While Kanye West made a name for himself as the College
, fellow Chicagoan Naledge and New Jersey-bred Double-O are
taking a different approach. The new Rawkus
(yeah, that Rawkus)
MC & producer duo, known as Kidz In The Hall, is banking on their
own gimmick: each of them are graduates of University of Pennsylvania. With
their debut album, School Was My Hustle, Kidz In The Hall shows
that degrees and academia weren’t the only things they took home from their Ivy
League experiences.

While topics like mean-spirited professors and kegger
parties don’t permeate the School Was My Hustle, tired gangsterisms and
snow-slinging tales don’t either. Rather than rely on the aforementioned
college life crutches, Naledge simply raps from a college kid’s point of
view. Ritalin and Wheelz Fall Off (’06 Till) ooze the brash
cockiness definitive of young 20-somethings, and Ms. Juanita has Naledge looking to cement a fling into
a serious situation. Elsewhere, Naledge reflects on past experiences
while finding himself post-graduation (Go Ill), exhibits storytelling
ability while blasting “middle class kids yelling ‘Drugs for sale,'” (Dumbass
), and openly speaks out against racism and infidelity (Hypocrite).
While several instances come across as preachy, Naledge‘s
intellectualism, idealistic views and his crystal-clear flow perfectly display
the persona of a young man who understand the hood, but with college days fresh
in his mind.

Another definitive trait of the disc is its consistent,
youthful energy. Producer Double-O contributes an upbeat set of layered,
robust rhythms that prompt movement through regal woodwinds and crisp
percussion. Wassup Jo and Move On Up have Naledge spewing
highbrowed punchlines and revolutionary calls with unbridled optimism over
soulful soundscapes that would make Pete Rock proud. Naledge puts it
best on Cruise Control, rhyming, “Got the heart of the street, plus the
eyes of the ghetto, with a brains of a nerd, so insane with the words.” With a
couple subdued joints thrown in to keep your attention, the disc’s flow and
cohesion add to its solid track-by-track material.

At a lean 12 tracks (minus the intro), School Was My
is low on filler and high on content. With all the huge fourth
quarter releases it hasn’t been easy for an independent group to get the
attention they deserve. Their names may not carry weight like Jay-Z or Snoop
Dogg, but you’d be mistaken if you thought their music doesn’t. If Kidz In
The Hall
keeps this up, they shouldn’t have a problem making the Dean’s
List of hip-hop’s elite.