As Naledge said in his recent In the Mix interview, The Land of Make Believe, the third album from the Kidz in the Hall, is their “almost famous” album. While Naledge and production partner Doulbe O’s sophomore effort The In Crowd proved they were in the game to win, it wasn’t enough to truly push them into the national spotlight. Instead, they’re currently spotlight-adjacent, or, as Naledge put it, “reaching for greatness while dodging bill collectors.” In other words - almost famous. While at first glance the Kidz don’t have much in common with fictional …
DJBooth Album Review
While at first glance the Kidz don’t have much in common with fictional ‘70s rock band Stillwater (from the movie Almost Famous, for those who haven’t figured out where I’m going with this yet), a closer examination reveals that The Land of Make Believe could have easily served as the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s superbly written flick. Don’t believe me? Just watch as I match Almost Famous quotes with Land of Make Believe tracks with the skill and precision of a surgeon; a drunk surgeon, but a surgeon nonetheless.
Hip-hop is not a humble art form, and on Land of Make Believe Naledge has fully embraced the “if you want to be famous you have to act famous” motto. Just take Flickin, a track dedicated to the idea that you should be camera ready at all times. Flickin' is the Kidz at their most swaggerish as Double O provides a minimally electronic but expertly measured beat for Naledge to rhythmically flow over and he responds with fittingly stripped down rhymes about designer brands. You may not love Flickin', but you want to be Flickin', and that’s the point. Far less lush but equally bombastic is the sharply percussive Out to Lunch, a bare bones cut that features some openly iconic lines from Naledge and guest The Kid Daytona complete with Karate Kid and Tribe Called Quest references. On Flickin and Out to Lunch the Kidz don’t care if you like them – just like rock stars.
In their desire to reach the masses many groups end up bowing to the lowest common denominator, which has the effect of making them more popular, and makes them sound like everyone else. Fortunately the Kidz have managed to walk this deadly tightrope capably on Land of Make Believe. Most notably on the triumphant Take Over the World. First and foremost Take Over the World puts Double O’s versatility on full display. Unlike the boom-bapish Out to Lunch, on Take Over the World the beat is bursting and quasi-epic, a backdrop that Naledge uses to paint a lyrical us against the world picture that Colin Munroe completes masterfully on the hook. In the same vein is the funk-laced L O V E, a track that’s easily the most danceable and a guaranteed party starter (in the house party sense). If Land of Make Believe does anything, it manages to inch the Kidz closer to mainstream success without sacrificing their uniqueness. Not everyone ends up in the middle.
If Land of Make Believe has an overriding topic, that topic is breasts. The album’s break out hit Jukebox is a brightly bouncing ode joint that Naledge cleverly turns into an open casting call to everyone with a pulse and a plumb booty: “Your body, could be my hobby, and you job would be callin me Papi.” (Um, I think that job already exists. They’re called prostitutes.) But Naledge isn’t just after the girls touching their toes in the clubs, he’ll also lay down with chicks with multiple college degrees (Bougie Girls), amateur strippers (Fresh Academy) and of course, Melyssa Ford (Will II Win). Play on gentlemen, just remember; they’re not groupies, they’re band-aids.
While this is easily the Kidz most enjoyable effort to date, the album’s most interesting moments come when the duo exit the Land of Make Believe and plant their feet firmly in the real world. Do It All Again is a piano-driven account of the people Naledge regrets, or doesn’t regret, hurting, and I Am is the closest that Naledge comes to admitting that the (almost) fame isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s these moments that ultimately elevate The Land of Make Believe from a simply enjoyable album to a seriously enjoyable album, a dichotomy that will undoubtedly push the Kidz closer to fame, no almost needed.
And if you find yourself hating on the Kidz ambitions and longing for the days when only you and your friends knew who they were, well, I’ll let my man Jeff Bebe set you straight: “Most of the time, the best stuff is the popular stuff. It's much safer to say popularity sucks, because that allows you to forgive yourself if you suck. And I don't forgive myself. Do you?”
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/11/10
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