It’s been a half decade since Kidz in the Hall became part of the world of rap music. They came into the scene mid-aughts alongside other newbies like Lupe, Rhymefest, and The Cool Kids. A branch of non-street rappers who loved their music to be as much about lyrical-miracle shit, as about women and a fly pair of kicks. Part of Duck Down Records since 2008, Kidz in the Hall have never been outright critical darlings, nor made that one cross-over record, even though the “Driving Down the Block” remixes did generate them a lot of buzz. Yet, having hustled enough industry co-sings and connections, Kidz in the Hall are set to release their fourth LP Occasion.
This album has a celebratory feel: thick bass lines, 808s, attempts at big hooks, jubilant synths and lyrics that range from positive blue collar hustle to party and bullshit. Honestly though, this collection of singles only makes me feel like hitting the skip button. “Occasion”, “Break It Down”, “That Good”, “Won’t Remember Tonight” and “Friends” is song after song of trite beat opulence aimed at the art of moving butts from dorm rooms to clubs. It’s the duo aiming for radio spins or hipster-soccer mom-Starbucks money only to fall flat and stale. Even “Make It Up Tonight” which begins with a classic drum break incorporates a cheesy loop, and another soulless poor man’s version of a Mr. Hudson hook. Naledge, who now seems to sound like he’s existing between Pusha and Kanye’s styles, struggles to do anything remotely interesting or memorable on the mic. It’s as though Kidz in the Hall studied pop-rap formulas, listened for what sounded most competent, and settled.
The album isn’t all mediocre pop-rap though, when things get minimal and bass heavy like on “Crash Dummy”, “She’s Smokin’” or “Player of the Century” nice moments are had. The thing is though that Occasion is so far removed from what Duck Down Records has come to represent over the years. It’s not that the label can’t change what it supports in itself (shit we all have to change / adapt to survive), it’s just the sound Kidz in the Hall created is so generic. In a way it’s what’s plagued them their whole career. They never asserted a strong identity as a jump off point. They’re not underground, they’re not street, and they’re not political or any other rap ism. They just seem to vacillate between different modes with this educated cool guy veneer that is rather forgettable. Occasion is just another album of passé rap filler in a year when so much vibrant rap music is being made, which will only leave it being forgotten.