CHM tracked down busy Kevin Lyttle in Miami late last year.
We emailed back and forth quite a few times trying to pin down a time to talk to Mr Lyttle and I was pleasantly surprised when the King of Soca himself sent me a personal text to set up our call.
He explained that he would be always be a down to earth type of person and that he has no problem scheduling a call or interview without the help of his publicist for the sake of getting things done. The call was scheduled that day and I wasted no time getting to know Kevin Lyttle. He was very warm, honest and forthcoming in this interview.
Kevin Lyttle was born and raised in St Vincent and the Grenadines a volcanic island in the Caribbean located in the Caribbean Sea, between Saint Lucia and Grenada. Both of his parents were born there also. His mother lived mostly on the island while his father moved to the states later.
Lyttle fondly remembers falling in love with music at age six and talks about an old radio that he used to repair and fiddle with and later on used to sing along to the music he heard. While he enjoyed singing, he didn’t realized music would be his career until around the age of twelve when with the help of his uncle he began performing in an entertainment group where he not only sang but he danced and acted as well. This gave Lyttle a taste of the music industry, plenty of practice and the start of his amazing career.
When asked if he is surprised at the upward trajectory of his career and how it feels to be known by many as the King of Soca, he pauses and replies with a thoughtful and telling answer that gives me a window into who Kevin Lyttle is. “From adversity, with the right upbringing and an understanding of the universe works” he knew his career was possible. To be who he is today however, coming from the small island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where there is no major music industry at all does cause him to pause and be reflective when he reminisces about it all.
As I probed further into the musical life of Mr. Lyttle, I asked why he felt Soca had such a widespread, universal appeal; not only in the Caribbean of course, but beyond. “Soca music and culture is more of a homegrown culture in every Caribbean island and in South America too” he begins. “The Caribbean is very diverse, all types of people born, raised and living on these islands. While Dancehall is loved by many as well, it is distinctly Jamaican. Soca is more inclusive and is a constant on every island. We Soca lovers are the “hippies” of the Caribbean. When there is a Soca party everyone is there. The atmosphere is all inclusive and the only rule is everyone should dance and have fun”.
We discussed the joy, exuberance and lightness of Soca and how that spirit makes it special. If he had to explain Soca to someone who had never heard it, he compared it in some ways to dance music. He called Soca and dance music kin to each other. Since they carry the same type of energy it has helped Soca find its way in the same places as popular dance music. Some of the first Soca greats that influenced Mr. Lyttle to pursue Soca music for himself are Alston Becket Cyrus, The Professor (who is also from St. Vincent and the Grenadines), and close friend of The Professor, The Mighty Sparrow. The Professor, he feels has some impact on the light hearted nature of Soca as his lyrics were funny and joking and very clever. He credits these greats for the indirectness of the sexual lyrics and innuendo that makes Soca fun and shares that he writes in a similar fashion to make his songs sexy but never rated R.
He does not have a favorite album but he is proud of his three albums and the hundreds of songs that he has created thus far. With his career taking off so fast, “like winning the lotto” he described it, there was not time for the hands on work and curation that he would have liked. He can however, can call out some of his favorite songs; Losing Control, Home For Carnival and a current favorite Turner. His Soca Song ‘Turn Me On’ was ranked the Best Dancehall & Reggaeton Chorus of the 21st Century by Billboard Music. His career in Soca can only go up from here. His impact and influence on the genre is solid and undisputed. His future album plans include taking the time to make an album his way, but the popularity of his current singles are keeping him busy enough for now. Soca single “How They Wining” is extremely popular and promises to be another big hit for him.
The acknowledgement, promotion and celebration of Caribbean Heritage is important to Lyttle because “the Caribbean is a large consumer of music and that consumption does not always benefit the artists or the islands and countries they come from. He feels that streaming companies could be more present and accessible in the Caribbean so they can share the great music being created with the world. We need some type of music industry in the islands he goes on to say. We also need to acknowledge that Tropical House, Reggaeton and other types of Caribbean influenced music have gone mainstream while the originators of that content go unknown and uncelebrated. Musically, he also feels we need to bridge the gap between Caribbeans and African Americans and we both need to claim ownership of our own music and the benefits of that ownership through our own radio stations, streaming and media companies.
Outside of his own music Kevin Lyttle has a record label and he and his wife share a music distribution company. His media streaming, radio and real estate ventures also take much of his time.
As we wrapped up I asked Mr. Lyttle if there was anything else he wanted CHM readers to know, and he quickly replied “I want them to know I am from St Vincent and Grenadines and I love where I am from. I big up my county of about 100,000 people every chance I get. He is hoping to see more coverage of artists from his country like Skinny Fabulous, Problem Child, Simba and promises to speak with us again in upcoming issues of our magazine. We are more than happy to oblige.