When you’re a young artist, the world is full of possibility. When you grow up, the world is still full of possibility. For example: unemployment, dead-end jobs, eviction, divorce, overdue bills, heart disease, debt, debt, debt, an unexpected interest in Dancing with the Stars. Yet regardless of the setbacks of adult life, some artists find the time to make cool stuff.
Kyle Hubbard is one of those artists. The Houston rapper’s latest full-length album All Good Things Come is kind of like the Patterson of hip-hop. It revolves around a normal guy who just happens to be an artist, doing normal things: taking out the dog, thinking about working out but not actually working out, thinking about dieting but reaching for the queso instead, trying to make his girlfriend happy, watching Stranger Things, teasing his girlfriend about falling asleep during Stranger Things.
As you can tell, All Good Things Come has a lot fun moments, but it definitely has a dark side. Lines about chasing your dreams and achieving your goals are scant because the album turns on a stark realism: Hubbard coming to terms with his own mortality and the likelihood that his life will probably always be less than glamorous. Even starker is Hubbard’s fatalism. In the chorus of “The Point of Life,” Hubbard, with a smirk, says the point of life is “to grow old and die,” which is just a less crude way of saying, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” And I don’t think Hubbard’s fully convinced of it.
Hubbard shows a hint of ambivalence in the album’s final song, aptly called “At the End.” You don’t realize it till you listen to “At the End,” but “All Good Things Come” refers to two unfinished statements: all good things come to those who wait and all good things come to an end, sayings that Hubbard emphatically draws out in the chorus as if he were mulling them over. He concludes that yes: everything sucks and all good things come to an end. Here, that stark realism shows up again, but this time it’s got fangs: “Not all last words are profound . . . wrinkles forming on my skin . . . life will pass me by. Y’all asking why, but should be asking when.” Forget about finding purpose, leaving your mark on the world, and all that folderol. Sit around and estimate the minutes you have left. Super grim. And with all that said, I still think Hubbard is ambivalent.
The fact that the chorus poses the question — does life get better or does it get worse — makes me doubt Hubbard’s commitment to this gloomy fatalism. Hubbard’s sticking this question in the part of the song that gets repeated suggests that he keeps returning to it, turning it over and over, unable to put it to bed. And of course, he drags the listener back to it, as if he were saying, “Well, I’m chasing my tail on this one. What do you think?”
Or maybe I’m just superimposing my own optimism onto Hubbard’s music, and those lines just sounded good in the chorus, so they stayed. Sorry Kyle.
At any rate, rays of hope do shine through in All Good Things Come. For example, the somber-sounding acoustic “Last Bow” isn’t all that somber. Apart from “clinging to an age when everything made sense,” when the rapper was sure that he and his friends “were gonna make it,” Hubbard, now thirty, evidently feels pretty good about the future. He is determined to succeed. But he’s not measuring success by how many albums he sales. Not necessarily. “Making it” now means supporting his loved ones: buying a home in Little Rock (Hubbard is originally from Arkansas) for his girlfriend, and having the means to take care of his parents as they age. “I’ll trade my crusade for the people I believe in,” Hubbard vows. Which raises a hard question no artist wants to ask: When does it become selfish and irresponsible to live for your own ambitions? I don’t know. Kyle Hubbard, it seems, does know.
But he’s not going away yet. Hubbard will be performing at Urban Movement on November 11, and then at Warehouse Live in the Green Room on November 17.
If Hubbard’s hip-hop career ever does come to an end, he can be proud of all the good music he’s made and will leave to the world.