Kyle Hunter is CEO of the music licensing firm, Rhythm Couture. Though he experienced many setbacks, including being affected by autoimmune disease, he didn’t let growing up in an impoverished drug infested community, and health-related adversity stop him from becoming successful in the music industry. We wanted to pick his brain on how he was able to overcome these challenges, to where he finds himself today.
Kyle, Let’s start at the beginning. You grew up in a tough environment and faced adversity as a child. Can you give us the story of your early years and how you were able to overcome those early challenges?
I grew up in South Jamaica Queens New York. My family household structure consisted of my father, mother, and older brother. My father was a veteran that served in the United States Air-force, and also a Jazz musician.
My mother was a teacher for the New York City Board of Education, and in addition to that, she was an Evangelist. My childhood had a duality because my mother would play lots of gospel music, while on the flip side my father would play jazz music.
The household dynamics of my childhood were supportive, but the outside dynamics were challenging. During that period of my youth, it was coined the crack era due to narcotics being prominently placed and distributed within minority communities.
My neighborhood and countless others across the nation were flooded with crack, and as a direct result, we felt the impact. Extremely high rates of violence, substance abuse, incarceration, and police brutality became the norm.
I remember one day we received the news that our next-door neighbors relative was taken by a group of men to the rooftop of our local projects, stripped naked, shot in the head at close range, and left for dead.
On another occasion, I remember playing basketball at the local park across the street from our house and a red Cadillac pulled up. Two men got out of the car with masks, opened the trunk and pulled a dead body out, then sped off. The cops came and asked questions, but nothing ever happened. It was just the usual homicide that would go unsolved with countless others.
Constantly seeing crime, substance abuse, and negativity plagues on your mental state. You start to feel as if you’ll never make it out and start to question if you will ultimately become a statistic as well.
However, despite growing up in South Jamaica Queens, one of the major positives was that both my parents had a strong mental fortitude. They would always reinforce to myself and my brother, that your current situation never has to become your final destination.
We decided to focus our efforts on being positive, setting goals, and channeling our energy into positive things. We focused on not becoming statistics and becoming the exception to our surroundings.
I started to channel my energy into music, recording my music and subsequently performing at various venues around New York City, selling my music. From that point, I started earning income from my music and was able to eventually formulate a positive way out of those surroundings.
You’ve also had to overcome some health-related adversities. Please share with us what you experienced and how you were able to overcome it.
In 2012 one day I noticed that my eyes became bloodshot red. I didn’t think much about it and just decided to go to the local pharmacy to get some Visine. I put a few drops of Visine into my eyes but noticed that they weren’t getting better, and instead, they were starting to get darker red.
I went to an ophthalmologist and he was stumped as to why my eyes were so red. I left his office with more questions than answers, and over the next few days, my health declined.
Over the next few days, I couldn’t bend a lot of my limbs and ended up having to utilize a cane to walk around. I found myself seeing multiple doctors in an attempt to address all the issues I was dealing with.
I ultimately went through two surgeries. I felt the psychological challenge of not knowing what I was dealing with, and if this would ever stop. I was placed on lots of medication by several doctors to alleviate the pain, but nothing truly worked and I would always suffer terrible side effects.
The problem with medication is that doctors often put you on medication for one problem, but then it often creates another problem due to the side effects.
So I found myself on a downward spiral of medication. Additionally, I was dealing with stress because during this time my daughter was just born and I was a father for the first time.
Trying to navigate fatherhood, and wondering if I would even be around for my daughter. To add even more mental stress, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she was not doing well at all health-wise.
Several doctor visits, chemotherapy, and radiation became the norm. This went on for a while, until one day I received a telephone call from my father.
I could tell that by the tone in his voice something was wrong, he told me “son, you need to come to the hospital”. The doctors had informed him that my mother didn’t have much time left and that she would be passing soon.
Once at the Hospital, I stayed all day and night by her bedside, until she passed around 4 AM. I was in a dark space at that time in my life. I felt like everything was going wrong and nothing was going right.
Eventually, after several years I found a doctor that was able to correctly diagnose my condition. He explained to me I have what is known as “Reiters Syndrome”. It’s estimated that 1 out of every 100,000 people get Reiters and I just happened to be one of those lucky people.
It’s an aggressive auto-immune condition that can become debilitating for many people. Some become completely crippled and permanently disabled.
I was placed on prednisone (a steroid) for a short duration, and he advised me to start physical therapy and modify my diet.
I had to push through the physical pain, and focus on my mental fortitude to get better. The physical pain was my present state, but I understood it didn’t have to be my final destination, just as my parents words had ingrained in me. I used that as a mantra daily to push through. And with persistent dedication, I was able to do that. Sometimes our biggest wins are forged through adversity.
And that led to your favorite statement, “Persistence wears down resistance”. How did you come up with that and what does it mean to you?
Growing up, that was a saying that my father would tell my brother and I often. Being persistent and having the tenacity to never give in, and boldly face adversity.
I learned that it not only builds your mental fortitude, but it also ensures that you become stronger for the next obstacle or challenge. It’s like a boxer that trains consistently. Over time he develops strength and better strategies. Nothing is impossible to overcome, and ultimately every door has a key, which is a positive mind state and persistence.
Are you on an autoimmune diet?
Yes. I am on an autoimmune diet and will have to remain on it for the rest of my life. Anytime I deviate from my diet I have really bad flare ups. My system can’t digest/process certain types of food properly. Particularly certain types of vegetables that are know as “night shades” I have to avoid. They consist of peppers, and eggplant for me. They often cause my symptoms to flare up. The meats that I also avoid are pork, beef, chicken and turkey. They also cause my condition to flare up very badly.
What does that consist of?
My diet is a pescatarian diet. I eat all seafood, plenty of vegetables daily, and fruits as well. I avoid milk and instead substitute with almond or oat milk. My daily supplement regime consists of several anti inflammatory supplements such as a Multi Vitamin, Omega 3s, Vitamin D, Tumeric, Vitamin C, and I also take Apple Cider Vinegar which is great.
I believe that ultimately it boils down to mind over matter. In life, we will all face challenges, disappointment, and adversity. However, ultimately, the main focus is to always stay the course. We all have two choices in life, to either quit or keep trying.
Ultimately it would be a complete waste to give up, so I always told myself no matter what, keep trying. If you hang around the basket long enough, you’ll catch a rebound.
Yes, I remember when I first started in the Music Licensing field I had no clue how or where to get started to get my music into television and film. It was like trying to find information that was hidden within a secret society. No musicians were actively sharing any viable tips or knowledge to gain access within this industry. My goal was to disrupt and change that while providing transparency within this field.