In the urban high school that is hip-hop, there are uberintellectual nerds (backpackers), truant thugs (trappers turned “I’m-not-a-rapper” rappers), assorted mean girls (the bitchy female MCs of the moment) and, of course, the popular kids who just get along with everyone. Incoming freshmen Kidz in the Hall make an attempt at joining the “in crowd” with their debut, School Was My Hustle.
Made up of producer DJ Double-O and Chicago MC Naledge, Kidz are a throwback to the days when beatmaker/rapper combos like Gang Starr were common and rap was less polarized. “Yo, I rock for the thugs/Rock for the hipsters/Rock for them backpack niggas holdin’ they fists up,” raps Naledge on the breezy “Wassup Jo,” and throughout the LP, he tries to cover all the bases. On the soul-drenched “Move on Up,” he gives a scathing indictment of sellouts in the media (“Sambos and jeze-bels/Porch monkeys tryin’ to sell/Propaganda to they own people/Still trapped in hell”).
Aware of listeners’ short attention spans, Naledge balances his declarations of social consciousness with admissions of materialism. Take the up-tempo gem “Cruise Control,” which finds the Windy City representative in the club, “taking big shots like Shaquille.” However, Naledge is at his subdued best on “Wheelz Fall Off,” Double-O’s excellent reworking of Billy Cobham’s “Heather,” the sweet electric piano sample that was the foundation of Souls of Mischief’s “93 ’Til Infinity.”
For the most part, Kidz’s musical chemistry is on point, but there are a few instances where they misfire—namely Naledge’s annoying hook on the otherwise sturdy chick record “Ms. Juanita” and Double-O’s repetitive single-bar drum loop for “Ritalin.” However, a weak chorus here and a less-than-great beat there won’t stop the Kidz from eventually becoming the new big men on campus.—TIMMHOTEP AKU
Read the rest of XXL’s Critical Beatdown review section in the
December 2006 issue (#87)