July 5, 2008

Kidz In The Hall - School Was My Hustle (October 31, 2006)

Kidz In The Hall, a hip hop duo made up of producer Double-O and rapper Naledge, met up while attending classes at the University of Pennsylvania. They soon started recording demo tracks, found themselves noticed by producer Just Blaze, and signed a deal with a revitalized Rawkus Records to release their debut, School Was My Hustle, in 2006. All of this stemmed from a chance meeting at a school talent show. Nice, right?

The Kidz currently find themselves at the forefront of a movement in hip hop known as "hipster rap", which to Max essentially means those that classify hip hop are at a loss, since they aren't rapping about a massive amount of gunplay and fornication, just a minuscule amount, simply because they have other shit to focus on. Double-O has found a lot of critical acclaim for his work behind the boards, and Naledge comes across as a work-in-progress, but one which has a lot of potential. Obviously, Buckshot (of Black Moon fame) thought so, since his Duck Down records imprint quickly snatched the Kidz up and released their second album, The In Crowd, in 2008, which inadvertently received some exposure on MTV's TRL.

Of course, it wasn't Black Moon that received that exposure: that would be asking for too much, my two readers.

Anyway, School Was My Hustle only moved a minimum of product, considering that the current hip hop climate is one in which most folks cannot be bothered to buy an album unless the words "Lil" or "Wayne" feature somewhere in the artist's name. (Although that theory doesn't explain why Wayne Wonder doesn't have much of a career right now.) For an album such as this, though, that hesitant stance makes sense: why run out to buy an album when you don't know what the fuck the music could possibly sound like?

That's what I'm here for, kids.

Sure, it's yet another rap album intro, but I have to give credit for presenting an alternative worldview: acknowledging that you're trying to get through school so that you can get a good job and fill your boardroom with all of your friends may not be the smartest business move, but it's unique for a rap album, at least, and it gives you an entirely different class of weed carriers, so that's nice.

This song is waaay too short for how fucking good it sounds. I also think the reference to Streets Of Rage is funny, but I was always more of a Final Fight guy. Haggar was my fucking boy, even though he was ridiculously limited in his movements when compared to Cody or Guy. And what kind of body building mayor puts his daughter in a position to get repeatedly kidnapped, anyway? That is all.

I was underwhelmed by the beat and the hook on this one.

Double-O's beat sounds like some adult contemporary, lounge music homage to the Souls of Mischief classic "93 'Til Infinity", but I mean that as a compliment. Naledge sounds relaxed over this beat, which is more than can be said for the last song.

Comes off as a bizarre attempt at, not a club banger per se, but a track that could easily cross over, and it works for the most part. With the proper push, I could see this playing on the radio...three years ago. Still, I like it.

This is some enjoyable shit. I wouldn't be surprised if this became their theme song for the rest of the Kidz's career. Especially for their inevitable sitcom, featuring Dave Foley as an uptight headmaster.

I liked Naledge's meandering "day in the life" verses, but the beat is too abrupt a shift in energy levels, considering the last two musical backdrops. Bonus points for encouraging your fans to finish school, by the way.

I have to admit, I have never come across a rapper ever mention "tennis camp" in their rhymes. Naledge gets kudos for dropping that random fact and not having hip hop heads crying foul, but let's be honest: the majority of folks that actually purchase hip hop albums are middle-class white teens in the suburbs. Maybe he figured the embracing his upbringing would help him stand out, and it was a gamble that paid off, although this song makes me want to look for a Too $hort album.

I didn't really like Shawn Carter's "Show Me What You Got", but at least Jigga wasn't as overwhelmed by the beat as Naledge is on here. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Double-O actually produced the track on Kingdom Come, and Justin Blaze just added in some Public Enemy samples for the fuck of it.

The intro is goofy, but the beat will bring back the fans that walked away during "Don't Stop". It's so good, in fact, that I'm wondering if Double-O was ever even considered for crafting some of the more soulful beats that Jay-Z was attempting to get for American Gangster.

This song is actually really good. It helps that Nalegde calls himself out at first, before getting to the rest of the story. And he gets a thumbs up from my writer side for using the word "exacerbating", although it sounds odd in the song's context. The last verse is also both hilarious and aggravating.

You can tell this album is a few years old because of the Michael Vick reference that doesn't mention dogfighting. I usually don't like it when rappers spell their own names in their songs, but the track as a whole sounds so good, I'll give it a pass, for now. And the positive messages at the end only sound moderately corny, so that's a plus.

School Was My Hustle features a bonus track immediately following "Day By Day":

Naledge's first line is "My words run deep like a skinny girl's cunt". Wow. Sadly, that's the only memorable aspect of this song, but that's okay: the rest of the album was surprisingly engaging.

FINAL THOUGHTS: School Was My Hustle is actually pretty catchy in spots, in a hipster-rap sort of way (and I'm not a fan of that label, by the way). Double-O has some pretty good original beats on here, but he also proves himself to be a reliable mimic when the song calls for it. Naledge sounds rough, but the talent shines in spots. The most appealing aspect of this debut disc, though, is its length: it's so short, it ends before it gets outright dull, which is a major problem in hip hop these days. Not bad.

BUY OR BURN? If you come across this disc in ye olde record shoppe, you should pick it up. It's cheap, and it's a nice change of pace from the overtly violent and misogynistic rap that dominates the scene today. Oh, don't get me wrong, the violence and misogyny figure on this album too, but only in diluted amounts.

BEST TRACKS: "Ritalin"; "Hypocrite"; "Cruise Control"; "Move On Up"



  1. AnonymousJuly 05, 2008

    snoozefest, minus one or two songs.

    naledge wasnt doing it for me at all

  2. I enjoyed the production on this album and Naledge was a cool MC. The album leaves a minty freshness that lasts most of the day. Keep bangin', Max.

  3. I d/l'd this and liked it but i hardly listen to what I d/l so I picked it up today, like you said, cheaply. Hope it's still good!

  4. nice album.. thanks max! i didnt knew this duo even existed