Kidz in the Hall Face Defining Moment on ‘Land of Make Believe’
Chi-town rapper Naledge and Jersey-based producer DJ Double-O make up the eclectic duo Kidz in the Hall. After releasing two successful albums in 2006 and 2008, which Naledge now refers to as "glorified mixtapes," the duo have returned with their latest project, 'Land of Make Believe,' with the purpose of redefining themselves. With thoughtful lyrics, an evolved sound and the determination to build a bigger hardcore fanbase, Naledge and Double-O are finally ready to leave their mark on the industry.
The BoomBox: If we spun all three of your albums back to back, what's the most noticeable difference on the new record, 'Land of Make Believe?'
Naledge: Sonically, there are no samples and in terms of the personality of the album there are a lot less features. I think that's the biggest difference between the first, second and this album. The first album was like seeing a chick's picture on Facebook and thinking she's cute, the second album is going on a date with her and the third album is sleeping with her and all the issues that come with that. On this album, it's either you get it or you don't. You'll realize whether you like us or whether you don't.
Double-O: This point is when you have to make the decision of whether or not you're going to move forward with us. We feel like it's the defining moment for us, at least with the fans.
Naledge: We have a lot of casual fans right now. If you go on Twitter, Myspace or Facebook, people's favorite music is like J.Cole, The Cool Kids, Kidz in the Hall, Drake, etc. We're just with a group of people and that's cool, but I know there are certain people who would fight for Wale, certain people who would fight for The Cool Kids and we want to get more of those types of people. Not just those people who would lump us into a group.
The BoomBox: Why the sudden need to separate yourselves from that wave of artists?
Naledge: Those are our friends, those are people that we actually kick it with, so it wasn't a bad thing, but it's like if a girl wanted to sleep with everybody at a table and you're just like, "Why don't she just want to sleep with me?"
Double-O: It's a hard thing that you can't fight because people -- especially the media -- are always going to be looking for the "new wave" of something, especially now when hip-hop is in a very adolescent stage, and hasn't figured out where to go from here. So every new wave, every new artist, gets thrown into this "new" "next" "future" category.
A lot of times, artists no longer even have control over their growth and creativity, but this is us in control. This is as much as we can do in terms of control, but if we make the music as personal, soulful and emotional as possible, then hopefully you'll see the things we see, but I don't think that personal connection with the fans had been there previously. Naledge used to say that Kidz in the Hall was extraordinary music for ordinary people, but it was also a lot of things to a lot of people. There were fans who liked us from 'Wheelz Fall Off,' then a set of fans that liked us from the Omarion remix we did for 'Icebox' and a brand new set that liked us from 'Driving Down The Block.' So if they ever met, they would say, "Well, what is Kidz in the Hall at the end of the day?" So this album is the answer to that question.
The BoomBox: The lyrics on this record are very personal and introspective. What made you pour that content into your third album?
Naledge: Everything is about growth when you're an artist and there are certain things that I just wanted to say at this point in my life. On the first album I was still working, so a lot of the themes were stuff I'd written from high school. The second album was us on the road, touring, so obviously we wanted to do records with all the cool people we were able to collaborate with. But this is the first time we actually sat down with the purpose of making an album. Every time we put an album out before it was almost an accident, it wasn't with the purpose of making an album. It was just a bunch of really dope records.
Double-O: The underlying story with us coming into the industry is that in our initial deal, we were always preparing to release the Naledge solo project. The first two albums started off as street albums that were built to put out the Naledge solo album. But eventually the music just spoke to us in a certain way -- like this is a lot bigger than what we initially expected -- so let's really jump behind it and make it a full album. This is the first album that is a real Kidz in the Hall record.
The BoomBox: Was re-defining yourself as a group the major focus of the album?
Double-O: Definitely. This is where it happens – we're either going to make it or break it. We're either going to be around for the next ten years, or start figuring out other ways to make it in the industry. But we wanted to make it, so we put our best foot forward.
Naledge: Even larger than that, at this point in time I felt like expressing more vulnerability than before. It's not like in 2006, I could've said the same things I'm saying in 2010. I wasn't in the industry then. In 2008 I hadn't experienced having a song that people knew the words to, or being on television, so it just feels different. I'm twenty-six-years-old now, I was much younger when the first two albums came out and being a grown man affects how I rap. I'm way more comfortable with my voice and with who I am as a man, so that's another reason why the record is more personal.
The BoomBox: As far as production goes, what prompted the decision to cut out the samples?
Double-O: We realized that on the second album, our biggest successes were records that didn't have any samples on them. Songs like 'Driving Down the Block' and 'Love Hangover,' with Estelle began my push towards sample-free. Unfortunately when you're dealing with samples, you're also dealing with a lot of monetary headache. Our point is to get our music out to the most people without any sort of crippling activities and sampling can become that. If a movie rep comes in and says, "We want to use the record!" I'm like, 'Oh, well that isn't actually cleared' -- and it becomes an issue, so we decided to circumvent that. I also got comfortable enough creatively to make something soulful and organic that still felt emotional and personal, without it necessarily having to be sample-based. Our balance is using those records on mixtapes and when it comes to the album, we just get more creative.
The BoomBox: Since you're taking control of your destiny, why call the album the 'Land of Make Believe?'
Double-O: It's gone through a few title changes but a song 'Flickin' was the first record that we felt could be a single. The first lines in it are "live life like make believe," and that stuck. A lot of our album titles are very straightforward, and this one is very straightforward, but at the same time it kind of evokes other thoughts -- 'Are they talking about themselves in real life? Are they talking about us?' It's a lot of different things and a lot of that is explored on the album, so I think that we needed to have something that had more of a conversation. 'The Inn Crowd,' for example, was exactly what it was: We considered ourselves part of this new wave of artists and that's why every song had a collaboration on it. We were these cool kids who graduated and came out, and this was what our idea of hip-hop was at the time
The BoomBox: Your new focus is on finding those fans who will "fight for you," has that changed your attitude toward performance on the new Crowd Control tour?
Double-O: This is our first headlining tour, so it's a very different thing for us. We've always been the opener, the support for that slightly older and larger hip-hop artist. So I think we're going out knowing that these fans are coming solely for us and it's just a much more personal conversation with the fans now. You're coming in because you've heard at least one song, or you've heard about us and so our personal conversation begins.
The BoomBox: Success has varied tremendously between your counterparts like Kid Cudi, Drake and Wale in the past year. Are you impatient with your success?
Double-O: We have to be real about what this game is. If you're playing in the NBA, you're not at the Rucker, so you've got to learn how to play the game. So somebody like a Drake or Cudi, they came into the game with songs that already spoke major label speak, and it put them in a place where they had a little bit more leverage. Whereas being the next great talent, without necessarily having the next great record, makes it a little confusing. Everyone's searching so hard for the next "new" everything, that they're not letting things incubate on their own time, not letting things process and not letting people grow and understand themselves and put that into their music.
Naledge: The Internet has also changed the game. It's all about buzz now and it's really instantaneous because a fan wants to YouTube search everything you've ever done. And that's cool, but now it's like, 'S---, we don't have enough music,' because they hear one song on a blog, they like it and they want to backtrack. So it turns into people releasing music every five or six days because they want to catch up with the fans before they move onto the next person. The fans move on so quickly.
The Boombox: Are you close to achieving all the goals you set out to when you first landed in the industry?
Naledge: On paper there are a lot of milestones that have been reached, but as far as where I feel emotionally, there's a long way to go. You can be financially rich and emotionally broke or the other way around and I feel like emotionally I've had a roller coaster ride. Sometimes we're making great records and putting on great shows but then I've had times where I felt like the money didn't equal it, and times where I felt like I was making money but I wasn't creating what I wanted to create.
The roller coaster is cool, but at some point you want some sort of balance. You want a life that's structured but you get into this music industry and it's anything but that. You can't have too much structure because success leads to chaos. I graduated from college and in less than a year we had a record deal and that's not normal. So the minute I think that my accomplishments are no good there are a million other rappers who will never see that.