Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Kidz In The Hall
Kidz In The Hall Kidz In The Hall (literally) School Was My Hustle

The return of Rawkus Records to hip-hop really couldn’t have come at a better time. With so many fans bad mouthing the genre because of its current lack of creativity, the label that once upon a time offered listeners an alternative route to the one spoon fed to them by every man and his dog returns to us with some much needed realness. One of the acts flying the flag this time around for the reinstated and highly-respected label is rapper/producer duo Kidz In The Hall. The Chicago natives, who together are Jabari Evans aka Naledge (the MC) and Michael Aguilar aka Double-O (the producer), are set to be the underground turned overground success story that acts such as Talib Kweli and Mos Def were when they were housed at Rawkus.

B&S: How and when did you guys first meet up?
Double-O: We met at school, at college actually. I was in my junior year and Naledge was a senior at high school. He came up for a weekend to preview the school because he had already gotten in. He entered this talent competition that they had there, I was there and I heard him and thought that he was amazing. I actually said to myself that this dude could be a great rapper someday. From then I introduced myself to him and we kept in constant contact via e-mail. He then came to school and that’s when it all started.

B&S: What can listeners expect from your album 'School Was My Hustle'?
Double-O: It’s a real soulful experience. We are who we say we are and that spills out on to the album, and I honestly think that there is something on there for everyone. Whether you’re a 15-year-old whose top 5 artists include Jim Jones and 50 Cent, or you’re older than 25 and grew up on that early 90’s hip-hop, I definitely think it will strike a chord with you and you can appreciate it. There’s definitely a nostalgic feeling to it that makes you think that you’re in 8th grade again, back when you first heard 'Illmatic', 'Reasonable Doubt', or 'Ready To Die'. Even if you’re just the casual listener who likes a catchy hook or something that’s just melodically pleasing to you, there are some songs on there for you too. We’re not trying to be all things to all people, but I think us being who we are as individuals, there are certain things that we’ll address that will strike a chord with certain people.
B&S: What was the process in the making of the album?
Naledge: You know what? It’s crazy. People always try and act like they did some crazy preparation and that they put all this thought in to it, but to be honest with you I just did what came naturally to me. Once I figured out who I was as an individual it was nothing to make something cool. Everything I make as an individual is me just expressing myself and being creative. I don’t need to figure out who I am and who my persona is on every track I make. I know who I am so it’s easy. We just make music that we like and that we would play ourselves. We then decided to put it out to the world and see if everybody else felt the same way.
Double-O: We use our surroundings as our inspiration and because of that it becomes what the album is, and hopefully it will become what the fans love because they see what we see and hear what we hear.

B&S: A big focus point when talking about you guys is the fact that you’re signed to the newly reformed Rawkus Records. What’s life like at the label these days?
Naledge: Everything is good and copasetic. It’s starting to move forward. The organic movement that Rawkus once was is now starting to rise and make it’s presence known and felt again. The music speaks for itself. It’s all cutting edge and innovative. Whether it’s Panacea or whether it’s us or whether it’s any of the other acts at the label, it’s all definitely good, creative and fresh hip-hop.
Double-O: There’s a great buzz going on right now. I don’t mean in the media sense of the word; I mean there is actually a buzz going on in the air. The music industry is in a very precarious situation right now with records not selling what they’re supposed to and labels cutting all these crazy budgets in half. So it’s great to be on an indie right now, and also be on an indie with a huge and well respected name.

B&S: Your track 'Don’t Stop' uses a beat almost identical to that of the one Jay-Z used for 'Show Me What You Got'. Was this intentional or coincidental?
Double-O: When we were ready to wrap the album I felt that we needed a more upbeat record. Around the same time I made 'Don’t Stop' I also made the beat for 'Cruise Control'. They were actually two of the last records that we did. I sent it to Naledge, and it’s just one of those beats that makes you wanna rap on it without stopping. With that said, the first version of the track is about 100 bars plus. The hook came at the end. So I took it, chopped it up, finished it off and turned it in to a song. Me and Just (Blaze) have talked about going back to the era of the fast rap stuff, and it just so happened that we went back to the same record. We found out that we were both using the same record on the day that 'Show Me What You Got' was being recorded. I was in room B of the studio mixing our album while Just and Jay were in room A recording 'Show Me What You Got'. So when we realised we were using the same record we were like, "so what do we do?" Now I felt like Naledge murdered the track so there was no way I was gonna sit there and not let the track come out.
So I said, "I’m gonna ride with this. You do what you do and I’m gonna do what I do." We’re cool like that.

B&S: Naledge, we hear that you’re working on a solo project. What can we expect from it and when can we hear it?
Naledge: Yeah, we’re just working, working, working. I’m trying to get to that ‘Pac level of productivity. You could probably expect the album ('Naledge Is Power') to drop around late summer/early fall. Double-O is gonna be a part of the process with me as well as Just Blaze and 9th Wonder. In fact there are quite a lot of producers working on it with me. There are some up and coming producers from Chicago I’m working with. I’m also working with No ID. I’m just trying to craft a representation of me and try and make my statement as an individual. I’m looking forward to it. I really do think it’s gonna be another classic hip-hop album. [sniggering] 'School Is My Hustle' is our current masterpiece.

The album 'School Was My Hustle' is released April 16th through Rawkus Records.
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