Saturday, 3 March 2007

Album Review: School Was My Hustle

It's a very big test of a new act's pedigree to charge them with resurrecting one of hip hop's most fondly cherished labels. Fortunately for Rawkus, Kidz In The Hall are more than talented enough to live up to the task. And, perhaps more appropriately, they have an ethos worthy of the great label, because just as the formation of Rawkus was originally a reaction to Bad Boy and Death Row artists selling millions of records with arguable talent, School Was My Hustle makes it clear that they still feel the same way.

Having both studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Naledge, a poet since an early age, was introduced to Double O, who had always been DJing and composing beats, and they formed Kidz In The Hall. And, with an outlook similar to the Native Tongues movement, their debut album takes a slightly less militant Dead Prez political consciousness and spins it with Jurassic 5-style positivity.

Naledge makes his agenda clear on Ritalin as he ploughs through what he feels are emcees undeserving of their success, backed by a military drum roll. The rhetoric continues on Wassup Jo', as Naledge berates less talented rappers that have found commercial acclaim.

Naledge is also keen to impress upon us that although he chose college, he does still have an understanding of the streets. On Cruise Control he claims to have "the heart of the street, plus the eyes of the ghetto, with the brains of a nerd," while on Dumb Ass Tales he laments upon the number of juvenile lives that are wasted.

Double O's production is layered and dynamic throughout. Go Ill is a blaxploitation funk and flute loop and Wheelz Fall Off ('06 Til) reworks the sample that made Souls Of Mischief's 93 Til Infinity such a classic, but Double O's outstanding beat is Don't Stop. While it's fair to say that some of the beat's impact has been lost because it was lent to Just Blaze for use on Jay-Z's Show Me What You Got previously, it remains the album's standout beat.

Across its lean twelve tracks, School Was My Hustle oozes the brash, cocky definitive of early 20-somethings, while exhibiting a maturity beyond their years by remaining duly reverent to classic `80s hip hop.

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