I met with Kyle Eustice in a downtown Fort Collins coffee shop to talk about her career as a music journalist. Kyle writes about hip-hop and has the numbers for many artists saved in her cell. She’s cool. She’s humble. And she works her ass off.
M: What's your elevator speech?
K: Oh, my God. I usually have my husband here for that. He talks me up and says, "She's the best music journalist ever." I usually just say, "I'm just a music journalist." Simple as that. When they inquire further and I tell them what I do, they're like, "Who are you?" It's always a funny reaction because they don't expect me to say what I'm going to say.
M: You pretty much have a dream job.
K: It totally is.
M: I know from experience that building a freelance writing career, especially one as specific as yours—writing about hip-hop and skateboarding— that just doesn't happen overnight. So how did you do it?
K: No. (laughs) You know, sometimes I like to say "I don’t know," but the truth is it took a lot of tenacity, networking, perseverance, and definitely knowing the right people.
It all started off at the Omaha City Weekly and literally my job was to go get paper at OfficeMax and stock the supply closet. Every intern starts off doing the grunt work. But I had this really cool music editor and he was close to my age and I was like, "Please, just let me write an album review, let me do something." I started off doing news summaries and then it grew into, "Oh, Kyle, I got this CD in the mail. Do you want to review it?" Yes!
After that, I went through some pretty difficult years where I was really into partying and in college I got off track. And writing wasn't my focus so much anymore. But really, that whole freshman year at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, I figured out that I really did want to be a writer. And this was after pursuing physics, chemistry, mathematics. Like that is what I really thought I was gonna do. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of grandfather who was a surgeon. But life had other plans, and I really started gravitating toward my English and poetry classes; started getting, as in everything, and I was like, "Oh, maybe this is what I should be doing."
I called my Mom—I'll never forget, I called her from the campus and I said, "Mom, I know what I'm gonna do. I'm going to be a writer." And she said, "I'm so thrilled that you found out!"
From there it was one step at a time, knocking out goals. Just left and right, climbing, climbing, climbing until I'm here. And here is pretty unbelievable sometimes.
M: Most challenging interview?
K: Uuuuuhhhhhmmmm. I want to say Morrissey, but that's more because he's so cheeky, quote-unquote. He just likes giving people a hard time. That's kind of a thing.
Let me think more about that for a second. Hhhhhmmmmm. I guess some of the bigger more mainstream hip-hop artists right now. Like Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J. They gave very one word answers, which drives me insane. Any journalist getting a one word answer—it's your worst nightmare. So those guys were either really stoned and could not form a whole sentence or just did not care that they were talking to me at all. I'd say those two were the most challenging because I couldn't get them to really open up.
M: The interview that you haven't done yet, but really, really want to?
K: Easy. Rick Rubin from Def Jam Recordings. Def Jam Records is pretty much my favorite label ever. Of all time. He's pretty much responsible for getting me into hip-hop. In fifth grade my dad bought me “Licensed to Ill” by the Beastie Boys on cassette and I just remember being blown away by it and thinking, "What is this? This is so cool," and finding out that Rick Rubin and Russel Simmons were the school behind that. I've always been fascinated by that and I really want to talk to Rick, but he's a very enigmatic, eccentric guy who is hard to get to. I think he and Russel have both gotten into yoga and like, spiritual enlightenment.
M: But you could write about that.
K: Yeah...which is interesting. I just really want to know his journey. Like from start to finish. That's something I'd like to get into one day.
M: Has the #metoo movement had any impact on how you would approach these interviews?
K: Definitely. I think this is went as journalists, you have to be brave and ask those tough questions.
M: What advice to you have for aspiring writers who want to be YOU?
K: (Laughs) Well, you can't be me. Yeah...don't ever give up. If anything, that has been a cornerstone in my career it's been my tenacity. You never quit, no matter what. If you hear no, you go in again. I heard no from Billboard a couple of times but I still got an assignment from the recently. You can't take a no and think that's it. You just keep on. The editor from Billboard told me to keep making noise. That would be my advice.
But you've got to practice, too. And you can't just expect it to happen overnight either. I know some writers will write to me or hit me up on Instagram or twitter or whatever and be like, "Oh, I just started writing and I really want to know how to get published in HipHopDX." And I'm like, "Yeah. Try putting in about ten years of work and maybe you'll get there." It doesn't happen instantly. There's definitely a process. You just have to keep going and if you really are passionate about it, it's going to take time. Period. There's no easy answer, no 'How to get Published 101." It's not that simple. Some people think that all they have to do is say, "I want to be a writer now and I want to write for Rolling Stone." It doesn't work that way.
M: Favorite part of your job?
K: Getting to talk to my musical heroes is probably the coolest thing. And not only that, but cultivating friendships with a lot of these artists that I nurture every single day. I'll talk to a handful of them on a daily basis, which is still kind of like, weird. Just the fact that I get to put my opinion and beliefs onto either a piece of paper or a blog or whatever and people read that. They care. They react and they interact with me about it. Just to have people pay attention to what I say is such a blessing and it's humbling and it's super cool.
I also like the free passes to shows. (Laughs) I'm not going to lie. I like guest lists. I joke that I get paid a lifestyle. It's the thing, you know?
M: Best interview ever?
K: That is so hard! Best interview ever? I've got to say...and he's gonna love this one...but I've got to say, Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse. He and I really connected on a friend level and ended up having just the best conversation and we continue the conversations. I just talked to him a couple days ago. We're still cool. He puts me on every guest list for every show when he's in the area. We've met a few times. It was just really fun and he's one of my favorite guitar player slash singers. I love that band.
So that was pretty good, but I've got to do two because that one is like indie rock and I gotta do a hip-hop one and I've gotta say....hip-hop...it would either be Chuck D, who is of course my mentor and we're friends, or Ice Cube. It's too hard to pick—there are just so many. I don't know. That's a really tough question.
M: What did it feel like the first time you saw your name in print? On something that you wrote?
K: That's a good question. Probably disbelief. Probably that's the coolest thing ever. And I still feel that way, though. That's what's so cool. After a decade into this, and every time I see my name, it's still really exciting for me. I think I have pictures of it on my Instagram. Look - it's my name! It's still really exciting. I was talking to my mother this morning about my career and she told me to never lose the excitement. I don’t think I could. I'm so lucky to be able to do this for a living.
That's another thing to remember. Be grateful. Appreciate it, because we get to be creative every single day and there are plenty of people put there who don't have that. We're really lucky to be in a position where we get to live our dream jobs every single day. Like they say, you figure that out and you're never really working, right? It's important to really cherish that because there's always someone waiting to take your place.
M: How many magazines are you writing for now?
K: Print or everything?
K: Well, HipHopDX, which is my main job. I’ve been full time with them for over a year now. I'm writing for Chuck D's website, so RAPstation.com and HipHop.com and HipHopGods.com. I'm writing for Thrasher Skateboard Magazine, High Times Magazine—which is hilarious because I don't smoke weed— Bandwagon, which is local and Style Magazine, which is local as well. It's good to have a local voice; I really appreciate that in my community. Ghetto Blaster Magazine...jeez... I'm sure there are more. I'm really busy. I also do a radio show for Chuck D every single week as well. It airs on the internet, but it's also on about five actual stations that's it broadcasted on. I just couldn’t tell you which ones right now. I know there's one in Boston, one in New York, Iowa even. I've been doing that for a long time. Years. Chuck D really opened up a lot of doors for me. He's a very important person in my career. I like to call him my hip-hop dad.
Michelle Venus, a damned good writer.