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FSD Feature: Geniuses Need Love Too: An Appreciation of Kidz in the Hall

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Words by Alec Siegel (@bigasiegs)

When the subject of the most influential Chicago hip-hop artists of the ‘90s and ‘00s is brought up, I can guarantee mention of the usual suspects: Kanye West, Common, Twista, Lupe Fiasco, Crucial Conflict, Do or Die, etc. But when is the last time you heard someone mention Kidz in the Hall?

When I first heard Kidz in the Hall, I thought they were another hip-hop act that was stuck in the genre’s Golden Era, recreating a sound they were hardly old enough to appreciate. To be fair, my first taste of them was “Wheelz Fall Off (‘06 Til),” a track with an instrumental based around the ubiquitous horn sample from Souls of Mischief’s seminal classic “‘93 ‘til Infinity.” How could you blame me?

A few weeks after seeing that video on MTV Jams, a friend put me onto their debut album, School Was My Hustle. Producer Double-O’s sonic palette was steeped in the classic hip-hop sound, without falling victim to pastiche, and emcee Naledge (pronounced as “knowledge”) sounded like a less jaded Pusha T with equal parts street and book smarts. The duo arrived on the scene with little hype — no XXL Freshman cover spot, no major co-signs, no hit singles-but they dropped one of the most well received albums of 2006.

School Was My Hustle, released through the storied indie label Rawkus Records, was a confident, smart, well-rounded debut LP. The two Ivy Leaguers had soul and brains. Double-O flipped samples with the finesse of Kanye and Naledge wrote whip sharp rhymes and flowed like butter. He told detailed stories (“Dumbass Tales”), boasted without being brash (“Cruise Control”), and represented his city of Chicago (“Go Ill”). The Hyde Park native was one of the freshest rappers in the game at the time, and his partner in crime Double-O was truly gifted behind the boards.

2008’s The In Crowd, their sophomore effort, improved on their debut in every which way. The drums were crisper, the samples more pronounced, the rhymes sharper, and the guest list pulled from some of the most revered names in the underground and the old school.

Lead single, “Drivin’ Down the Block (Low End Theory),” is a Bomb Squad sounding ode to classic hip-hop. The track is miles away from the warm soul of their debut, but it slaps awfully hard. The beat flips Masta Ace’s “Born to Roll,” and Naledge fills his rhymes with references to A Tribe Called Quest and Outkast. These dudes are students of the game, and man, they graduated cum laude.

If School Was My Hustle was their acceptance letter into the big leagues, then The In Crowd is Kidz in the Hall’s self-affirmation that you just have to be yourself in order to fit in. Double-O and Naledge certainly don’t try to fit in with the rest of the music industry, as they keep their music personal and intimate, relating specifically to those that eschew the “in crowd” for love of self.

The post FSD Feature: Geniuses Need Love Too: An Appreciation of Kidz in the Hall appeared first on Fake Shore Drive®.

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