Music

Kidz in the Hall: The In Crowd

Sophomore album from Ivy League-educated duo improves upon the promise they showed on their first album.


Kidz in the Hall

The In Crowd

Label: Duck Down Music
First date: 2008-05-13
US Release Date: 2008-05-13
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

It’s easy to see how Kidz in the Hall could rub people the wrong way. The Ivy League-educated duo of Chicago emcee Naledge and Jersey producer Double-O emanate an ostensible air of elitism upon first look. Their debut album School Was My Hustle came out of Rawkus’ brief attempt to regain relevance in late 2006. At the height of the coke-rap phenomenon, the title was too easy to interpret as “while you were out selling drugs, I was getting an elite education which makes me better than you”. Fortunately those inferences stopped at the title and School Was My Hustle turned out to be simply a good throwback to ‘90s hip-hop tall on homage to pioneers and short on “holier than thou” pretension.

With Rawkus’ return apparently in limbo, it might have seemed that Kidz in the Hall would fade away; then they made an unexpected move by signing with Duck Down Records. As the home label for all factions of the Boot Camp Clik, Duck Down has come to represent the absolute grittiest, rawest street hip-hop more so than any entity outside of perhaps only the Wu-Tang Clan. Two educated, privileged kids signing onto this label still feels like an odd fit.

The In Crowd is Kidz’ sophomore LP and first for their new label. The title and album cover (which shows the duo clad in elite academic club apparel) appear to be meant in more of a satirical way but the whole school theme tends to get a little tired. Fortunately, like their last album, any bullshit one might associate with the album superficially is lost upon actually listening to the music. Where School Was My Hustle mostly paid homage to rap of the past with a slight modern touch, The In Crowd mixes revivalism with more contemporary sounds. A perfect example is lead single “Drivin Down the Block”, which applies the current Houston Screwed-and-Chopped aesthetic to vocals from Masta Ace’s classic track “Born to Roll”. The juxtaposition provides an excellent commentary on the hypocrisy of hip-hop fans who consider themselves purists; while they complain about celebratory car tracks ruining hip-hop, a look back shows that one of their heroes was doing the same thing, on one of his best songs.

It’s moments like these that show Kidz in the Hall at their best. Producer Double-O shows great ability in mixing old school with new school to create unique sounds. What was impressive revivalism on their last album has now taken on a level of uniqueness that should earn him a new level of respect among producers. As a rapper, Naledge has sufficient skill and generally writes creative lyrics but is yet to find a voice unique enough to propel him out of the underground.

One measure of a rapper would be how much or how little guest verses add to albums on which he is the principal emcee. Unfortunately, for Naledge at least, the guest spots on The In Crowd prove almost essential to the quality of the album. Guests like Phonte, Skyzoo, Guilty Simpson, Sean Price, Buckshot, Bun B, and Pusha T almost always steal the spotlight on the songs which feature them. Naledge is not a bad rapper by any means and holds his own with the aforementioned heavyweights; there is just a level of charisma he needs to find before he can really hold the attention of most listeners.

The In Crowd is a definite improvement upon the last Kidz in the Hall album. Their promise as a duo has increased in just about every category. If they can ditch the potentially polarizing school theme in their album titles and form their own unique voices a bit further, they could easily be respected for a long time.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image