Only old people, like myself, think there’s anything truly extraordinary about Chiddy Bang. You see, when I was growing up there was rock and there was hip-hop; you picked a side and you stayed there. And with rare exception, the rock groups those rockers rocked to were white, and the rappers those hip-hop heads nodded their heads to were black. In retrospect it was pretty f**ked up, but that’s the way it was, and true change seemed about as likely as the sun suddenly rising from the west. So yes, as a man who grew …
DJBooth Album Review
So yes, as a man who grew up at a time when this was considered a good look, there’s something extraordinary about Chiddy Bang. A Philly duo, one white and the other Nigerian-American, who are just as likely to sample Passion Pit as they are James Brown? For an ‘80s baby that’s not exactly your run of the mill rap group.
But for the younger generation, a generation who can’t remember a time before iTunes and see nothing unusual about listening to Pitbull, Eminem and The Strokes back-to-back-to-back, Chiddy Bang is nothing unusual. On the contrary, there the natural result of that generation’s digital, the world is an open book upbringing. Chiddy Bang is the sound of the younger generation, which is to say that they sound like whatever they feel like at the time, and their debut album Breakfast proves it.
Sure enough, the first voices we hear on Breakfast are the voices of children, voices that represent both the boundless optimism of youth tinged with the creeping realization that more serious matters await. That’s a description that fits the album as a whole, starting with the title track. On Breakfast, Xaphoon layers a light, fun piano line under a booming bass line and aggressive horn hits while Chiddy grabs the mic with a grown man flow that declares the duo are here to eat…even if they’re eating Lucky Charms. Or for an even more exaggerated example of Chiddy’s willingness to hop around decades like Marty McFly, Ray Charles takes a distinctly classic R&B piano line and back-up singers vocals and injects Ray’s blueprint with some modern day swag (if the kids are still saying swag). And while on the surface it may seem like a huge leap between Ray Charles and the unapologetic summer-anthem, driving-with-the-windows-down-and-that-girl-you’ve-been-trying-to-get-in-your-car-since-7th-grade-sitting-next-to-you jam Mind Your Manners, but both singles share one thing in common: Chiddy Bang’s willingness to cross whatever lines they have to in order to mind something they feel.
Unfortunately doing whatever you want isn’t necessarily the same as doing whatever you want well. Chiddy excels at simply having fun, so when they try to enter Far East Territory with the bass heavy, club-aimed Whatever We Want, the result just doesn’t connect. Ironically, it sounds like they felt like they should make a track like Whatever, not that they truly wanted to. Similarly, Talking to Myself bites off a little more than the duo can chew, attempting to fashion a relationship-gone-wrong jam that leaves its soul vocals stranded, not backing the soulful crooning with a lusher beat to match. And it doesn’t help that Chiddy’s lyrics are as confused as the hook suggests. In the real world love can be this complicated, but that’s why it’s so hard to successfully squeeze the real world into a four-minute pop song.
At the risk of sounding like I’m offering a condescending “A for effort”, even when Breakfast stumbles, at least it stumbles trying to climb into some uncharted territory. There aren’t a lot of groups that could pull off a track like Run It Back, which lays down one of the catchier hooks I’ve heard in a minute while avoiding anything that even remotely sounds like a gimmick, even with video game elements in the instrumental (no easy feat). And Out 2 Space manages to both reach orbit and stay grounded, a juxtaposition only a group with the intelligence of adults but the souls of kids could pull off. So while I may be ancient by hip-hop’s perpetually youthful standards, let me go on record as saying I’m no grumpy old man swearing to keep the kids off the lawn. If the “kids” are anywhere near as creative as Chiddy Bang, they’re welcome to sit down at the Breakfast table for a bowl of cereal any morning.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 02/28/12
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"The Opposite of Adults (KIDS)" (2009)
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