"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon


Friday, May 9, 2008

Kidz In The Hall - The In Crowd: Review

"I see these guys are taking their fashion cues from Badu-era Common. I'm not sure even hipsters would wear ascots with plaid pants."

On May 6th, in the year of our lord, Twenty-Oh-Eight, a most curious event occurred on the Planet Earth. A song that was not rampantly hideous debuted on MTV's Total Request Live at number six on their countdown. In fact, the song was actually sort of good. For those who do not know, Total Request Live (or TRL as the youngsters like to call it) is the worst show on television (not produced by Black Entertainment Television....) as it routinely features some of the worst muzak recorded in human history. It is a show that for a period between the years 1998-2001 featured the "N'Sync-Backstreet Boys-Britney Spears" troika of lameness dominating the top of their charts and ruining pop music as we know it. I vividly remember returning home from school during my formative high school years and watching this show feature the worst acts in a variety of genres including lame pop punk, wack Southern hip hop, shitty boy bands and the musical stylings of one Mr. Fred Durst. I was not a fan.

So when hipster rap royalty, Kidz In The Hall's new video for "Drivin' Down The Block (Low End Theory)" off their great new rap album, The In Crowd, debuted on MTV's seminal countdown show, I was convinced I was living in a time warp and I accidentally had fallen into an alternate universe where music that does not suck routinely gets played on mainstream media outlets. I had to check in the mirror in my bathroom to make sure my skin hadn't turned green and I was sporting an extra nose or something. Alas, nothing else strange has happened and I deduced I was still living on good ol' Earth-616 but it is certainly a strange new world where an act like Kidz In The Hall can be prominently featured on MTV's flagship music show.

The In Crowd is an album much like the work of Little Brother and the Cool Kids with a decidedly throwback aesthetic. The album's banging opener, "The Black Out", sounds as if it's communing with the Gods of '88 as it simultaneously channels Eric B. and Rakim's classic "Juice" and It Takes A Nation Of Millions-era Public Enemy with it's thundering jazzy bass line and wailing Bomb Squad sirens. This is only the intro to an album that not only seems like a throwback to an earlier era but has a decidedly modern edge. Double-O, the DJ/producer of the duo, is the star of the show on this record providing a wide variety of beats that recall an influence that marks College Dropout-era Kanye West, 9th Wonder, the Neptunes and even late-90s electronic trance music. "Driving Down The Block", the epic lead single, sounds as dark and menacing as anything Pharell ever laced with the Clipse with which is fitting since Pusha-T shows up for the epic hipster rap posse cut remix of the song. "Love Hangover" sounds as if it belongs on Moby album circa 1995 with it's electronica influences swirling around Naledge's and guest singer's Estelle's vocals. "Snop Hop", "The Pledge", "Paper Trail" and "Mr. Alladatshit" are all standout cuts that recall the best of midwest modern underground hip hop these days and all feature standout guest vocals from Camp Lo, Boot Camp's Buckshot and Sean Price and Phonte. This album is a guest orgy of underground rap staples and they come out and show and prove.

One of the main criticisms of the Kidz In The Hall is that Naledge, the group's lead rapper, hasn't quite matured as an emcee and on this point, the criticism is apt. Naledge isn't a weak rapper per se and does nothing to embarrass himself on this rapper but he is yet to find an identity as an artist which is a shame because D0uble-O is really coming into his own as a producer. Naledge sounds as if he's a less nasal Kanye West but despite the fact that he's a better rapper on this record than Kanye was on College Dropout (by virtue of the fact, he doesn't embarrass himself on the mic), he lacks a true presence on this record and his lyrics come across as boilerplate underground lyricism. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, Naledge has a nimble flow and he's perhaps a record or two away from becoming a great rapper. For right now, Naledge is simply content to be just good and be carried by Double-0 at this point which is fine. I'm not hating. Just calling it like I see it.

If The In Crowd is any indication of the direction that the fledging genre of hipster rap (Why won't this name die?! Ha!!!) then we could look forward to some damn good alternative hip hop in the next couple of months. The Cool Kids and The Knux, the other two thirds of the hipster rap troika, are releasing records later this year and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing if they can match the Kidz In The Hall latest opus. Ultimately, the Kidz In The Hall is a damn solid record that is currently one of the best releases of the year. The bar has been set for the other hipsters of the world. Can they jump it? Only their vision and some restrictively tight pants can prevent them? Viva La Revolucion!


Ferrari with FREE Slab of Ribs! from In Crowd Autos on Vimeo.


BODACIOUS BENTLEY! from In Crowd Autos on Vimeo.

11 comments:

Jordan said...

You actually watched TRL? You poor, poor, masochistic thing. There's never been a show on BET worse than TRL, not even ComicView.

Does Double-O or whatever his name is (other than the knux, these hipster rappers have the worst names in the biz) actually rap on this album or just produce? If not that seems weak to me although maybe you need a really good rapper in a duo a la CL Smooth, Bun B, Prodigy to justify having a shittier rapper-producer on the mic as well.

Trey Stone said...

guess i don't really see what's supposed to be great about that single. i get with the video that they're poking fun at the concept and that's supposed to make it "smarter" than your average mainstream rap song about cars, but the beat's boring and dude doesn't really hit me as a very talented rapper, like you mentioned here.

think i'll pass on this since nothing i've heard indicates that i'd like either the production or rapping on it. can't say i've really been a fan of the rap albums i've come across with a "trapped in [insert supposed golden-age year here]" aesthetic

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

"You actually watched TRL? You poor, poor, masochistic thing. There's never been a show on BET worse than TRL, not even ComicView."

Cita's World, anyone?

Trey Stone said...

also, point out a particular moment on Dropout where 'Ye embarrasses himself. "The New Workout Plan" doesn't count, it's meant to be some goofy shit and succeeds

tray said...

I mean, Kanye embarrassed himself lyrically at many points on Dropout, like every third line almost, but he usually made up for it in the same verse. Whereas on Late Registration, he'd be in the tank for whole songs. But if you want an example:

But I can't complaint what the accident did to my left eye
Cuz look what a accident did to Left Eye
First Aaliyah and now "Romeo Must Die"?
I know I got angels watching me from the other side

Basically, 99% of Kanye's punchlines are garbage, and as he's tried to prove that he's a lyricist, he's used more and more punchlines, hence the decline in his rapping. As for the actual post, like I said before, bad song, bad rapper, stupid, stupid video, and I don't get how you can like an album when you come out and admit that all the guy's got to offer is boilerplate underground lyricism, but then again, you might have a greater taste for such than I do.

DocZeus said...

"and I don't get how you can like an album when you come out and admit that all the guy's got to offer is boilerplate underground lyricism,"

Well, perhaps I was being a bit harsh. My point is that his rapping doesn't necessarily get in the way of anything. He's kind of like Big Pooh of Little Brother. He's decent enough to not ruin anything. And also boiler-plate underground lyricism is still fairly decent when compared to some of the stuff that gets hailed as visionary genius from some popular artists that shall not be named because they have a funny, Southern accent.

And there have been plenty of underground albums that were way worse lyrically that were pretty dope because the production was so good. Malachi the Nutcracker and Lil' Dap did their best to completely ruin Primo's work on Livin' Proof and still managed to inexplicably come up with a really dope album. And Naledge is no Malachi the Nutcracker.

DocZeus said...

"Cita's World, anyone?"

I spit up my coffee when I read this. What a terrible, terrible show. Horrific animation and offensive to boot. Bob Johnson should have been ashamed.

Trey Stone said...

"And also boiler-plate underground lyricism is still fairly decent when compared to some of the stuff that gets hailed as visionary genius from some popular artists that shall not be named because they have a funny, Southern accent."

i dunno, i can't help but think that the easy pass some of these guys tend to get is counterproductive. because while obviously certain mainstream rap sucks right now, i don't think a lot of the lesser-known guys have done much to present a really compelling alternative. it's a two-sided thing.

i realize you're just talking in terms of your own tastes here. but i think it's pretty obvious why some of the alternative rap i see people hype as what should be popular doesn't get a lot of radio burn, that has nothing to do with it being too smart or not talking about moneycashoes.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

I forgot about "Never Let Me Down." Here's another gem:

That's why I hear new music
And I just don't be feeling it
Racism still alive they just be concealing it
But I know they don't want me in the damn club
They even made me show I.D to get inside of Sam's club

In terms of kidz in the hall, naledge's voice is kind of annoying/boring, but double-o has some beats. they need to stop using hooks from older (and much better songs). i like "drivin' down the block," or at least the remix. the title track on "free at last" also comes to mind.

tray said...

"Malachi the Nutcracker and Lil' Dap did their best to completely ruin Primo's work on Livin' Proof and still managed to inexplicably come up with a really dope album. And Naledge is no Malachi the Nutcracker."

Yes, but

a) Generic Underground Producer 00 is no Premo

b) there's actually a certain charm to Malachi's mind-blowing incompetence that this Naledge guy doesn't have. Rawness, sincerity, lack of self-consciousness... I'm just stringing words together but you know what I mean. This is more analogous to, as you say, a Little Brother album. Both of which I hate.

Dallas said...

Keep an eye out for hipster rap messiah Kid Cudi