Journey To The Center of Kale

Milwaukee artist Kale Noel knows the value of the road less traveled, and he’s ready to share the intellectual spoils of his journey with the world

Music was always Kale’s safe space, his guiding light as he did his best to keep his boat afloat amid the turbulent seas surrounding him growing up on Milwaukee’s Northside. He fell in love with writing and recording music at an early age, making (what he didn’t know at the time) a life-long commitment to keep walking down the artist’s path no matter the hurdles presented. Whether the credits listed Crazy K, Petey Streets, or finally Kale Noel, Kale’s love of making music has never died. There were numerous times he considered putting the pen down and saying fuck it, but even when he did try to step away, Kale couldn’t stay away. It helps when one’s friends are as competitive and talented as the long-time KillSquad brothers that make up Kale’s close circle. Music has been the gift that kept on giving in Kale’s life, presenting him with opportunities, opening his eyes to new experiences and forcing him to learn innumerable lessons along the way. He possesses the writing and musical talent to be a star in the conventional sense, and to those who have been around him, he is now, has been, and will always be a top-tier rapper. As much as he knows, and it’s clear from listening to his music and just speaking with him, that Kale could be a headlining star, his focus has transitioned to helping the next generation of artists make their way and unleash their inner star power. To Kale, that’s what counts at this stage of life, passing along the lessons he has learned and propelling positive energy through the universe. He has accepted his flaws, made peace with his demons, and is now ready to help show others the way, starting with his sons. 

As the youngest of five, Kale came up knowing that if he wanted to change his circumstances in life, it was on his shoulders to do so. Before Kale was a rapper, he was a young boy watching his mom write and spent countless hours watching his father and older brother create different pieces of art. Beyond individual creation, his family exposed him to an incredible range of music. “There was always a lot of gospel music playing, if not that then old school R&B soul and rap,”Kale said, expanding on the musical influences his parents presented him with growing up. Of course, having four older siblings meant Kale spent plenty of time bumping the music they were listening to as well. “I was also heavily influenced by my older sister’s tastes,” Kale went on, “It went from Bone Thugz n Harmony all the way to Gorillaz and even to Korn.”.

As the hours added up, his internal desire for creative expression grew from a spark to a raging inferno, begging to be doused by the cooling power of poetry. Kale’s dad brought in the other side of the equation.He played music with friends and around town, recording instrumental tracks that provided some of the first backdrops for Kale’s attempts at songwriting. He would sit and zone out while the instrumentals played, for hours, filling notebook after notebook with lyrics. As much as his family helped him to find his creative well-spring, they also contributed plenty of memories/experiences of pain and learning that Kale could draw upon in his early years behind the mic. Drugs were an outsized presence in his childhood, creating situations that any young child would have trouble comprehending or dealing with. “There was a lot going on in the house”, Kale explained, “So music was therapy for me, getting away from all that.”. As fantastic as music was for providing a therapeutic outlet, Kale also realized that music could provide his route up and out of the life he knew awaited him if he chose to walk down a similar path. Basketball was one of Kale’s favorite activities outside of making music, playing a similarly therapeutic role, but even at a young age Kale was able to recognize the reality of the longshot of making it in basketball. It continued to be a much loved passion of his, but as time passed, it became more and more about having fun and using it solely as a fun outlet. 

Once Kale began penning his own poetry, there was no stopping him. He quickly translated those nascent rhymes into lyrics over whatever instrumentals he could get his hands on, and at the age of 8, Kale was on his way. Now, this was back in the day when singles were still being released on cassette tapes, with the radio version, an explicit version, and an instrumental version all in one. The first track he could remember recording over was the instrumental version of a track from Da Hav KNotz, a rap group with members from Milwaukee and Chicago that was dropping music in the early 2000’s. Knowing he would need a moniker, Kale settled on the name Crazy K, a youthful decision with the goal of distinction and setting his image as someone with the shits. He understood the mission he was setting out on. It wouldn’t be easy, and his path wouldn’t resemble anything close to a straight line, but as long as he stayed true to himself, he would be okay, although who he was was something that Kale was still trying to figure out. But life’s going to life no matter what, bucking you off when everything seems to be flowing calm and easy, shining light and offering a helping hand when daylight seems further than your mind can comprehend. 

Luckily for Kale, he had a group of brothers around him on the same mission. Beginning when they were all in 8th grade, Kale and his close friends Flawless Tae, Young Fresh Peetho and Killjoy brought their efforts under a singular tent, forming KillaSquad. With the formation of the group, Crazy K morphed into PeteyStreets, an always on-point, in tune with the streets alter ego that represented how Kale felt at the time.When you’re trying to make your way as a young artist, it helps to have the support and brains of other highly motivated individuals. The group got to work, recording whenever and wherever possible, using whatever equipment they could get their hands on. They spent countless hours working on their craft, and it started paying off as they began receiving attention around town for the music. For Kale, it was all starting to come together in his mind. 

Then, Kale got suspended from school. Wisconsin (for the most part) isn’t now and has never been a place that has shown a tolerance for cannabis, ironic for a state containing 41 of the top 50 heaviest/binge drinking counties in the entire United States and known to be incredibly lenient when it comes to the serious side effects that come with that level of alcohol consumption, namely drinking and driving. He had come into school smelling like weed one day, and “I got torn a new asshole by my guidance counselor,” Kale said, “I still have two to this day.”. It was one of those classic “C’mon, I know you have more brains than that. Look at everything you have going for you, put the weed down and get your shit straight” type of moments that can check a kid either back to reality or further down whatever road he’s already traveling down. His grades were top-notch, but Kale didn’t realize the value of his intelligence until that moment when he was suspended. so he decided, for the first but not last time, to leave the state in order to do what he needed to. This situation is one that could easily have derailed a less mentally strong individual, but Kale saw the opportunity to take his lesson and take it to the next level. It was a pivotal moment in his life, marking the moment when he realized that nothing could put him down except himself and that if he wanted it, all he needed to do was commit himself to it and the rest would follow. 

Trading one Midwest state for another, Kale went and finished up his schooling in Iowa. Finding more to like there than he initially thought he would, Kale ended up enrolling at the University of Dubuque with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. Things were going smooth, until a heavy load was dumped in his lap. Kale’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, and he knew he needed to go back to Milwaukee to be close to her. Once again, he packed his bags, and headed back to Milwaukee in 2008, his (now) wife along for the ride with him. The two became engaged shortly thereafter and it seemed as though Kale was happily on his way to figuring it out. They were back living in the Mil for about nine months when Kale’s mom passed away. It was a heavy blow, one that Kale struggled to deal with. Once again though, he had the right people around him to help him through the pain and acceptance that comes with losing a parent at a young age. Almost nine months after his mom had passed, in 2009, Kale was jubilant. Him and his fiance welcomed their first son into this world. For Kale, it was a confirmation of the continuous flow of energy that propels the universe, and he took it as a sign that he was moving down the path meant for him. While Kale was living in Iowa, he had leveled down his focus on music, never fully putting down the pen but using it for more than just writing lyrics. 

Coming back to Milwaukee, Kale dove head-first into making music again linking up with his KillaSquad homies. By that time, some of the homies who Kale had made music with back in the day were making some real noise on a national basis. Bizness Boi had been steadily climbing up the producer chain, making a name for himself across Milwaukee and well beyond. One of Kale’s close long-time friends, D.Tigg$, had quietly been making music on his own and helped push Kale to continue pushing himself harder. With this cast of all-stars pushing him to get back at it, Kale quickly found his footing again, amid the highs and lows of his first two years back in Milwaukee, capped by his wedding in 2010. He is quick to credit both Bizness Boi and D.Tigg$ for keeping him moving musically, pushing him to get back at it because it was bigger than just him. Kale began expanding his repertoire, studying the business side of the music industry, a space that was in full flux mode at the advent of the streaming era. Kale was determined to learn whatever he could, with his mind focused on the long-run and how he could best position himself and his family to have a stable future.

In 2014, Kale knew that he needed to make a change. Staying in Milwaukee wasn’t a bad option but there was so much of the world yet to be explored and life had more to offer than what Milwaukee could give.Tthere was only so much he could do that he hadn’t already done, and moving away also gave him the chance to stand on his own two feet. So Kale and his family packed up, and headed out to Denver. It was one of the best decisions, in Kale’s mind, that he has made. The time out there forced him to really hit the sidewalks hard as he built up his name throughout the city. One of the best moments of his musical career came when he sold all of his allocated tickets and then some of the other artists’ allocation for the Roxy, a music venue in downtown Denver. Through his diligent marketing, Kale helped to sell out the show, and when he stepped on stage, the nerves leading up to the performance vanished. He had spent hours practicing every movement and word in the mirror, like he was a little kid again pretending to be a rapper. It was the moment that everything solidified for him. Selling out a show in a city that wasn’t Milwaukee from the work that he had put in on his own two feet, and hearing the crowd chant his lyrics back at him told him that he had made the right decision. Not only in moving to Denver, but every time the voice in the back of his head told him to give it up and he ignored it, knowing there was a greater purpose to what he was doing. 

Nowadays, Kale is back in Milwaukee, returning to the good land in 2021. His oldest is starting to make music of his own, and Kale plans to take the volumes of knowledge stored in his head and use them to propel his son forward in whatever way possible. He also has a renewed focus on bringing a positive energy wherever he goes, tapping into the flow of the universal consciousness to build organic networks wherever he goes. On the music side, Kale and his son are working on a project together that he is incredibly excited about. It will be the first in what is sure to be many collaborations between the two, even if for Kale it means his handling the business end of things and not being in the studio. He has plenty of music in the vault, and is still working regularly, with Bizness Boi and others, but he sees now that there is more to life than making it in music. To him, being a great father and husband is first and foremost on the checklist, because that’s who he does it for. It isn’t about Crazy K, or PeteyStreets, but about Kale Noel, the father, businessman, and incredibly talented musician maxing out his potential at every level. 

Tap in with Kale on social media, and stay up to date with all the latest releases and upcoming projects: 

Instagram: @kvlenoel

YouTube: @Kale Noel

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