School Was My Hustle

Artist: Kidz in the HallTitle: School Was My HustleRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

Rookie act Naledge and Double-O have a hell of a lot going for themselves as they're introduced to the world as Kidz in the Hall-the duo who met in the Ivy League environs of the University of Pennsylvania. Not only are they one of the first groups to be signed by the recently resurrected Rawkus Records, but Just Blaze, Pete Rock, and a host of other tastemakers have already given them the stamp of approval. Take one listen to The Kidz' impressive debut, School Was My Hustle (Major League/Rawkus/Red Urban), and you'll see exactly what all the hype is about.

That's not to say that the album is an instant classic because The Kidz' best work is surely yet to come. For a debut, though, it's comparable to other high-quality Rawkus releases like Reflection External's Train of Thought. And like Talib and Hi-Tek, Naledge and Double-O show a notable amount of chemistry on their first outing. Double-O's jazz and soul-driven beats are ideal for Naledge's self-described "revolutionary" raps. Lines like "I wanna see millions/but I'd rather see millions of black educated children" on "Cruise Control" are accentuated by Double-O's energized horn and drum loop. And when the Kidz go the throwback route on the clubby sounding "Ms. Juanita" (a re-imagining of Tribe's "Bonita Applebum”), it becomes clear that these two come from the very same golden era school of Hip-Hop.

All throughout School Was My Hustle, this duo lets listeners know just where they come from and what they're about. Although when Naledge careens from rapping about being a middle class kid that yelled "drugs for sale" ("Dumbass Tales") to preaching "black consciousness" ("Move On Up"), lyrical inconsistencies quickly arise. But by the time the pensive track "Hypocrite" rolls around, Naledge admits that we all "try to preach one thing, but we can never be that one thing all the time." Because of this cat's honesty, it's hard to hate on him, regardless of how much his approach varies. Moreover, Double-O's timeless and flexible production truly helps bind his partners' ever-shifting subject matter.

Naledge and Double-O may not reach the many demographics they're rocking for (thugs, hipsters and backpackers, et al) just yet, but the same heads that savored the original Rawkus releases should be satisfied with the Kidz' intelligent yet approachable debut.