Regionalism in rap has always been preeminent; what coast, city, neighborhood, or block you rep is vital—pieces of your upbringing that shaped your outlook and who you are as an artist.
Now, regionalism has somehow become even more crucial for the genre, but in another way. Streaming platforms like SoundCloud and Audiomack have granted rappers from all the far reaches of the world easier access to sharing their music and story. Many of these rappers come from places that don’t necessarily have storied musical histories and use these platforms to put on for their city.
Enter 20-year-old Florida emcee Kaiydo, whose entire uploaded discography has a runtime of 20 minutes—but that’s often par for the course on SoundCloud. Although he’s only released six songs over the course of the last 18 months, Kaiydo has racked up over 19,000 followers and more than five million streams. He’s certainly blown up online, further making a name for himself among the crop of emerging rappers with his song “Fruit Punch,” which has over 11 million plays across Spotify and SoundCloud, and as part of Pigeons & Planes’ recent No Ceilings tour, along with Kemba, Boogie and Michael Christmas.
Originally from Ocala, Florida, Kaiydo—born Keiondre Boone—moved to Orlando at the beginning of high school. His older brother and cousin used to rap, so Kaiydo eventually picked it up too, and all three would write raps together.
But Kaiydo was also pretty good at drawing. “I was the kid in class doodling in my notebook,” he says. While in Ocala, he was designing flyers and logos, and doing work for local blogs, but when he moved to Orlando, his design work “led me back to music.” The last artist he worked with in design before taking music more seriously was Smino, on the St. Louis artist’s blkjuptr EP.
When Kaiydo dropped his first song “Red Freestyle” in December 2015—using Charlie Heat’s beat from Two-9’s song “Money Counter”—he made the firm decision to pursue music instead of design. Still, for him, the two are indelibly linked. “I’m focusing more so on the music right now—graphic design is [going] to the back. I feel like [design] definitely will help me like get my foot in the door, but honestly, I don’t really feel like that’s my thing. I’m definitely going to incorporate it into my art and everything because it is me; the graphics will drive it.”
Kaiydo also has chromesthesia, or sound-to-color synesthesia, something that further makes his musical and visual artistries inseparable: “Whenever I listen to music, I’ve always, in my head, had a visual representation of it. It’s really hard to explain, to be honest with you. It definitely influences how I make music.”
The young rapper has drawn and designed all his own single art, its aesthetic sunny and cartoonish. The color palette intuits the warmth of his home state, with images that are literal translations of the songs’ titles. The style also lends itself to the kind of music that Kaiydo has shown us so far: Uptempo, bass-driven, braggadocious party anthems that uplift himself and his Orlando collective/label, Everyday Friday (EDF).
With its thudding bass and bouncy synths, “Fruit Punch” is one of Kaiydo’s best tracks. It’s a song that every 20-something can relate to: Partying with his friends and girl, a red Solo cup firmly in his hand and filled to the brim. He shouts out EDF in the intro, and later on, his city (EDF and Lightning Alley—the collective name for the area spanning Tampa and Orlando—appear on most of his social media handles); he does this for the squad.
But Kaiydo doesn’t plan on sticking with the party anthems forever. One of his favorite artists is Basquiat—Kaiydo actually derived his name from Basquiat’s graffiti tag, SAMO—whose work is rife with social and political commentary. “[Basquiat’s] art just has something. It doesn’t look like it’s anything crazy deep, but you can look at a Basquiat piece for like days and keep discovering new stuff, figuring the meanings out for this or that,” he says.
“Definitely [creating more conceptual music] is something I feel like I’ll work on in the future. My branding is pretty much like you said, poppy and bright colors and everything, but the content won’t always be getting turnt up at a party. But the music that I put out, I feel like it’s got me to the point where I can really do that. I wouldn’t really expect me to continue with the whole ‘tryna be bright and everything.’ All respect to everybody [where] that’s their lane, but I feel that as I continue to grow as an artist, it’s gonna be other stuff besides that, if that makes sense. I’m an artist with a story to tell.”
Kaiydo used to have a playlist on his SoundCloud called Colors, which encompassed all six of his songs, and which he recently took down. Still, the name reveals the underpinning of his artistry. While hometown pride drives him, color is really at the root. Now, he’s busy working on his next project, something he promises will be “bigger, with colors and sounds.” It's that interplay of the musical and visual that we're most looking forward to from the young Orlando talent.