Kidz In The Hall have come a long way since their 2006 debut LP, School Was My Hustle. The Ivy-league graduate rap stars have played “the most amazing show to ever grace Austin, Texas,” scheduled a tour with Redman and are bridging a gap between the intelligent and the street with sophomore project, The In Crowd. Their list of accomplishments to this point is very impressive, and the ambitious (and damn funny!) artists are more than ready to take on the world.
BallerStatus recently caught up with the dynamic duo to discuss their jump from Rawkus to Duck Down, the scrawling of self-help books and why their endorsement of Barack Obama could change the world.
BallerStatus.com: It seemed like you were really keen to sign with Rawkus and “re-launch the label” and after the first record, you dropped it and have moved to Duck Down. What happened there?
Double-0: The game is exploitative. When you sign up to be in the music industry, you know that people are making money off your talent. It is what it is. I think that they [Rawkus] made this re-launch campaign thing, this whole marketing thing, but we were just putting an album out. All of a sudden, it was like “You’re going to be the new face of Rawkus!” But we didn’t set out to do that. We set out to put on good music — no matter what label we were on. The label was always based on good music, so I guess it would come along with the territory that it could have a resurgence if people liked what we did.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think Duck Down can do for you that Rawkus couldn’t?
Double-0: They never really left the game. They have spent the past 15 years mastering the art of independent hip-hop. They are to us: an excellent business partner, because they understand this game. And they respect us more than anything on the business aspect.
Naledge: Rawkus was sh**ty and Duck down is not. It’s simple, and I’m not going to get too worried about it.
BallerStatus.com: So who did you guys work with on this album?
Double-0: One song was co-produced with Black Milk. I gave him a sample; we both flipped beats and made a part one and two. I wanted to show that it’s not just about rapping, it’s about producers as well. It’s called middle of the map. Milk did part one and I did part two.
BallerStatus.com: Do you have a favorite track?
Double-0: You know, I don’t like to sparse my kids up. You gotta keep them feeling equal. Don’t need any jealousy later on in life. I enjoy them all. The thing is, you make an album as a complete snapshot and so when you hear each song, you might have a memory from making that beat or the situation that inspired the music. But it’s not about liking one more than the other. It just becomes the indicator of that memory.
BallerStatus.com: Do you prefer the studio or the stage?
Double-O: For me I love them both equally. They’re just two very different experiences. You get a different high from being on stage then you do from making something that you think is dope in the studio. But Naledge being the rapper can answer that one…
Naledge: I’m more of a studio person, a lab rat because I’m a writer at heart and that’s kinda why I got into it. Having said that a show is a show; it’s a part of being an artist that I’ve come to like. But it’s not the reason I got into it. If I could just make money making music for myself, I wouldn’t let you hear anything.
I just say what I think. How people perceive it is what kind of contaminates my mind because then I’m not as concerned with my freshness. I’m concerned with what you think is fresh. And that’s not really the way I like to live. So the show aspect is what pays the bills, but it’s not my favorite part of it. Originally I wanted to be a writer, but they can’t reach as many people. If I could be as famous and reach as many people and change as many lives by writing a book, you know, I probably would never have set foot in a studio. I realized that the medium that I was going to be able to reach more people was through music. It’s more dynamic. Artistically I can do more things; I can make up things, whereas if a writer makes something up, they’re fired. So there are a lot less parameters and it’s more fitting for our generation to be involved with hip-hop music.
BallerStatus.com: You did write a book when you were 15 years old. Do you think you’ll write another book?
Naledge: Yeah I have ideas for two other books — one is a motivational book and the other is my autobiography. But I haven’t accomplished enough to put that out. If I did, I would look like an arrogant bastard.
BallerStatus.com: Who are you trying to motivate?
Naledge: Basically it’s a self help book. A lot of people don’t have knowledge of self, a lot of people don’t understand that there is a formula to success and that one person’s success is not the barometer. You have to really define what you want out of life and you have to go for it. And that’s what the book is essentially about. If I give it away right now then I couldn’t sell it.
BallerStatus.com: Why are you endorsing Barack Obama?
Naledge: I’m from Chicago, so Barack Obama could fart and it’s would be on the front page of our newspapers. We pretty much love that guy. He could run for any office in Illinois and win at this point. He has been a friend of my family for a while.
He represents something new. He brings an energy and charisma to politics that is missing. He’s someone who is for the people and of the people. He actually represents the melting pot that is America at this point. I believe that we’ve had cookie cutter candidates for too long and old politicians that have been corrupt.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think that you can do for his campaign by endorsing him?
Naledge: I think that my making a song might encourage someone who doesn’t vote, or someone who might be uninformed. A lot of people look at me as a source of information. A lot of people I know will never read the amount of books that I’ve read and by conversing with me or listening to me, they feel a bit smarter.
Not to put it in that realm, but if you wanna know about some gangsta sh** you listen to gangstas. If you wanna know about intelligent things, then you listen to an intelligent rapper. So when I talk about politics, it’s kinda me being the CNN for the hood.
BallerStatus.com: What did you think of the “Yes We Can” video?
Naledge: I thought it was very contrived. It brought visibility, but I think it brought more publicity to the artists than to the candidate.
BallerStatus.com: A big deal seems to be made out the fact that you guys met through higher education, how do you think your education will help your rap career?
Naledge: Being an artist in general, whether you’re a photographer, a painter a poet — whatever you do — you don’t necessarily need school. School makes you a more worldly and well-rounded person. I didn’t take a math class to become a better rapper. I didn’t take economics to become a better rapper — none of that helps. Just being in an environment where you can meet people who come from different backgrounds and places is not only invaluable, but is an experience you wouldn’t get otherwise.
I speak from the perspective of a person who has seen a lot of things and met a lot of people. But I did that even before I went to college. I come from a middle class background, so I knew kids that were shooting guns and I knew kids that was going to Harvard and I’m comfortable around both. And I knew kids that went to Harvard and shot guns. So call it like you see it.
BallerStatus.com: Would you say you grew up middle class as well Double-O?
Double-0: I grew up on a boat! Nah… I grew up in a middle class household, but it was a very different situation because my parents had me when they were like 20-21 and they were still figuring their sh** out. Luckily for me, my dad is from Belize and my mom’s parents are from Belize and Surinam respectively, so I come from the Caribbean/West Indian mindset. My grandparents were around all the time and that aided in the support of making me who I am now. I never really saw it as middle class, I’m assuming it was middle class ’cause we were never on welfare, but I don’t know where they fit in the tax bracket.
BallerStatus.com: Do you think you guys had similar upbringing?
Double-0: Yeah similar in the sense that we’ve seen a multitude of aspects of life. I grew up originally in Brooklyn and then moved to Jersey, so that was night and day — going from the battleship that is NYC to the fairytale woods of New Jersey. And growing up in Chicago for Naledge — from what I’ve seen — you get all walks of life right around the corner from each other. You can have dealers on one corner, and nice houses two blocks away. I think these different perspectives has given us somewhat of a more well-rounded view. But we still had learning to do when we got to Penn. There were a lot of new people from different places.
BallerStatus.com: You were both pretty serious athletes in the past. Do you think that your involvement in sports helped your drive to succeed?
Double-0: Naledge played baseball and I ran track right up until the 2004 Olympics and Dan, one of our managers, went to the NCAA tournament a couple of years in a row. I ran 100 metre hurdles for Belize. Here’s a little hip-hop tidbit: Belize is now run by Shyne’s father, crazy.
You know what? Whether it is school, sports or any of those things, they help you in life. They give you certain basic skills that you may not have if you just grow up in a very close-minded, uninformed environment. Sports teach you the basics of team work and all of these things you end up applying to your life whether you’re doing music or working in an office.