Kidz In The Hall have been busy since the raw old school hip-hop vibes of ‘School Was My Hustle’ in 2006. In their absence from the UK , Emcee Naledge and producer Double-O have mastered their craft in preparation for the release of new single ‘Break It Down’ and fourth LP ‘Occasion’. Amaru Don TV feature editor Karolyn Judge finds out about their journey, with a reality show, parties they’ll never forget and the temptation of becoming a major label artist – along the way.
It’s been a while since you were on the scene in the UK. Bring us up to date with everything since ‘School Was My Hustle’.
Double-O: This is the fourth album coming out now. It’s been good, you know? Duck Down [Records], hasn’t really concentrated on the UK with us since the first album came out. We haven’t been here as often.
How has your music developed since then?
Double-O: With this new album, the sense of it is the same. It’s still good hip hop. I guess it’s a little bit more contemporary. The sounds are more interesting and new. There’s less samples. It’s funny; we always put music out and keep moving. There are people from 2006 to now, who are still trying to put their first album out. But with us, we’re on album number four. We’ve been able to constantly push the conversation with each album and just get better. I don’t think you know how to correct mistakes and get better and polish everything until you put the music out and get a reaction from it.
What kind of reaction are you getting?
Double –O: It’s been really good. I think people get that we’re out here having fun. People take rap too seriously sometimes and I think they should definitely be more laid back about it. And I think they get that with the music.
Your new material sounds rounded and more polished. Would you agree?
Naledge: Definitely. It’s like anything. You learn to get better with time. You learn how to develop your taste and what you’re like and you’re able to come up with thoughts that are more original. That’s what we’ve always tried to do. We’ve tried to push ourselves to bend the rules, in order to think outside of the box and not just make the normal hip hop that’s around at the time. We want to sound different and be different. Sometimes those efforts are on the mark on what people feel and sometimes they’re off the mark. No matter what, it’s still our thing and it’s what we feel in our hearts. You have to change with time, just to keep yourself interested in what you’re doing. I don’t think we’d ever change for the sake of money or for the sake of anything that isn’t internal. I feel that a true artist should follow internal, not external.
Moving onto your reality show ‘Here Now’, one moment shows a disagreement with your managers. Double-O, while you were professional, you showed how you weren’t happy afterwards. I was impressed with your honesty. It seems that reality shows aren’t actually as ‘real’ as that nowadays.
Double-O: It’s one of those things where we wanted people to get an idea of who we were and in order to do that, you have to be unfiltered. The point of doing a reality show was for our benefit. We had control over it the whole time so we got to be more forthcoming.
In the first episodes of ‘Here Now’, you spoke about being independent artists looking to move on to a major label. Is this something you still want?
Double-O: When we were filming the reality show, we thought we wanted to a get a major label deal and be presented on a bigger stage. There’s a frustration when it comes to being an independent artist because there’s never enough money to do what you want to do. There’s never enough of a budget to be able to push the music to the level you think it should be.
When we were making the album, it was always the goal; to get a deal. But at the same time that was happening, the industry was changing so much it’s not worth it to go there, sit on the shelf and not be able to put the music out. So we decided to continue to do it ourselves. I mean, we’re always going to have some sort of independent spirit no matter where we go, but the idea changed.
At the time, were you looking to develop the music into a mainstream sound?
Double-O: We would never change the music. I don’t think the music would ever change whether we were on a major label or not, they would still be the same kind of records. I think it would just be pushed in a different way.
Who are you inspired by, musically?
Naledge: There are cats doing their thing at the moment that inspire me. Jay Electronica’s making really great music. Freddie Gibbs, he’s a new artist on our label – I like what he’s doing. I like Kendrick Lamar, he’s very talented. There’s countless others… Curren$y.
A lot of the people who have ended up on our album have inspired me. We’ve been blessed and lucky enough to have these people around us, you know. We’re able to be friends with them and fans of them. Pusha T, he’s a great rapper and a lot of the stuff that he does is inspiring. I was listening to his mixtape last night. There’s a lot of newer stuff coming out, you know, Dom Kennedy and Pac Div. I like what they’re doing too. Even in Chicago, Lupe is somebody… we came in the game around the same time and to see him turn into such a superstar, it’s crazy. BOB is dope. There is countless emcees I could name, old and new, I’m always inspired. I think the great thing about [music] now, you can hear such a vast variety of people and put them on your iPod and just put it on shuffle. The bad thing is, is that there’s a lot of wack shit too.
You’ve been working with some amazing artists. Jus’ Blaze has been your mentor since you began. It must be amazing?
Double-O: Yeah, it’s been fun. I picked up a cell phone [Double-O got introduced to Jus’ Blaze via his former job at T-Mobile] and ended up here.
Does the whole experience of it all feel bizarre?
Double-O: Not now. Initially it did. It becomes funny now because I remember the first time I met Jay Electronica. You know, buying a slice of pizza and him coming into the studio with me and it’s like ‘hey, wassup’, ‘wassup’. We were having weird conversations in the middle of the night with [producer] Bassline, just hanging around and vibing off of whatever had he had going on. It’s great to see his success now and see him doing things he always used to do. For me, it’s funny to look back on where your friends have gone. That is the biggest thing. Bassline, as much as Jus’ Blaze, definitely made it that, if you were interested, you were always allowed to be in the studio and soak it up.
Finally, your new album is called Occasion. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and why?
Naledge: My birthday party this year was really good. The best party I’ve ever been to in my life was Kanye’s Grammy party in LA. I definitely blacked out at some point. It was one of those occasions where I met so many famous people – this was when we first got into the industry so it was great – but I was also getting to hang out and chill with them. It was cool, it was so cool. There were so many beautiful women there, LA has nice weather and the setting was real sexy. It was real cool man.
By Karolyn Judge
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