You might not have heard of him yet, but count my words: Kevin Abstract is about to rattle the rap alternative world.
Inspired by Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and, most of all, Tyler the Creator, Kevin Abstract is a unique hybrid of all his predecessors (minus the ego), and inspired equally by film and rap.
His sophomore album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, delves deep into topics surrounding his personal high school experiences. Most of all this album offers a front row seat into Kevin Abstract’s issues with self identity, sexuality, and the loneliness he finds within himself.
To be honest, the album is all over the place. In a good and a little “off” kind of way. As you listen to the album you’ll hear acoustic guitar riffs, a gospel-inspired chorus, and of course unique beats. It takes you into unexpected, strange corners of Abstract’s mind in songs such as, “Friendship” or “Blink,” only to throw you into an obvious hit, like “Empty,” to then hear a sad tale of unrequited love in “Seventeen.” It’s confusing and in-depth, and, well, sad. To understand this album, you have to understand its creator.
In high school Kevin struggled to be honest about his sexuality. In songs like “Miserable America” he discusses his parents’ homophobia and his lover’s parents’ racism. Lyrics such as,
“My boyfriend saved me
My mother’s homophobic
I just want help if
My best friend’s racist
My mother’s homophobic
I’m stuck in the closet
I’m so claustrophobic
I just wanna know shit”
His own parents didn’t even know he was gay, until they saw the music video for his breakout hit off the album “Empty.” As Kevin has explained in previous interviews, they aren’t supportive.
The video showcases the character he depicts in his various music videos, “Helment Boy,” who is in a secret on-going relationship with a jock in high school, named Summer LeBeouf. Meanwhile LeBeouf’s girlfriend finds out about her boyfriend’s secret relationship after walking in on him with Helmet Boy.
Kevin told The Outline, “Helmet Boy is the ‘Awkward Suburban Hero.’ The awkward suburban hero is someone who deals with secrecy, privacy, vulnerability, and trying to, like, be yourself in a place where people don’t want you to be yourself at all. And just existing is enough to make yourself a hero.”
As you can see through this music video, the act of storytelling and high quality film production is just as important to him as the actual music. His creativity derives from making content reflecting his adolescent loneliness.
“I always remember just liking how movies looked and how they made me feel when I was a kid. I was into Will Smith when I was in the 4th grade, when I was younger anytime I saw a cool black dude, I wanted to be just like them so I’d copy them. So I realized he was a rapper first, and the first rapper to win a Grammy. So at that point I was like ‘I gotta rap and make music’” Kevin tells The Outline.
After being inspired by Tyler the Creator’s music video for “She” ft. Frank Ocean, Kevin Abstract realized he too didn’t have to choose between film and music, since Tyler was an example of someone who blends both creative fields. This notion inspired Kevin Abstract to create incredible music videos featuring his character Helmet Boy, as seen in “Empty,” as well as “Runner,” and “Echo” below.
Kevin Abstract creates music and videos with the intention of being a hero and, most of all, a VOICE to all the people who need one to deal with life’s issues, the way Kevin needed one when he was struggling in high school. He is an example of not choosing one passion in life over another. Instead, Kevin Abstract exists as an emblem of success as he mixes his interest for film and music together to feel creatively fulfilled. Through this, he inspires people, especially the “awkward, suburban heroes” like himself.
Kevin Abstract, is just that: abstract.