There’s a unanimous statement that pretty much everyone can agree on: being a teenager sucks. You’re uncomfortable with your body, nothing you do seems to be the right thing, and everyone seems to be judging you just as hard as (if not harder than) you judge yourself. Somehow, everyone expects you to “man up,” but no one actually really knows what being a man consists of, other than being really tough for no reason and making lots of dick jokes.
Rapper and actor KYLE told CASSIUS he wasn’t exempt from this mentality, particularly when he started high school. He said while he ended up okay toward the end of high school, he struggled a lot with what it meant to be “masculine” in terms of his “nasally, nerdy voice” and whether he should join the football team or the drama club.
“Somehow my social setting and the people I kicked it with weren’t really into the exact same things I was into and it felt like I couldn’t really find a place for me to fully express myself,” he said. “I felt put in a box, if that makes sense. If I went outside of the box, I was pretty guaranteed to get made fun of or called soft or light-skinned or emotional.”
This is why the California native expressed so much excitement about teaming up with AXE for the second year of its Senior Orientation Workshops, breaking down male stereotypes and harmful labels. KYLE and masculinity expert and poet Carlos Andrés Gómez will challenge students to replace toxic behaviors like bullying and “locker-room talk” with positivity and inclusiveness. The two will be visiting two different high schools in October which will be announced in October.
“Toxic masculinity is something I’ve struggled with for about 95 percent of my life,” he said. “It’s been something that I really had to figure out how to overcome. So the fact that AXE has been doing this campaign and they’re so passionate about it as well has made me excited about working about them because I felt like somebody cared.”
Being an innovative voice in the hip-hop space, KYLE’s music and personal brand is a perfect fit for the campaign; the rapper’s work focuses on positivity and helping people love themselves. But he didn’t always feel like he’d fit into the genre so smoothly; he couldn’t relate to any of his “rap heroes” growing up.
“The era of rap I grew up in was completely the opposite of who I am as a person,” he said. “Everything about it was hard, emotionless, you didn’t care who lived or who died. It was all about who was the buffest and who had the most girls. I felt like I didn’t have a place in hip-hop. That really hurt me for a long time because it was something I loved for such a long time that I had no business being part of.”
But as KYLE became more comfortable with finding his voice, he said that he felt more passionate about breaking the mold for other unconventional rappers can exist in the genre. Whether you’re a celebrity getting trolled on the internet or a teen in high school getting knocked around in the halls, KYLE demonstrates a passion for standing up for what’s right by bringing up the fact that October is National Bullying Month.
“I feel like everyone should really do their best to combat any form of bullying,” he said. “Especially if you’re somebody who has influence or any type of following. If more brands were like AXE and tackling one issue at a time, I think we could really make the world a better place.”