In an age of instant gratification the rap fan reigns supreme. Artist are spending money to record free mixtapes, albums are being leaked, and the demand for new hits is through the roof. It's evident that rap is a popularity contest, but while the bloggers hold the balance of one's success and commentators seem to love you or tell you to kill yourself, the Kidz in the Hall are unmoved. They've been in the game for a minute and if anyone knows what works and doesn't work it's them. It's not a matter of arrogance, it's more like self-awareness.
Double-O could be producing 500 different artists' records and Naledge could be dropping a mixtape a week, but the indie rap duo is just fine where they are. They're not rich, they're not poor, they're content. They've made solid records and have maintained success while never breaking character or selling out. It appears their third album Land of Make Believe (which hits stores next week on March 9) is something for the fans, but mostly for themselves. We caught up with the duo for a full Track x Track break down of their album, which includes features from The Kid Daytona, Donnis, Chip Tha Ripper, MC Lyte, Just Blaze, Amanda Diva and others...
Interview By Andrew Rivera
Naledge says: It's pretty straight forward. I mean it actually started off as a freestyle on a d-beat that Double-O had sent me and I just kinda freestyled on it in a way that set the tone for what the album ended up being. At times there's a struggle between feeling like you're living a lie and actually being in the industry and trying to claim this road to stardom, but it's like sometime's it's just fake. So it set the tone for the moment of clarity. A lot of the album to me is a moment of clarity. The album goes through stages of euphoria, so really it's kinda like if an intellectual person and an emotional person got wasted [Laughs.] You know, it kinda starts off like before anything happens you're kinda just wondering about your life and as it moves forward you star feeling good you start feeling hype. Then you get to the point where you're feeling great, where you're really feeling yourself. There's that moment and then there's the come down.
Double-O says: I think where he was feeling himself was more like "Fresh Academy". I set the album up so that there would be the aspirational peak of "Take Over the World". That hits and it's all like "Oh, shit I'm feelin' myself!" and then the self realization starts with "Simple Life" and the frustration of "Running". That beat for the Intro wasn't a Kidz In The Hall record. That was a Double-O record for my solo stuff. We really wanted to get the personal side of this album because when it comes to critiques, a lot of people don't know who we are or they don't bother to differentiate us within our space. So Naledge and I really wanted to use this album to do that.
2. "Traffic" f/ Coldhard of Crucial Conflict
Double-O says: For me that was looking for points of reference in hip-hop that were things that didn't have samples in then and still felt organic and they enlisted a certain emotion and response of excitement, but what I realized was that a lot of that was coming out of the south in the early 90's. Geto Boys, UGK, those guys. Naledge puts the Chicago stamp on it, but it was built right after we were in South By South West, because I was trying to find a proper introduction for Texas and I just worked on it and added things from there.
Naledge says: When I heard the beat, to me it was like leaving the studio to go kick it because that's what a lot of what this album ended up being because I recorded pretty much every song in Chicago. Three records were recorded in the same room as each other, but I used to have rockin' sections. It was just me and a lot of homies just piled into the studio and I would be making records and they would do what they were doing. So since we were all together it was really more of a going out and experiencing the city would inspire records. Coldhard was actually in the studio when the record was being made and he has these ill stories about when Crucial Conflict was really on top of the game. He's almost like a ghetto preacher, like a soap box preacher. So he'll come to your session and he'll say all these real stories and it was almost like a Dave Chappelle x Rick James moment, like he has to be on the album some how. His voice automatically says west side Chicago that my voice can't capture. His voice is gritty, almost like a drunk uncle. A lot of the things he says have deep meaning, like complex simplicity.
Double-O says: Really that was one of those things when—my musical influences stretch really far—so really "Flickin'" started off with me trying to mix the south and Chicago for Naledge. What came from it is an ode to that old west side Chicago rap scene that we know from Twista to even Lupe. Just double time dope Chicago shit. The term flickin' is a Chicago term so that really is one of those records that it's very grounded lyrically in Chicago.
Naledge says: That song was really a tribute to George Daniels. That's what I was thinking when I made the song. It was actually called George Daniels. He's a retailer from Chicago who owns three record stores. His store is for breaking artist in the city, but he's also known for dressing really fly and having really fly cars. This guy has go to be in his 60's, this guy is one of the fliest. They call him Triple O.G. He was in the "Step in the Name of Love" video with R. Kelly. He's one of those guys. He's really smooth and anytime you see him, he looks like he's ready to take a picture and that's really what flickin' means, you know? It means picturesk or stand outish in whatever you doin'. He's in a lot of videos.
4. "Out to Lunch" f/ The Kid Daytona
Double-O says: "Out to Lunch" was definitely a record where Naledge hit me like, "Man, I just want to rap! Like no bells and whistles. No over the top musical masterpiece just give me some raw shit that I can spit on." Of course me being the musical nerd that I am, I still snuck a little...because there's a certain hunger and a certain kind of rawness to the first part of the album—there are a lot of distorted drums, so I just added a lot of transitions. Daytona was a part of the song because at the time I had done some stuff for The Daytona 500 and we wanted him on the last album but there was nothing we could find that would make sense on that. So he's like in this kind of crew of us and Donnis and Chip Tha Ripper and Daytona and all of these people that we consider the part of the unspoken crew. We go to parties and hang out together. So why not do it musically as well?
Naledge says: The chorus really had no meaning at first. The song is one of the few that I actually freestyled the whole thing and then actually adjusted anything after I did it. A lot of times I'll freestyle and I'll send it to Double-O and we'll talk about what needs to be changed, but that was actually just the freestyle. Obviously we inserted Daytona in afterwards, but the chorus I just made up on the spot. Like for me it was like I'm feeling myself and we could talk and you can make a rebuttal to whatever I said, but right now I'm out to lunch [Laughs.] I was at work when you heard me rapping and the hook is like you can say what you want, but you have to holler at me later, just read the sign on the door.
5. "Bougie Girls"
Double-O says: Bougie Girls! "Bougie Girls" might be like the first record recorded for this album unknowingly. That was a record that had a different beat—it was like back when we were on tour with Murs and when we got back it was like "OK, Boom! Fresh off tour into the studio!" Because essentially we had been on the road for that entire year, so we got out with two records that Naledge got on. There's a certain magic that I love when I hear Naledge being kind of tongue-in-cheek and personal. So I knew that I wanted to use that record even based off the first couple lines that were about wanting a chick with good credit [Laughs.]
Naledge says: That was a blend of a ton of women I know. I just came to the realization that as much as you can date around and you can explore and say you're diverse, but at the end of the day like I probably end up with a bougie black girl. That's kind of just what it is. That's what I grew up around. It's almost like if you have a product you have to sell it to your demographic. You know, "Naledge works best with bougie black girls." That's the reality. If we're in a room and there's ten dudes fighting for one bougie black girl, I will win every time, I'm fit, my resume fits, b! She's going with me, I'm the one she wants. Who the bougie black girl envisions in her mind is me. It says something about America too. There's a shortage of black dudes who have there stuff together and that's what bougie black girls want. So it could make a really lame dude feel like a player, but that's another story for another song. I could date a Latina or an Asian or a white girl, but there is probably gonna be a bougie black girl on the other side waitin' for me.
6. "Jukebox" f/ MC Lyte
Double-O says: This became the single because people didn't react as well to "Flickin'" when it was leaked back in the summer time and honestly if we had nine months to work it, it would've made an interesting impact. This is where you see the difference between our major label parts and the indie world that we live in. So it was like maybe we should give them "Jukebox" because we love it and it can work that crowd. It works easier, for lack of a better word.
Naledge says: I don't think that at all. It all happened by accident to me. The beat says what I needed to say for me to go in a certain direction. The minute I heard that beat I was like, this is a dive bar. This isn't champagne—if it is champagne it's like cheap champagne. It's not Grey Goose, it's like Jager. It's a bar. We're not completely broke, but we're not completely rich so put a song on the jukebox and let's have fun. Kinda like on a college level, or definitely a college grad school kid. I have an entry level job, but I'm not ballin'.
Double-O says: Plus the big club shit is a bunch of bullshit! Sometimes you want to stand on a table and pour drinks on chicks, but at the end of the day, that's not some shit you want to do a lot. So the dive bar, that Cheers spot is where it pops off. Where your real conversations and interactions are.
Double-O says: "L_O_V_E" was the second record we recorded. We had gone through so much bullshit at the beginning of the year so a lot of my beats from that time are more upbeat because we kinda wanted to cleanse ourselves when starting this album. It was also one of those records that even though it felt a certain way, I didn't want any singing on the hook. I wanted it to still be a rap record, which is one of the reasons I think it's so dope because it doesn't have this singing hook with fuckin' Trey Songz or whoever. Like I said all of that could be there, but I prefer to keep it more about what we do and who we are. It's about being genuine. There's a lot of records that float around the music industry and everyone enjoys them but I look at records like "Blame It on the Alcohol"... it didn't matter that Jamie Foxx did that record. It could've been Trey Songz record, it could have been anybody's record. So yeah we could've done some shit like that, but why not make a record that's so much apart of you that you can't separate the two. The biggest problem with music is that people can easily separate Flo-Rida's songs from Flo-Rida the person, so that they never actually get to fuck with Flo-Rida the person. So his music career is summed up by the amount of hits he could make, but as so as those hits stop...the Flo-Rida Stops.
Naledge says: Not to take shots, but that's true. The major labels make everything very disposable. So you have dudes everywhere looking for the next hit just 'cause they don't want to lose their job in some way or another.
8. "Will II Win" f/ Marsha Ambrosius"
Double-O says: "Will II Win" beat-wise comes from the same batch of records as the intro. It feels a certain way. The actual melody is auto-tune and you can't really hear it because I made it that way, but if you listen to it, it's basically an auto-tune melody. Originally this song didn't have a hook, but when a Twitter conversation in where Marsha tried to clown our manager I guess for not being on the album and I was just like "Man, I been with you in the studio a million times and you never asked to be on the album." So literally that Twitter conversation lead to "Well, I want to be on the album. What do we have to do?" and I immediately thought of this song.
9. "Take Over the World" f/ Just Blaze & Colin Munroe
Double-O says: Basically Naledge's boy wrote a rough draft for what would be the hook to this song. However, the original record was a very southern Soulja Boy meets Jeezy record. We knew that again if it was one of those records that we'd have to make it our own. So I basically made the beat to the way that I feel it would match us and I did some hook re-writes, but then I got to a road block because I needed to get it over the top but it was missing something. So for me I was like, well the only other person I would take this to would be Just because he knows how to make these records huge. So I sat with him and he told me everything that he felt and we started working on it in two hours and it changed the whole way that the hook needed to be sung. So he took it from the 75% to this is a single that needs to be big. I have no problem with that. I think that sometimes collaborations are what make great records.
10. "Fresh Academy" f/ Chip Tha Ripper & Donnis
Naledge says: Both Chip and Donnis are running mates—people who we actually kick it with. So it's easy to make records together and every record—anyone collaboration is going to reflect whatever common ground you have and our common ground is clothes, clubs, and partying. So that's what we tend to talk about when we get together on a record. Some people don't want to accept that side of me when I get on a track with one of my ignorant rapper friends. That's the scheme of that track. It just works and it's necessary. Donnis and Chip being a part of it was a no brainer.
11. "Simple Life" f/ Amanda Diva
Double-O says: "Simple Life" that was one of the collaboration records that Naledge was getting a lot of inspiration from Chicago. Picnic was originally on a version of this song and it made sense perfectly. The album is very personality driven. So afterwards we went in and got Amanda Diva in because A) she lives right down the street from me and B) because there are sometimes when Naledge is singing on the hook, we already know that if we get a girl to sing under it, it would be really dope.
12. "Running" f/ Tim William
Naledge says: "Running" to me has a rock feeling to it. I always wanted to make a record where I could hold the mic stand the whole time and do the rock star thing. Tim William who was an up and coming singer/ song writer that we met while we were touring with Gym Class Heroes and that's when that demo was made. I always felt like I wanted to rap on it and Tim was taking to long to work on it and so as time went by. Double-O was like, "If he doesn't finish this song, rap on it and we'll use it for the album" and secretly that's what I wanted to do all along, but I didn't want to disrespect Tim and what he does, but Tim gave us his blessing.
Double-O says: That was something that we stashed away and we were just like "Man, this is gonna be this shit!" and even that was back in '07 or '08.
13. "Do it All Again (I Am)"
Double-O says: This is the last record we did, we did it in like December. For me we had been sitting on the album again and I wanted to connect the dots for the song. So I gave Naledge the beat and I told him that I felt we were missing something on the album. So once he sent it back and I saw where he was going I immediately wrote the hook.
14. "I Am (Reprise)"
Naledge says: "Do It All Again" and "I Am" are connected. I was just talking about my life. Not every artist clears the lines between who they are and the character. I think on this record you get more Jabari Evans. I lived as Naledge for long enough that now Jabari Evans is starting to realize "is that who I want to be?" It's like I'm pulling off the veil. I have no problem discussing our issues with the management or the label or saying the names of girlfriends. This is my art, this is therapeutic. I just go in the booth and feel it and say it. I know that's really rapper-ish to say, but I was in a dark place with this record and it was kind of like me venting. So I went off on this record. People are going to be mad. I'll probably get a lot of phone calls when people hear that song [Laughs.]
15. "Rise & Shine" f/ Russoul
Double-O says: "Rise & Shine" is like the next day. After you went through and purged all of this you still wake up and it's now on to the new day. It's like Heroes, the way the end the season will be with the beginning of the next season. So "Rise & Shine" is that transition and awakening into a new chapter.
Naledge says: "Rise & Shine" to me was going to church...like I got wasted and the preacher's talking and he's talking to me and it's like...damn I'm trippin'. It's about realizing your life isn't as bad as you think and you have to keep pushing no matter what. Not to be too vulgar but when you play sports there's that inner machismo, that inner Vince Lombardi that's like, "Dude stop being a pussy." You have to keep moving. You ever been out with that kid that's like an emotional drunk? You're like C'mon, fam! Snap of out it! I don't want to hear this and the next day you're going to be like "What did I say?!" It's like dude we have to go back to our lives at some point. So that's what "Rise & Shine" is.
WATCH THE VIDEO: "Jukebox f/ MC Lyte"
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