Kidz In The Hall

School Was My Hustle

posted October 31, 2006 07:23:00 AM CST | 15 comments

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While Kanye West made a name for himself as the College Dropout, fellow Chicagoan Naledge and New Jersey-bred Double-O are taking a different approach. The new Rawkus Records (yeah, that Rawkus) MC & producer duo, known as Kidz In The Hall, is banking on their own gimmick: each of them are graduates of University of Pennsylvania. With their debut album, School Was My Hustle, Kidz In The Hall shows that degrees and academia weren't the only things they took home from their Ivy League experiences.

While topics like mean-spirited professors and kegger parties don't permeate the School Was My Hustle, tired gangsterisms and snow-slinging tales don't either. Rather than rely on the aforementioned college life crutches, Naledge simply raps from a college kid's point of view. Ritalin and Wheelz Fall Off ('06 Till) ooze the brash cockiness definitive of young 20-somethings, and Ms. Juanita has Naledge looking to cement a fling into a serious situation. Elsewhere, Naledge reflects on past experiences while finding himself post-graduation (Go Ill), exhibits storytelling ability while blasting "middle class kids yelling 'Drugs for sale,'" (Dumbass Tales), and openly speaks out against racism and infidelity (Hypocrite). While several instances come across as preachy, Naledge's intellectualism, idealistic views and his crystal-clear flow perfectly display the persona of a young man who understand the hood, but with college days fresh in his mind.

Another definitive trait of the disc is its consistent, youthful energy. Producer Double-O contributes an upbeat set of layered, robust rhythms that prompt movement through regal woodwinds and crisp percussion. Wassup Jo and Move On Up have Naledge spewing highbrowed punchlines and revolutionary calls with unbridled optimism over soulful soundscapes that would make Pete Rock proud. Naledge puts it best on Cruise Control, rhyming, "Got the heart of the street, plus the eyes of the ghetto, with a brains of a nerd, so insane with the words." With a couple subdued joints thrown in to keep your attention, the disc's flow and cohesion add to its solid track-by-track material.

At a lean 12 tracks (minus the intro), School Was My Hustle is low on filler and high on content. With all the huge fourth quarter releases it hasn't been easy for an independent group to get the attention they deserve. Their names may not carry weight like Jay-Z or Snoop Dogg, but you'd be mistaken if you thought their music doesn't. If Kidz In The Hall keeps this up, they shouldn't have a problem making the Dean's List of hip-hop's elite.

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