Even whilst spending the majority of their years on renowned underground labels, Chi-city double act Kidz in the Hall have always managed to creep into the vicinity of the mainstream. Whether it’s minor hits or appearing on MTV and BET, Naledge and Double O’s school hall charisma and streetwise demeanor has proven to be too contagious to be simply boxed into the confined spaces of Hip Hop’s basement. With Occasion being their fourth offering, the question remains as to whether it contains the maturity which one would expect from a fourth release or will the boys from the Windy City forever remain adolescent both in their make-up and musical growth?
Akin to many double acts of the past and present, Naledge and Double O bask in their swaggerous glow, taking turns to wax lyrical about the doors which their Hip Hop life has opened. Given that the two are armed with more than basic rhyming skills – these odes are more often than not pleasing moments rather than boring and dire. “Real Life” make use of a loud and industrious beat to toasting to the good life over.
When chasing for ‘the single’ which will arguably draw in the bigger audience, Kidz in the Hall hire Canadian singer songwriter Esthero to add some extra syrup to their poppy offering “That Good”. Although a fair attempt which will gain some coverage, it falls short of their previous lead singles such as “Love Hangover” and “Wheelz Fall Off” with regards to the quality of their execution. Although the song in question may lack a spark, the penthouse-roof celebrations channelled on “Star” makes up for it as an emphatic chorus from One Chance plus a feature from Tabi Bonney is a crowning achievement for Occasion.
When steering well away from the radio and BET bound records, the duo make more solid music which resembles many previous cuts from their musical home of Duck Down Records. Arguably the most powerful track on Occasion is “Crash Dummy” – made up of a dope arrangement of thumping drums and claps to nod vigorously to, not to mention a Killa Kyleon verse to top off the Kidz’ swaggered efforts.
The duo also inject some pimp flavours to the extra-terrestrial like warbles on “Player Of The Century” and are joined by CTE representative Freddie Gibbs. Guest appearances come in all forms – from the velvet like vocals of Marsha Ambrosius on “Won’t Remember Tonight” to Hip Hop legend Bun B and Mississipi giant David Banner giving their co-sign to the double act on “Pour It Up.”
Having such names on board does add some fragrance at crucial moments when the album starts to go stale. Lyrically Double and Naledge play it safe in keeping with their trend of adolescent fun, hedonistic highs and the odd tinge of reflection (found on the final cut “I Swear”). To some, this is all that is required from a Kidz in the Hall album – to others after more, the project’s chosen destination will cause some disappointed murmurs as it stays within the same boundaries as their last few efforts.
Occasion is the album which many would expect to hear from Kidz in the Hall. Comprised of some dope cuts catered to both the mainstream and underground, Double O and Naledge’s post-teen tales of stunting, honeys and more is blended up into a smooth, satisfactory product for public consumption. Although for some (especially newcomers) an outcome like this would be an achievement, for a group who have offered this familiar product some years back, the latest offering highlights their lack of progression. Nevertheless, the Kidz’ reluctance to fall backwards quality-wise is to be admired and, in an age where the well of musical consistency has run dry, Kidz in the Hall are still meeting the criteria which their faithful have become more than accustomed to.