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ALT Spotlight artist Kyle Neff gets off canvas

Rapper hopes his story will be heard by others in search of positivity

Kyle Neff has shown he’s a fighter, and he’s the latest entry in the ALT Homegrown Spotlight.
Anthony Gadson

Anthony Gadson

Whatzup Editor

Published March 22, 2023

Local rapper Kyle Neff keeps getting knocked down but won’t be knocked out.

Neff lost his mother to cancer in 2017, has battled drug addiction, and encountered numerous obstacles while trying to launch his music career. However, despite all the tough times, he maintains a sunny disposition.

“Your darkness is only as dark as you make it,” he said. “I don’t want to sound cliché with ‘every cloud has it’s silver lining,’ but you can be your own light and you can be your own darkness.”

A bright spot for him has been his recent showcase in the ALT 99.5FM/102.3FM Homegrown Spotlight. You can catch his single “Not Going Back” and his interview with DJ Zack Skyler at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, and Sunday, March 26.

“(Skyler) said he wanted to make me a Spotlight artist, and that was just something I really needed to hear at the time,” Neff said.

Losing his mother

Growing up in Terre Haute, Neff says his interest was turned toward hip-hop after listening to Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” mentioning he had the song on repeat as a second grader.

The love of the genre only intensified, but that love took a backseat when his mother was diagnosed with leukemia when he was a junior in high school. After initially recovering, her the illness came back rapidly, and she was gone just two months later.

“I didn’t even have time to process,” he said. “I spiraled down into addiction. Her funeral was a day before my 21st birthday, so I just hit the ground running. I was drunk from 21 to 23, and when I say that, I mean drunk every day in those two years.”

Reaching out for help

Looking for a change of scenery, Neff moved to Seattle in 2019.

“I wanted to try to start a new life and try to do something with this music, because I had promised my mom,” he said. “I moved out there with nothing to my name. I got a job, rode the bus every day, picked up shifts, worked doubles, worked my butt off and got promoted, running a deli, and every paycheck I was spending on Ubers or paying co-workers to take me 45 minutes to Boomhouse Studios (in Bremerton, Washington). It was $40 an hour, but I was buying 16-hour blocks. I just fell in love with it.”

Those sessions are featured on his first two albums, 2020’s Sick and Tired and Kdn vs. State of In, with some finding their way onto 2021’s The Sad Boi Lp.

In Washington, Neff said, “People just started believing in me out of nowhere.” He had found himself a girlfriend that helped him in the studio, and with a headlining show on St. Patrick’s Day coming up, things were looking up: “But then COVID happened,” he said.

Things took a turn for the worse, and Neff’s momentum came to a screeching halt.

“Twenty-three years old, moving back in with my grandma and grandpa,” he said of moving back to Indiana. “It was just really not a good time at all. I was stealing their Percocet when they were sleeping. I was just so depressed. I thought that I had (messed) everything up.”

Spiraling out of control, he suddenly took things into his own hands.

“One day I woke up at my grandparents, and I just rolled over and got on my phone and started looking up rehabs,” he said. “I don’t know why. I kind of did it at first as a way out. I knew the direction that I was supposed to head, but I didn’t know how to head towards it. So in a kind of frantic panic, I found a rehab three hours away, and I told myself that I did that on purpose because that way, there would be no chance in hell any of my family or anybody would come get me no matter how much I begged. And if I broke out, I couldn’t walk home.”

Keeping going

After cleaning up, Neff moved to Columbus, Indiana, where he slipped up when he was offered drugs. He says immediately afterwards he was packing his bags and heading to a nearby rehab center.

Along with getting help to get clean, he also roomed with a musician from Huntington that had a guitar, bass, mic, and more with him. Mentioning he was going to a halfway house in Fort Wayne, Neff was entering another chapter in his life.

“I knew I was exactly where I needed to be,” he said. “I was on the path.”

Saying he came with his belongings in a pair of trash bags, he got a job at a retailer, biking there until he had enough money to get a car, but speed bumps seem to be continuous.

“I am sober,” he said. “I am out of that halfway house. I just paid a utility disconnect notice. I’m still trying to work out an eviction notice. My alternator just went out a few weeks ago. My car payment is $160 a week. My phone service was suspended. And I was stranded in Florida a week ago. 

“I have no reason to keep doing what I’m doing. I have no reason to even get outta bed every day. But I don’t do any of that stuff for me, I do it for everybody else because I’m a symbol of hope. People need to hear my story, because at least they can say, ‘Damn, that dude’s been through a lot of (stuff) and he’s cool, or at least he’s good at pretending. So maybe I’ll be OK.’ ”

Definitive songs

When asked to choose a song from one of his five albums available on streaming services that best encapsulates his story, he pointed to “No Going Back,” a single he released in February.

“It’s my life in six minutes,” he said. “I touch on my mom’s cancer, me stealing medicine from my grandparents, me stealing my mom’s cancer medication, stealing from my younger brother, being a drug addict, being a piece of (crap).”

Along with “No Going Back,” he also points to the single “Suicide Note” as important to him, noting it stems from a true-life event.

“He had really bad day,” Neff said of a friend of his. “He had messaged me, but I was at work and didn’t see it. By the time I got off, he had killed himself.”

Neff said the song had a positive impact: “Someone told me it had saved their life.”

Neff said he wanted to thanks a lot of people for where he is, including his grandparents (mama and papa), father, mother, and Skyler. He hopes people can take something from his music.

“I know my story can help the masses,” he said.


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