She slows. "Yeah?"
"Can I, um, take a picture with you? Maybe chasing you?"
She's already starting to jog again. "No."
"Must be afraid of black people," he says, grinning as she disappears.
"But you're not exactly imposing," I tell him—and he's not: 18 years old, sweet-faced, a hoodie and jeans hanging on his tall, narrow frame ("I never really played sports," he says, during a conversation about handball—handball!).
"Aw, come on," he says, a little disappointed.
Kyle Hall has been DJing and recording music since he was prepubescent, and was mentored by some of the most notable names in contemporary Detroit techno. His first lessons came from DJ Raybone Jones, reportedly a friend to his mother and barber to other local DJs. Then he met Rick Wilhite, one-third of 3 Chairs (with Theo Parrish and Kenny Dixon, Jr.) and owner of Vibes New and Rare Music until it closed late last year. He learned the program Reaktor from Mike Huckaby. (On software and hardware: "If hardware was a person, it'd be jealous of all the things that software can do so easily." He sips his hot chocolate and squints. "But then, like, software would be insecure, because hardware's so stable. There's so much texture in hardware.")
At 16, Kyle met Omar-S ("a real… a real particular person," he says). And while he talks about Omar—and all his guides—with reverence, he's already developed a sense of humor about having to drag around the myth of Detroit. "I'm always waitin' for those questions, you know? Like, 'man, tell me about Juan Atkins, and I'm like, 'I don't know Juan Atkins!' Or they're like, 'what's Omar-S's favorite food?' Once I had a guy say, 'is it true that Theo Parrish doesn't eat cheese?' And yeah, he doesn't—he just doesn't like it." He laughs.
"So what is Omar-S' favorite food?"
"Oh, he likes lasagna a lot."
In 2007, Kyle released his first official record, a single-sided EP on FXHE called "Plastik Ambash"—six minutes of hissy weirdness that sounds more like musique concrete than the jazz-influenced deep house of the Worx of Art 1 or The Water Is Fine EPs. "Man, I was doing that with tapes and a Casio. It's funny, people just remember you for your last thing—it's like they already forgot about what I was doing before, on 'Plastik Ambash.'" This bears mentioning because it seems like Kyle Hall still has a lot left to do. Which, for the foreseeable future, involves a lot of DJing. Before this year, the farthest Kyle Hall had been from Detroit was Canada, "which is about 10 minutes away." In 2010, he's scheduled all over Europe.
"Some people are just producers who take up DJing to make extra money, but I was a DJ first, and it's still a big part of what I do. Playing music for a crowd fills that void of human-to-human interaction that you have if you're just a producer." And the relationship—between DJ'ing and producing—has become symbiotic. "Now that I can play CDs, it helps. I've been working on new stuff, trackier stuff with longer intros. When I'm in the studio I might hear some intro and think it's boring, but I play it out and think, 'man, that intro doesn't seem that long,'"—adding, in a back-pat of a voice—"'it kinda works!'"
Of the handful of Kyle Hall productions out there, my favorite is probably "I <3 Dr. Girlfriend," five minutes of gauzy, mid-tempo house propped up by a drum pattern where every kick is syncopated against the downbeat—the track either tumbles or floats; it never steadies. It ends with a girl's voicemail greeting. "Yeah, that's a girl I was really, really into at the time. And then, you know. We still talk, but..." he says, shaking his head. "I mean, that's all behind me, I'm done with that. Now when I go out and DJ and see all these girls I think, 'This is what's available to me?'" His face is a clash of confidence and disbelief. "Have you seen the titles on for my upcoming record [Dirty Thouz]?" No. He squares his shoulders and says, proudly, "Well, one's called 'I'm Kyle Mfn Hall Girl.' And another's called 'Dunk Jiggla.' And then there's 'B-Eatin Griz,' and 'Luv 4 KMFH,' which means 'love for Kyle motherfuckin' Hall.'" Big smile.
I ask him what "dunk jiggla" means.
"Well, you know Soulja Boy, right?"
"Well, he's got this song, 'She Got a Dunk.' It just means a big butt." Another big smile. Kyle Hall is definitely not imposing. Kyle Hall is 18.
"I'm already in a totally different place from where I was when I put out Worx of Art," he says. When I point out that that was only a year ago, he says, "Yeah, but I'm 18! A lot changes in a year."
For the moment, Kyle Hall lives with his Dad. He still makes music in the basement.
"So, does your studio have a name?"
"I call it all kinds of stuff. I mean, I wanted a name, yeah, but I mostly end up calling it silly-ass shit," he says, kicking a stone. "When I can actually get a girl down there, they just fall in love—they're all 'oh, you're so talented.'" He grins.
"And then you play them some piano, right?"
"Usually just a little bit. A teaser. It's funny because it's this dark, dusty room, but they just love it."
"But that's sort of romantic, right? Like, you get to act all cool and indifferent, like, 'It doesn't matter—I'm an artist, I only care about my music.'"
We're both kidding at this point, but Kyle looks away from the sun and gets very quiet for about five seconds. "You know, though? It's true."
"Hi, I'm Flashpants!" the girl says, sticking out a hand and trying to catch her breath. She's in orange spandex with glittering facepaint; her companion is wearing some kind of pink-and-white-striped synthetic onesie. We have been asked to join in an aerobics performance being videorecorded in the park. "It's so great!" he says, right after we finish lunges. "I saw those girls while we were walking up and just thought 'Man, I want to be in that movie!'" The power of positive thinking.
After it's done, Flashpants asks us if we want to sign a waiver, because the video will probably end up online. No thanks, we're fine. "But actually," Kyle says sheepishly, "do you think that I can take a picture with you? Maybe chasing you?"
Flashpants says sure. Kyle Hall beams. They start running across the field, the sun setting on their backs.