Ask Jabari Evans and Michael Aguilar, better known as Naledge and Double-O of Kidz in the Hall, what they rely on to keep their energy alive while burning the midnight studio oil and their answers are rather different. Naledge sticks to sweets (Red Bull and Sour Patch Kids”) and Double-O chooses to grab a drink (Clear alcohol, preferably vodka or whatever I have in the kitchen”). While they’re opposites in that respect, their creativity is always on the same page. Just take a listen to their third studio album, Land of Make Believe. The 15-track effort features originally crafted beats and lively records like the up-tempo jam “Jukebox.”
Rap-Up.com sat down with the team at skateboarding boutique Concrete in New York City. After Naledge grabbed a black and gray pair of Supra sneakers off a rack, he and his partner in rhyme, Double-O, discuss sexual encounters, University of Pennsylvania frat parties, and why lawyers don’t have it as good as they do.
1. Where are you guys originally from?
Double-O: Well, I’m originally from Brooklyn, but I believe it’s your first sexual experience that really defines where you’re from. So I guess I’m from Jersey. Lakewood in the house!
Naledge: I’m from the Southside of Chicago, South Shore. Jessie Jackson lives around my way. It’s your typical black, Midwestern, down-homey, small community.
2. How does an MC from Chicago get mixed up with a producer who got his kicks on the Jersey Shore?
N and D: UPenn! [They high five one another.]
3. College guys! What’s your wildest college experience?
N: I’m a frat boy so almost all my memories involve the Kappa House. Just living in that house for half a semester, it was a revolving door of women and partying. There were some kids in my chapter who weren’t Penn kids, so they didn’t have to study as much. But what was so cool about being in a frat was that I got to explore the whole Tri-State area. Everywhere I went I had a couch to sleep on and a sign to throw up. I still have a girlfriend at Penn, but I could navigate.
D: One year some of my older friends decided to throw a party at the Doubletree on Broad St. Let’s just say a lot of people got beat up. It was just some kids who totally didn’t understand their environment and it created a rift; Philly vs. the Stupid Smart Kids. That was fun.
4. How much time do you spend in the studio?
D: How’s “all the time” for an average? I live in the studio because the studio is at my house, but Naledge is in there just as much as I am. Even when we’re in Chicago, the studio is like ground zero; we’re there for good. We could be watching TV or working, regardless, the studio is where you can always find us.
N: Going to the studio is like going to the gym. You have to work at toning the right sound and flow just as you would your body when you’re working out. The advantage music has over the gym is that you can’t get a bad day back in the gym. When you’re recording, you can make a dope freestyle then go back days later and rework it to perfection.
5. Naledge, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
N: I am a creative being. I live free and people don’t really respect that about me because sometimes I might leak too much music, say too much in an interview, drink too much at a party, whatever. I just live free and I feel like the music puts me at a place to be free to just explore. My creativity is something I’m just in love with, so every day I challenge it, whether it’s writing a poem, writing a 16, a hook, it doesn’t matter. I’m always working.
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
D: Life, day in and day out there’s inspiration everywhere—with the chick you about to go meet, with the bills that you about to go pay, with every minute and every second there is something to get caught up and that is inspiring.
7. What was different about your mindset going into your third album?
D: We made this album more personable. I think with our earlier albums we skirted on the idea of Kidz in the Hall being this group you could throw into scenarios and not necessarily have a definitive voice. This time we were like, “No, this is Mike and Jabari. This is Naledge and Double-O, the people, and this what we’re going to present it as.”
N: I didn’t even view it as such a personable album until I looked back on it like, “Wow, this is actually deeper than I ever anticipated.” I felt more comfortable voicing some of the things being that a lot of the demo process was done in Chicago. Music can be therapeutic at times; that mixed with home allowed me to express myself more genuinely than the first two times around.
8. Why did you decide to go down the music route seeing as though you’re both college grads?
N: The music business has its pitfalls, but being a lawyer has its pitfalls too. Just like being an investment banker has its own pitfalls. We do it because this is what we love to do—being able to creatively express life through music. As much as I might be mad at the label, my homie is probably just as mad at his boss or probation officer, or whatever. It’s all feelings and emotions that can be related when you know how to convey your thoughts correctly. And I love that challenge.
9. What makes Kidz in the Hall different from the rest of the new-age hip-hop artists?
D: We’ve been very comfortable with ourselves for a long time and a lot of artists aren’t. So they put on facades of who they think they should be or who people tell them they should be, and they end up losing their self worth. I think because we’ve known who we are for such a long time that our fans appreciate it more. Now they get to grow with us instead of seeing some crazy transformation into these grand characters that aren’t genuine to Naledge and Double-O.
N: I was the nerd on the block, but that don’t mean I’ve never seen the block. I like to read, I like to contemplate about things that are going on in my community, but I also like to contemplate about fat asses and Hennessy. I was the kid they told to go in the house because I ain’t belong on the streets, but if you tell a kid he can’t be out there, he gonna peak his head out the window. The way I rap is how the Cosby kids would have been acting if that show were real life. Theo would have been getting mad chicks at the crib; he had a brownstone! He woulda been stealing money, he woulda been keeping his grades up because he was going to college, but he would have amused the situation a little. That’s me and no one had portrayed that angle before.
10. What advice would you give up-and-coming artists striving for success?
N: I would say stay true to yourself. Everyone has their own idea of success, whether it be for themselves or for you. So know what you want and go for it. We also advocate college. Education aside, the connections you make are comparable to nothing.
Kidz in the Hall’s third album Land of Make Believe is available now featuring the single “Jukebox.”
–Bilal “Blogzworth” Morris