In a just world, Kaiydo’s “Fruit Punch” becomes the song of the summer. Released in early August 2016, it’s sticky, like fruit punch itself, or those humid summer nights it might best soundtrack. “Fruit Punch” is a hedonistic track, a party song that details its writer’s ambitions (“a few nice things and a comma stream, eight figures,” he raps) with a confident swagger underlined by its trombone-blast bass line. It recalls the jubilance of Chance the Rapper and the blithe late-night energy of Rae Sremmurd without really being like either of them.
Since its release at the end of last summer, “Fruit Punch” has hit nearly two million streams on Soundcloud, and an additional almost-nine million on Spotify—maybe not the “comma stream” Kaiydo refers to in his verse, but an impressive figure for a 20-year-old, unsigned Floridian who just started releasing music two years ago and who wrote and produced the track inside of two days. Mostly, “Fruit Punch” came about because Kaiydo liked the sound of it as a song title.
“I come up with a bunch of titles and then go make songs afterwards,” he said on a recent afternoon in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. It was late morning, and the young rapper was yawning; he had just arrived from Washington, D.C., where he had played the first of a series of dates in a national tour leading up to festival season the previous night. He was wearing strategically distressed jeans, Air Jordans, and a yellow hoodie with “EDF” emblazoned across the front over a black Comme Des Garçons Play polo shirt. He calls out “EDF” at the beginning of “Fruit Punch,” too—which, for the record, is just one of six Soundcloud releases, but is also his most successful by a significant margin. It’s an acronym for “Everyday Friday,” Kaiydo’s personal mantra, his benchmark for success, and the name of his nascent clothing label that features his own artwork.
“I honestly just feel like you can build your way to the point where you don’t have to have any Mondays,” he explained. “Everyday Friday is pretty much me not settling for the norm.” It’s an ambition that permeates his music—from “Fruit Punch” to “Reflections,” in which he raps, “She say, ‘Boy you done too much,’ I say I ain’t done enough.”
Born Keiondre Boone, Kaiydo grew up in Ocala, a small town in central Florida best-known for its thoroughbred farms, and consumed a steady diet of southern rappers like Rick Ross and T.I. After he got into some trouble as a young teen, he and his mom relocated to Orlando for high school. Adapting to the city proved challenging—“I don’t know if I ever did,” he told me—so he sought an outlet in graphic design and, eventually, music. (His sobriquet unites the two crafts: Kaiydo is an homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of his favorite artists, who tagged his politically-inflected graffiti “SAMO,” or “same old shit.”) He released his first project under his middle name, Latre, during his senior year; after graduating high school, he moved out of his mom’s place, rechristened himself Kaiydo, and posted “Red Freestyle” to his Soundcloud. That was a year ago.
Kaiydo makes music that wouldn’t be out of place on any summer party playlist, but his releases so far are part of a long game. “One part of my brand, everything kind of looks colorful and inviting or accessible,” he said. But tracks like “Lottery” have more somber undertones: “You don’t always have to scream something at somebody. If you say it subtly, people are more likely to listen.”
Making exuberant rap became a form of escapism for Kaiydo, who was living in a rough Orlando neighborhood at the time. “The whole time I was making this bright artwork and music and everything, I was literally waking up to gunshots every day,” he said. “For me, it was more like trying to get out of a situation where everyone around me is kind of glorifying what’s being done.”
While many American cities like Atlanta, L.A., New York, Chicago, and Houston have strong hip-hop roots and distinct sounds, Orlando’s rap scene is still finding its identity. Everyone’s doing their own thing, Kaiydo told me, himself included. But young musicians of his peer group in Orlando and beyond, musicians like Lil Yachty and the Sailing Team or the Awful Records crew, have thrived off the inherent democracy of platforms like Soundcloud, which allows unsigned musicians to achieve a degree internet fame that levels the field with their major-label counterparts.
Just like his songs, Kaiydo has tried to reverse engineer his career. While, as he sees it, many artists release their most intimate material at the beginning of their career, he decided to release his most accessible work first and then incorporate “more of my story as an artist”—and his politics—as more people start listening.
“I get DMs like, ‘Yo, where’s the tape? Don’t just drop another song,’” Kaiydo said, with a laugh. So the mixtape is coming, because “If I put out another single, my fanbase is going to hate me.”
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