Chicago’s backpacking Ivy leaguers are back, but this time the backpacks may have been replaced with Louis Vuitton luggage as it seems that the mindset of Naledge and Double-O has been altered and their music slightly perverted by the sonic corruptions that plague Hip Hop today. The Chi town duo, Kidz In the Hall, rolls out its new album, Land of Make Believe, a 15-track effort that captures what is arguably a devolution of the Kidz in the Hall.
The album opens with a synth heavy, drum driven intro that finds Naledge giving everyone a little bit of insight into who he is and how he thinks. Meanwhile Double-O offers a unique soundscape over which Naledge delivers with a sense of extreme confidence that isn’t lost as the album progresses. At the end of the intro Naledge tells everyone what he really thinks: “Best in Chicago, that ain’t worth debatin’, nigga I’m best in the nation”.
The braggadocio remains for the first portion of the album which finds Naledge in a territory where he hasn’t spent too much time before. He uses the first half of Land to focus on treating his ego a little and flaunting some of the finer things in life that the duo enjoy now. While Naledge occupies himself with letting everyone know that a bottle of champagne is mouthwash for him and that he’s been enjoying watching the hometown Bulls from courtside, Double-O stays busy with the production work, seemingly fighting to show that the core of the Kidz hasn’t been completely lost. While tracks like “Traffic” , “Flickin,” “Out To Lunch” , and “Bougie Girls” aren’t void of entertainment value, they are missing what can only be described as the Naledge we have come to know from School Was My Hustle and The In Crowd. What is different about this Naledge is the diminished creativity and heavy dose of swagger which ultimately even alters the very fundamentals of his delivery for the worse.
As the album progresses, some of the clouds that have set on Naledge’s lyrical abilities seem to clear and more of what we have come to expect from Kidz is evident. Although the Marsha Ambrosius hook is far from the best that could have been done for “Will II Win,” Double-O offers a solid piano chord/drum driven sonic canvas which helps drive the track, marking somewhat of a turning point on this album. Feel-good, you-can-do-anything “Take Over the World,” may be plagued with another less-than-stellar hook but does its part in continuing the album’s second-half attempt at redemption which seems at full force with tracks such as “Running” and “Do It All Again”.
It’s not to say that Land of Make Believe is a bad album, but just that it doesn’t reach the level of creativity and lyrical display that has become characteristic of Kidz in the Hall, capturing a step backwards in their musical sense. As overconfidence throws Naledge off his A game, Double-O is the one who brings the most fight with his mostly sample-free efforts. Naledge fails to capture the energy of the solid production and use it to flex the lyrical muscle of his which we have seen before. Evolving is never easy and we can only hope that the next Kidz in the Hall effort lets us write off Land of Make Believe as a small misstep in their Hip Hop journey.