They say looking back you have 20/20 hindsight, but I am sure Kevin Lyttle knew he was on the cusp of something major when he invested his savings into the recording of two songs: “She’s got the Wind” and “Turn Me On”. The first song? Meh. The second one? Oh the masses loved it. “Turn Me On” was a sexy soca chune with a hint of dancehall and a touch of R&B flavor. Perfect for the dancefloor. That was 2001.
The song catapulted the singer into the super stardom stratosphere and led to collaborations with Spragga Benz, Ivy Queen, Sean Paul, Alison Hinds and more. To many, it may have seemed like he came out of nowhere but Kevin had been honing his craft for years.
Lescott Kevin Lyttle Combs fell in love with music at age 7. Captivated by the flamboyance of local calypsonians, he eventually came under the influence of R&B, soca and reggae. He made his stage debut singing Surface’s “Shower Me with Your Love” and by age 14 had written his first song and performed at many local and inter-island events.
While in school Lyttle dabbled in Track & Field, but the arts were his passion and he used every opportunity to show off his singing, dancing and acting skills. In 4th form he formed a group called Suede, doing cover songs of groups such as Boyz II Men and even performing at graduation, before eventually parting ways. Kevin was also a member of Young Turks a dance troupe that held shows around the island.
Although he did electrical engineering at college, securing 2 passes at City and Guild, his hopes of musical success never left him. In the interim he worked as a radio announcer and custom officer.
It was not long after inspector Lyttle did “Turn Me On” that he was thrust into the international spotlight. Fueled by word of mouth and club promotion, the song reached several charts in the UK and US where it was released in 2003 and 2004 respectively. “Turn Me On” reached the top 10 charts in several countries throughout continental Europe and made it to MTV’s TRL Top 10 Countdown as well as Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Featured on his gold-certified debut album Kevin Lyttle, the song has sold well over 2 million units worldwide as a single. And he is still cashing in on it’s success today.
“Oh yeah, I perform the song all the time it pays publishing, it’s been in movies and it just came out on Dance Central- a video game where you dance like the artist. There’s an avatar of me. Sean Paul and Rihanna have songs on it too.”
Speaking of Sean Paul, the dancehall chart-topper and Kevin Lyttle were label mates at Atlantic Records. It was under the label that Kenvin Lyttle’s self-titled debut album was released. It featured production credits from the likes of Salaam Remi, Scott Storch, Jeremy Harding and Adrian Bailey the Vincentian producer with whom he originally recorded “Turn Me On.” The album also had soca favorites like “Last Drop”, “I got It” both featuring Spragga Benz, “Call Me” and “Sexy Ways” feat. Trini Jacobs.
He was signed to the label in 2003 but left to start his own label Tarakon Records which he now manages with his wife. Kevin says one of his hardest decisions musically was parting ways in 2008 with his former management who “were like family but did not have my best interests at heart.” By the end of that year he had released his sophomore album Fyah in Japan through a licensing deal with Universal Records. It featured the tracks “Something About You” and “Be Alright” featuring Skinny Fabulous and of course the title track “Fyah” . With Tarakon records Kevin Lyttle has consistently released tracks to heat up each carnival season including Fyah (2008), “Dangerous” (2009), “Because of You” feat. Fafa (2010)
He is definitely in control of his career and is staying true to the formula that brought him his first wave of success: smooth vocals, hot beats and island flavor interspersed throughout! In 2012 Kevin Lyttle will release his third album and already he has a hot new single out. “Wine Go Down” was produced by Richey Pena producer of the Latin Grammy-winning album Mi Nina Bonita.
Kevin has toured the world as a soca music ambassador. He has performed in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, England, Germany, Japan, India, Suriname Dubai, Canada and Australia.
Besides his musical pursuits Kevin is pursuing philanthropic efforts through the Janice Lyttle Foundation named after his mother who died of heart disease in 2008. The charity has at its focus heart disease education and prevention. He launched the organization in 2010 with a sold out big last lap fundraiser on Dimanche Gras.
Kevin Lyttle lives in Miami with his wife Dr. Jaqueline James-Little (her doctorate is in civil engineering-I know allu so well. LOL) and their son. The couple plans to adopt a girl soon and Kevin wants you all to “Wine Go Down.”
Soca Ambasador, only child of his mother, Kevin Lyttle, you are CC Certified!
1. So you are working with Grammy Award winning producer Richy Pena. How did that collaboration come about?
I linked up with him through DJ Lus and DJ Popdawg in Boston, but mainly DJ Lus. We actually recorded the song last year before he won the Grammy in February and the Latin Grammy in November. Basically it was good timing. Me and him got a lot of other hits coming.
2. Now speaking of hits, Atlantic Records signed you after your breakout hit “Turn Me On” took over European charts. Interestingly enough, Rupee, Machel Montano and Sean Paul were your labelmates but the only one from that list who is still with the label is Sean Paul. I gotta ask what is it with Atlantic Records and soca music? Is it something where they don’t fully understand the music and thus don’t know what to do with it? Whats the deal?
Well from what I’ve heard through the grapevine, you know, I think a lot of the experiences with soca music in that regard failed because of bad management for the artists and that was the situation with me. Atlantic wanted to make a separate label for Caribbean music and they wanted me as their breakout artist and my management basically said: Atlantic wanted to use you as a guinea pig and if that flop you flop. Looking back it could have been the best thing I’d ever done; but because my management brought it to me that way I said no because I thought I was gonna be taken advantage of. But because of my inexperience I did not realize that my management at the time did not know the international aspects of the industry. I was given the impression they had worked with so-and-so artist and they know how to do this and do that it all fell through the cracks because they were just putting up a front. It happens to the best of us.
Moving along I think that Soca music has a very strong future internationally if the artists learn to unite and make it a mission instead of a competition. The potential is there but the problem is artists are fighting against each other and selling themselves short. Soca artist work for less than what they are worth a lot of the time, they always underplay themselves to get a little bit of money; and it’s not to say that I have not gone through it because we all go through our period of initiation but we gotta fight to maintain a certain standard in the industry.
Soca doesn’t have the advantage that dancehall has with Reggae that is so established but artists just have to do their own ting and find ways to make it work.
3. So tell me how you got your start in the industry, and who is this uncle that was such a great influence?
Well he was more like best friend and big brother because he wasn’t that much older than me. We used to have a lot of fun together, hang out a lot. I got to know them when I was 14 or 15 I never knew having auntie or uncle until I joined this big dance group with about 20 to 25 members and four of them were my uncles. One of them left for Canada but the other three Angus, Audley, and Snuffy (local comedian)-I got into entertainment through them. So when we performed they would ask members of the group to share their other talents you know to make show longer, more interesting. They helped me push myself as a singer.
4.Now you are an only child raised by three generation of women. Why is it you did not know your uncles? What was your childhood like? and where was dad?
Well on one hand I was spoilt, but because I did not have any brothers and sisters, I had to find friends to protect me-I used to get beaten up and pushed around a lot. As far as knowing my uncles, my mom is an outside child to their father and you know how that can go; so there wasn’t that much closeness between my aunties and uncles with my household, not that my mom never used to talk to them but I did not know them till I was a teenager. I got to know a bit of my father when I was 15/ 16 years old. He was always trying to be integrated in to my life. His family was rich and with my mom being from a poorer background they didn’t feel like she should be with him or whatever and they sent him away when I was born. So its not like he didn’t want me; he was 19 you know, young, just finding himself and didn’t know what to. My childhood was interesting. Even though I grew up poor on the outskirts of Kingstown I still had the sort of impression that everybody in the world is nice because that’s how it is in St.Vincent everybody is nice, there are good people there, you know, everybody is friendly, everybody talks to you and almost 100 of the time people do keep their word. I grew up expecting a lot of that from the world but I didn’t get that when I got older and started to travel. I had to learn certain things the hard way.
5. How often do you go home to St. Vincent what do you do there?
Well I go to St. Vincent at least twice a year to visit my grandmother. My great grandmother died in 1988 at 100 and my mom passed in 2008. I definitely go for carnival and then any other holiday, like Christmas or New Year. There’s just a different vibe when you live in America and you touch back home to your country and get into that island vibe. The island is very natural and I love the black sand beaches. I go there and just chill.
6.Your wife is also Vincentian. Have you always known each other? Did you hook up after your fame?
My wife and I have known each other since our teens and we have always liked each other but we never really got to the point in those days of saying how we really felt. I’ve always loved her. We went out on a serious date in 2006 but we definitely had history. I remember one year I went to Canada. This was my first tour with Black Sand; and they had these big subway tokens silver with gold on the inside. It was so cool to me. When I got back to St. Vincent, I just out of the blue gave her this coin. I wasn’t expecting her reaction though. (laugh) I just turned my back and walked away fast! She was beautiful, smart. The girl everybody talked about. I was just a regular dude. I mean I wasn’t to ugly in those days still but I thought it was a cool sumtin I was doing, but I guess not. Well after “Turn Me On” came out in 2001 I would bump into her every time I went home and I would always tell her “me and u supposed to get married.” “I’m gonna marry you.” By 2006 she gave me her number, we went on a date and the rest is history.
7. Who is one person you admire and why?
Stevie Wonder. He has had a perfect career in the sense of his achievements as an artist and um he is one of those artists that is very unique (uniqueness is something that’s missing in music these days) and he sticks to that uniqueness and work consistently unto this day. I also love his vocal talent. He is one of the few male singers that can really go up there and rip it for you live and sound almost the same as the record.
8. If you could be a character in a video game (your avatar doesn’t count) who would you be?
I love racing games so definitely a race car driver.
9. What was the name of your first pet?
Can’t remember the name of the first one, but the pet that was sentimental to me I named him Roy; after Roy Rogers. I loved that show. Roy was a black and white dog with a knobby tail. I got him when I was about 10 or 11.
10.What is your favorite:
piece of art or décor-my wife blew up this pic of herself and I and put it on canvas. It looks like a painting but its not.
Place for family vacation-Naples. I like the idea of driving with the family to a hotel timeshare we have over there.
Snack food-mars bars
Cartoon character-Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck
GO WITH YOUR GUT
11. Roti or pelau?
12. Fur or leather?
13. Knowledge or wisdom?
14. Sunny day or rainy night?
It depends on how m feeling at the moment so both.
15. Boardgames or movies?
Movies. I love sci-fi, action, and romantic comedies too.
16. When I am sad I don’t talk.
17. Skinny dipping with my wife in my pool. When you got it you gotta use it. LOL.
18. Condoms. nah lef yuh nuh left yuh condoms (singing some song about condoms).
19. I would love to see everybody getting along, whether black, white, green, yellow orange Indian, African whatever.
20. Kevin Lyttle is a singer, songwriter, actor, dancer and lover of music.
Photo credits to Trick Photography.