This is not exactly the underground.
"I'm interested in these three: clothes, hoes and linquor!" declares an early rhyme in "Crash Dummy", a standout track on Occasion, the lastest full length from LA hip-hop duo Kidz In the Hall. As manifestos go, this one is admittedly modest, but it has the advantage of being entirely accurate: pretty much all the tunes on focus on one or the other of these topics or, most often, some combination of the three. If you enjoy hearing young men discuss "clothes, hoes and liquor" at length and in detail, to the accompaniment of varying sonic backdrops, this is the record for you.
In case the above doesn't make it plain enough: this is a party album. There's not much grit here, and little-to-nothing in terms of gangsta tales or social commentary a la the Coup or Talib Kweli (or even Ice-T). Rapper Naledge and producer Double-O aren't here to comment on current events or social injustice or the best way to jack someone's car. They're here to party your blues away, to talk about broads, booze, bitches and -- most of all -- themselves. Drink up! The album title, in this case, is entirely apt.
Too bad, then, that the song "Occasion" is so awful, with a tacky Vocoder hook that sounds cheesy even by today's admittedly low standards. In fact, many of the tunes here sound like rote exercises ticked off from some master list of pop-rap standards. "She's Smokin" is the requisite R&B-influenced romantic song, while "Player of Century" (don't you mean the century, guys?) introduces the novel idea that these young men are sexually attractive to large numbers of women. "Won't Remember Tonight" is your basic party anthem trading on the idea that intoxication is a desirable and entertaining state of mind. "Break It Down" offers a bit of scratchy electric guitar upderpinning the verses, but its sonic liveliness is undemined by verbal predictability. To wit: clothes, hos and liquor!
That's this record in a nutshell. The slick production buffs these songs to a brilliant, poppy sheen, and there is enough variation in the background to keep things from getting entirely boring, but much more care is evident in the backing tracks than in many of the lyrics. The standout tune here is "Crash Dummy", which marries snappy rhymes with jittery guitar/synth textures. Unfortunately, no other song comes close, although "Won't Remember Tonight" is entertaining enough with its unexpected horn accents and what-the-hell audacity.
Plenty of guest artists appear in the proceedings, including Killa Kyleon, who spices up "Crash Dummy", and Esthero, whose sultry vocals add a different flavor to "That Good", another track that aspires to soulful transcendence but suffers from an apparent lack of interest from all involved. Freddie Gibbs shows up on "Player of Century", Tabi Booney and One Chance appear on the I’ve-heard-this-a-hundred-times-before "Star" and so forth.
The album closes relatively strongly: the driving urgency of "Friends" and the bouncy, feel-good rhythms of "Walk On Air" both dispense with the guest artists and bring the core duo back to basics. The fourteenth, hidden track is a continuation of this, and closes out the album nicely. It's too little too late, though, as Kidz In the Hall have long since stated their manifesto, and (yawn) lived up to it.