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The Chicagoan Hip Hop duo the Kidz in the Hall followed in the footsteps of a number of great, innovate acts out of Illinois's largest city when they dropped "School Was My Hustle" in 2006 as their début. Fitting right in with the likes of Kanye West, Rhymefest and Lupe Fiasco, the MC Naledge (pronounced 'knowledge') and producer Double-O come together to showcase what fresh young talent from these parts has to offer at a time when Alternative Hip Hop was finally accepted by the mainstream listeners.
The album has no features on it whatsoever, and so forces Naledge to really work to show that he should be able to have his name up with the other greats out of Chi Town. It seemed as though he fought well in order to do so as he comes in time after time with a solid performance using fresh and original ideas when composing his bars. He doesn't ever seem to go down the sorts of directions which were prevalent at the time. This would have been easy since Chicago was going through a massive buzz at the time, but instead he remains composed and keeps things running in his own distinct way.
At times the lack of experience on the part of the duo's MC shone through. It was clear that although he may have a lot to say, at times he does rely a lot upon 'classic' Hip Hop lines to guide him at first before he actually gets to his own lines. This may only be a minor thing, but something that was evident in a number of tracks as verses opened-up. I thought that this was the biggest hindrance to his material as pretty much everywhere else he performs solidly whilst reaching back towards the Golden Age for ideas of how to be creative in a game which seems to be saturated. In regards to this, one clear comparison can be made with the material here and the Souls of Mischief's début album. The lead single, "Wheelz Fall Off" acts as a re-vamped version of Souls' "'93 Til Infinity" down to the production and it gives off a refreshing and uplifting vibe to indicate that they've come to start afresh and it appears to set the tone for the rest of the record.
In regards to Double-O's beats, every single point through the release he was consistent. Although this may be the case, it isn't to say that it was all that good as it was often the case that he would make do with material which sounded quite plain and lacked the sort of energy which had been seen in Hip Hop around this time. Just Blaze overlooked this whole process as executive producer, but it wasn't really that obvious that his input had been made towards the album at all as it all sounds to be completely new ideas from this fresh talent.
Admittedly, it doesn't really get off to the best of starts as after an introductory skit, the short "Ritalin" sounds to be any general, underground Mid-West Hip Hop cut and "Wassup Jo" much the same, but as they move onwards the release gives an impression that they are actually someone to look out for and have a lot to offer the game. "Ms. Juanita" sounds to be a very commercially-directed lively tune and takes things in a whole new direction off from the cut prior to it. I felt that it was a real highlight though as it seems to lighten the mood after it seemed that they may be a bit too serious at first. Naledge may have resorted to going down to an A Tribe Called Quest classic for inspiration at first, but once he gets into the fast-paced rhyming, he makes it into a very fun Hip Hop track.
"Cruise Control" screams '89 Eric B. & Rakim and so has them taking things back to the days when Breakbeats rules the Hip Hop world as a touch of that era's sound. Naledge may pick up from a well-used EPMD line, but from there is sure to come in hard once he finds where he's at. When it comes to the MCs usage of other people's lines, it seems that the most effective and purposeful example is "Dumbass Tales" (derived from Too $hort's "Freaky Tales") where he twists the '87 tune into a biographical tale of a close friend. The album is filled with snippets elements reminiscent of the era where they were clearly inspired mostly by and it generally seems to pay off for them.
The nature of having quite a compacted release means that there seems to be quite a few highlights and that it's difficult to identify them all; however "Don't Stop" needs to be mentioned. Where a lot of the album seems to be rather laid-back, here Naledge lets loose over a re-cut version of the samples used on Public Enemy's "Show 'Em Whatcha Got" and Jay-Z's more popular "Show Me What You Got" (which was produced by Just Blaze). For this track Naledge seems to have a lot more fire and seems to make it stick out amongst what else there is to look out for through this record.
This release is recommended. It's clearly a slept-on album as it took a while for many to catch-up with what the Kidz in the Hall had done for themselves, however I feel as though its one which people should look out for as the way they subtly take on the late eighties and early nineties and draw it up to modern time without screaming about it makes it seem very passive and humble as the act appears to be - essential for the kind of underground duo they are.
1. "Hustler's Intro"
2. "Ritalin" **Three Stars**
3. "Wassup Jo" **Four Stars**
4. "Wheelz Fall Off" ('06 Til) **Five Stars**
5. "Ms. Juanita" **Five Stars**
6. "Cruise Control" **Five Stars**
7. "Go Ill" **Five Stars**
8. "Dumbass Tales" **Five Stars**
9. "Don't Stop" **Five Stars**
10. "Move On Up" **Five Stars**
11. "Hypocrite" **Four Stars**
12. "Day By Day" **Four Stars**
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Hustler's Intro
3 Wassup Jo'
4 Wheelz Fall Off ('06 Till)
5 Ms Juanita
6 Cruise Control
7 Go III
8 Dumbass Tales
9 Don't Stop
10 Move On Up
12 Day By Day