur.
What did you want to be when were a kid?
I wanted to be a superstar. I wanted to be an entertainer. I knew that from as young as possible. That’s what I always tell people whatever you wanted to do when you were a child like sit back and think like what did you want to do when your kid because that’s when you really didn’t care about other people’s opinion because you really didn’t understand them. That’s when you are able to be authentic and kids they don’t care.
What’s your favorite 90’s jam?
“This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan
How old were you when you realized Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny wasn’t real?
I was like 10 years old. I remember my mother would leave this magical looking snowglobe saying that Santa Claus left it. The following year, I saw the bottom of the snowglobe and it read “Blockbuster”. I was like why would Santa bring it to Blockbuster. I eventually ruined it for my sister.
How do you use social media?
Social media is literally the number one fueling factor for my career right now. I use social media really to connect. I want people to come to my page and feel like they can relate. They are looking at a real person, someone that they can identify with. I want to connect and be open and honest with people. I think that’s why people are so receptive to my social media. There are days where I want to be inspirational and some days were I just want to be ratchet or a little weird. I’m just being myself. I deleted all of my social media and started from scratch in January. Now I am already at 10,000 followers.
What’s the worst advice you ever received?
We skipped this question…
I am a gymnast. So I can do back-flips, I can walk on my hands for days, I can walk up and down you know on my hand. Yeah, I’ve been a gymnast since I was like 3 years old. I actually did a lot of my training at the correctional facility where I would go to visit my father. So I’m assuming I can do all these crazy flips and tricks because my dad is almost 60 and can still do some flips and stuff.
What was your favorite class in college?
The ones that I didn’t go to. I can’t remember the depth of the class, but I remember I was so in love with philosophy. It’s interesting that I’m 24 now the topics and things I was discussing in college that seemed like foreign topics. Now I’m realizing how I can apply those things I learned in philosophy and college.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you can’t change your situation, change your attitude about your situation.”
It shows that no matter what situation you are in, in life you have the ability to control how you feel about it and how you react to it. So that’s really, what I live by. Right now, I am a struggling artist and not making too much and doing what I can to make ends meet. But the way I look at my situation and the way I view it, is knowing that this is temporary moment before I reach where I’m supposed to go. So it’s all about your attitude towards wherever you are in life.
I definitely agree with that quote. So what is your favorite book?
I would have to say Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice. I love that book because it shows how we really have the power to create our circumstances and I really elevate ourselves to the lives that you want to live. In the book, the first chapter was talking about how they were slaves back then who became millionaires. They bought their way to freedom and created their own businesses. When you read something like you are like wow. They had physical chained slavery and they were able to break through and create the life they wanted for themselves. Here we are and we don’t even have physical chain slavery, the chains are in our minds now and we are still not moving. There is a regular one by Napoleon Hill, but Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice is a perspective for black people.
So what’s next for Ky-El?
Well right now as far as music, I want to keep the freestyle content up and I know the dates of when everything is going to be released. I want everyone to pay attention to the dates that I am releasing things. There is an interesting story for why I picked specific numbers for the release dates. Stay tuned…
I feel like I’m going to get into some trouble for that line too. When I wrote that song maybe a couple of months ago and in my life, I looked at Nicki Minaj and Lauryn Hill. I looked at Lauryn Hill as superior to Nicki Minaj, because Lauryn Hill was this good, wholesome girl who spoke about empowerment that uplift women and men; and Nicki Minaj I looked at her as very sexual and very vulgar. Now, I actually look at Nicki Minaj in a much different light because the reason I looked at her vulgar before because I myself wasn’t really comfortable with my sexuality as a woman. I would never talk about my boobs and my butt and my body, but I believe it takes a certain level of confidence for you to be able to speak topics like that and embrace your body. Nicki Minaj knows that she is a bad ass bitch and no one can tell her that. So when I wrote that line I was definitely in a different place and I can look at it now and see that I actually want I want to be a combination of the both. I would like a little booty and a lot of spirituality too.
So we’ve popped her interview cherry…check out her Instagram page and YouTube channel.
YouTube: Ky El
Look out for her new single “I Got It” and keep your eyes open for more from Ky El
Amber Peters41 Posts
Amber Peters is a current MBA candidate and full-time Accountant. She is a proud Alumna of Texas Southern University. “Faith without work means nothing”