Kyle Hubbard, You’re Not That Special
“You can make a masterpiece but that don’t mean you make a living” – Kyle Hubbard
I will be the first to admit that I stopped listening to hip-hop when Tupac died. Back in the day, when I thought I was cooler, I was blasting Tupac, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, and others from my stereo speakers. I also blasted them out of my car speakers, which I thought was cool because growing up in Connecticut, everyone is white.
I hadn’t listened to hip-hop for a long time and then a young rapper came into my lap one day simply because his album was released on an otherwise-punk-rock label. (Though at that point they stopped being strictly punk, but nonetheless…) That master of words was Sage Francis, and that album was called A Healthy Distrust (released on Epitaph, for those scoring at home). From that point on, when people asked, I’d say that I didn’t listen to rap music but I did listen to Sage Francis.
Fast-forward to a few years later, and I somehow crossed paths with Nicki Minaj when she’s on the song “Bottoms Up,” and I fell in love. So now I tell people that I love Sage Francis and Nicki Minaj, but most other hip-hop/rap is just kind of there to me. I do, however, love the music of Fat Tony, so I’m going to have to start adding him into my shortlist, along with Kyle Hubbard.
The point of all of this is that I don’t listen to hip-hop. Okay, I do, but not a lot. I’m very selective as to what rappers I listen to because, honestly, these days too many of them come out sounding the same. At least when I hear a song on the radio and Nicki Minaj is on it, I can tell it’s her instantly. So for me to express how much I like this album is something considering I’ve heard all of the hip-hop that I’ve heard over the years and now only listen to a grand total of four different rappers.
The first reason why I really fell in love with You’re Not That Special (aside from the awesome album title) is that Kyle Hubbard reminds me of Sage Francis in the way that he raps. Some rappers sound like Drake and they have a more laid-back feel. Tupac didn’t always have the angriest voice — sometimes he just sounded like he was having a conversation with you — but it was a really, really good conversation. Dr. Dre has a nonchalant quality to his style.
In contrast, aside from saying things like “thank you kindly” and representing H-Town, though, Kyle Hubbard has that anger to his words, which is apparent in the opening track “Just Breathe.” It doesn’t carry out throughout the whole album, but every word still seems to have that very solid purpose, much how I view the words of my Uncle Sage.
The thing is — and people don’t like to admit this, but I will — there is a fine line between rapper and spoken word artist. Some rappers just sound like they’re talking, or they have these funny twitches they do with their words. We all know who they are, and some of them are well-loved. (Digital Underground sold a lot of records that way.)
Kyle Hubbard, though, has that style where every word he says just feels like a blow to the head, a punch to the gut, or, for the worst possible cliché, a gunshot. When listening to this album, I’m not engaged in a conversation nor a musical experience, but rather a boxing match with one Mr. Hubbard. It’s the best way for music to be delivered and every blow is a little piece of magic.