Either they were really tired or I was really boring, but Kidz in the Hall, the duo of Naledge and Double-0, seemed extremely disinterested when I hollered at them. Nobody is ever that excited to talk to a blogger about their favorite foods and colors, but Naledge sounded like I woke him up from a nap or something. Their sophomore album The In Crowd was well received when it came out earlier this year and the single “Drivin’ Down The Block (Low End Theory)” even landed a spot on TRL (which is now sadly defunct). Right now, they’re on tour with Murs who makes a surprise cameo in this interview!
Remaining tour dates:
11/22 – Boulder, CO
12/11 – Los Angeles, CA
ML: First thing’s first, Naledge you take a pretty nice mug shot.
Naledge: [laughs] Yeah, nah, I mean I figure if you gon’ go, you gon’ go smiling.
ML: You guys went to Penn right?
Double-0: Yeah, University of Pennsylvania.
ML: What did you guys study?
Naledge: I studied communications.
Double-0: I was a systems engineer.
ML: Double 0, you were an Olympic runner for Belize, right?
Double-0: Yeah, that’s the way the story goes.
ML: What did you compete in?
Double-0: Four hundred meter hurdles.
ML: How was that?
Double 0: It was a great experience. Obviously I wish I could’ve done better, but at the end of the day you can’t predict how any of these things turn out and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but it is what it is. It was a great experience, kinda gotta just learn from it and keep going.
ML: So how did you guys get into hip-hop seeing as you’re Olympic runners and Penn graduates?
Double-0: Hip-hop was well before that. We’ve been doing this stuff for a minute. We’ve been working together since 2000. While all those other things were going on, we were doing this as well.
ML: Would you say college was a waste of time then?
Double-0: We would’ve never met.
Naledge: Never would say that. Definitely wouldn’t say that. College serves its own purpose. It has social aspects beyond the academic aspects. Most people make lifelong connections that are gonna ultimately determine their fate. Kinda develops your network. To be honest with you, I met my manager, I met Double-0, I met a lot of different people in school that quite honestly if I didn’t meet, I might not have taken music as seriously as I did. ‘Cause at that time when I entered school, I didn’t envision this being something I could do for the rest of my life. Saying school’s a waste of time is definitely a misquote. You’ll never hear that coming out of anybody’s mouth in Kidz in the Hall.
ML: A lot of my friends wish they went to Penn.
Naledge: I get that. I don’t know, it’s weird. I think Penn has a certain aura about it. It’s in Philly, so it’s like a getaway city and then if you’re trying to get into a business school, it’s probably the best option in the country. I think a lot of kids try to get into Wharton [School of the University of Pennsylvania] more so than try to get into Penn and Wharton is very selective.
ML: Yeah all my friends in [NYU] Stern [School of Business] were trying to get into Wharton.
Double-0: Yeah that’s what’s up. I mean, they shouldn’t have fucked around in high school, they’d have been aight. [laughter]
ML: I’ll tell them that.
Double-0: Tell them when their parents stuck ‘em in those PSAT classes they should’ve paid attention. [more laughter]
Naledge: To be honest with you, I think people focus too much on their grades and less on being well-rounded. At Penn in general, most kids I’ve met had a unique story. It wasn’t like ‘Oh, I have a 4.0′ it was like I would meet somebody who was like a concert pianist at the age of like fourteen or like some kid who was in some nationwide contest about picking socks. Stuff like that.
Double-0: The student body at Penn is always a fairly diverse student body. I think that being well-rounded and being fairly adjusted socially is an important part of the Penn experience ’cause you can’t just jump into west Philly being so far into the books that you don’t realize anything else in the world around you, ’cause you’ll quickly get a reality check.
ML: Do you have any advice for young people trying to get into hip-hop?
Double-0: Don’t do it! Nah, it’s an excellent time to really try to get some sort of satisfaction in expression in terms of hip-hop right now and my advice always is tell your own story, be true to yourself and always operate as if you’ll never get a record deal.
Naledge: I would question somebody’s love. If this is what you really love to do, what you’re passionate about, that in itself is going to carry you, you’re not going to quit. And if you actually have talent people are gonna recognize that. The only other advice I have is going to a major city. I would recommend going to New York or going to Los Angeles. To be honest with you, it’s like if you gon’ be heard in those cities and you’re good, you’ll be found. That’s my advice.
ML: What about young people in general, people trying to pick a career right now? Do you have any advice for them?
Naledge: It’s the same thing, pick your passion. Don’t pick hip-hop because you think it’s cool and it’s on TV. Go out and do something you love. I think parents oftentimes steer kids in certain directions to cover for their own insecurities about where their life has gone or has went and being protectors and providers, they want to see their kids go on a certain route and reach a certain level of success monetarily. For many, especially working class, middle class, lower class families, parents oftentimes, and specifically with minorities, they don’t know any better than to tell their kids to be a doctor or a lawyer or something that has to do with counting money, like being an accountant or working at a bank and that might not be what your child has a vested interest in, that might not be where their skill set lends itself the best. You can’t be scared to go outside of the box and do what you want to do and go your own way.
Double-0: Yeah, exactly. Your parents are always gonna want, honestly, to create stability for you which is why they chose those things, because they require a certain amount of stability and once you get to that point, you’ll advance to a certain class and tax bracket that they always want to see you do better than they did. But the reality is, you gotta let your own life figure it out and more than that, you can’t be afraid to just let life lead you where need to go, because you don’t always figure it out immediately. Most of the people that have graduated college will tell you what they graduated in is nothing they’re even doing right now. So, you kind of have to let life lead you and just go along for the ride and eventually it’ll lock itself in as long as you continue to work hard. And the other thing is, things that you’re good at sometimes, aren’t even things that you even necessarily like to do. So, you never know what’s gonna happen.
ML: How many copies has the album sold so far?
Double 0: You know, a good amount. At this point, we’ve definitely outsold our first album a few times over in the United States.
ML: How does that compare to your initial expectations?
Naledge: I mean honestly, record sales ain’t really where expectation lies as far as I’m concerned. I look at when we go to shows the tone resonating and people know the words. Matter of fact, how many people come up after the show and say ‘Hey, I caught this’ or how many people email me, how many people hit me on MySpace, how many people hit me on Facebook. Like, there’s a certain buzz, the amount of plays that our MySpace page gets. Stuff like that kind of lets me know that people are checking for the music and are getting it because I get recognized a lot more. I didn’t feel famous when the first album came out, I feel famous now. There’s a level of success that we have yet to reach and we want to get there, but it’s a much different situation this time around. Like when you can turn on the TV and your video is on which happened last night when I was on the computer or just you turn the radio on and you hear your song playing and Funkmaster Flex is dropping bombs on it. Stuff like that for an independent artist in particular, like, we’ve made our own bed and now we’re starting to see headway.
Double-0: And the thing is, we’re overachievers so whatever number we’re at right now is not where we want to be. So all of that doesn’t really matter to me. Expectations are always going to be ridiculously high because we’re not trying to settle for average.
ML: What has been the high point? Was it being on TRL?
Double-0: There’s a lot of high points. Like I said, this is a mountain that we have yet to climb to the top of. We hit a few couple peaks, a couple plateaus and we’ve got a couple markers in it. But you live in the moment for only so long, because the next day is a brand new climb. So, we always try to soak it up for what it is at that point and try to keep moving. As good as it was to get on TRL, it feels even better now that our video got accepted by BET for the new single. So, there’s always the next step.
ML: Which of the “Drivin’ Down The Block” remixes was your favorite?
Naledge: I don’t know, I’m kind of biased toward the original.
Double-0: Yeah the original for us was an epic thing to do. Like not even so much just getting Pusha and the Clipse on it, but having Bun B hit us up and wanna get on it and that added to the whole mix, really. That will always go down as being one of the craziest things, especially collaborations, for us ever. Some of the other ones, it was a little bit easier to put together and granted they’re all dope, but I think that it was just that added surprise with Bun that you can’t really top.
ML: I was at your release show in New York. Were Bun and Pusha supposed to show up to that? That’s what I heard.
Naledge: Well Bun’s album release was the same exact day and he was in Houston, so there’s no way he could’ve came and I think Pusha and Clipse were on their own tour at the time. I don’t know if you were really paying attention or really saw who was there, but a few of the people from Star Trak came through. Roscoe P. Coldchain was there, I know Pusha wasn’t able to make it. But Bun B actually called us the day of, apologized. I was like, ‘Dude, you don’t have to apologize. Your album came out the same day as ours. You have your own album release party.’ But he took it upon himself to apologize for not being able to come and perform the song, so that just shows me how genuine of a dude he is.
ML: Party was crazy by the way, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
Double-0: It was a lot of fun. The surprises and being able to pull up a lot of stuff for us still is real kinda crazy at the end of the day. Being able to even get the people that we got out there; the Travises — Estelle did three shows that day and still rushed over, jumped right out the cab and ran right on stage. For that to happen it’s still ridiculous and amazing.
ML: You guys are touring with Murs right now, right?
Double-0: Yeah, I’m in a comic book store/record store/CD store with his bum ass as we speak.
ML: He’s with you right now?
Double-0: Yeah and he’s in his most hood shit ever. He has a picture of himself spray painted onto a t-shirt. Done by a fan though. Shouts to the fan who did it.
ML: Can you ask Murs if he’s still dating a porn star?
Double-0: [talking to Murs] He doesn’t date, he just exists in the same state.
ML: Oh, OK.
Double-0: He likes them. If they happen to bump into each other, they bump into each other.
ML: And whatever happens happens, right?
Naledge: The “Text Me” thing? That was DJ Dow Jones who’s in a production group called Tha Bizness, they made the beat. Dow was the person who got Glasses Malone on the “Drivin’ Down The Block” remix and Mistah F.A.B. on the “Drivin’ Down The Block” west coast remix. And they were in the studio — I mean he had called me and told me they were fans or whatever and he sent me this beat, but he said it was for his artist. We just trade favors, we all fam and so it was just like, Alright, I’ll do this verse for the song.’ He gave me the concept of the song. The other record is weird because it’s a old verse that I honestly had forgot that I had did that a guy decided to put on a song.
Double-0: There’s a random De La [Soul] record out I didn’t even know about?
Naledge: Nah, it’s this — I don’t even know — to be honest with you, I get Google alerts, so that’s how I know I’m on this song by this artist. Honestly, it was probably a favor I did for somebody, I just did a verse, got on a producer’s beat and I think it was this dude from overseas. I don’t remember, I think it was one of those things my management told me to do a verse for this dude’s mixtape and they mashed it up, put other people on it and whatever. It was one of those things where I did a verse and kinda forgot about it, to be honest with you.
ML: There’s one more song I have to ask you about. There’s an old, old version of “Mean & Vicious.” You have a verse on that with Lupe.
Naledge: Yeah, that was an actual song. When we were going through doing my solo project a long time ago when I first got on Rawkus, they had this big idea that I should do a song with Lupe Fiasco. He was like the dude from the west side, I’m from the dude from south side. We were pretty much the same age. My buzz at that point wasn’t as — Lupe wasn’t who he is now at that point in time. He had this thing where he was like, ‘I have record that we’re not putting out and I haven’t finished it [that] maybe you could work on,’ ’cause he likes to only work with his producers. I grew up with Prolyfic who was with 1st & 15th at the time. They brought the Pro Tools to “Mean & Vicious” to my studio, Soundscape Studios and that was really it, I was on the song. Obviously a version of it leaked with just Lupe on it and now people are starting to find the version with me on it. At the time, we were thinking about making it a single. Atlantic didn’t want to clear Lupe, so we kind of just let the song go.
ML: You have a solo album coming, right?
Double-0: The long delayed Naledge is Power.
Naledge: It’s been super duper delayed. Really, in January I’m putting out an iTunes album called The Chicago Picasso with Mick Boogie and my homeboy DJ Timbuktu from Chicago. People should look out for that, it’s all original material and a lot of it is many of the records that I feel need to be heard right now, ’cause we’re in a state where music shouldn’t be held onto. I just feel like good music needs to be heard and fans need to hear some of the stuff we’ve been doing for the past two, three years, working on the solo project. So instead of letting these records get dated, or just letting them fall by the wayside… I’m going to just put it out there and then hopefully by the end of ’09 we’ll start thinking about a single for the Naledge is Power project. But, Kidz in the Hall project should be out next year as well.
ML: I was gonna ask about that. Double-0, what are you up to?
Double-0: Solo project still coming out… I think I’m going to put a 12″ or maxi EP around the same time, if not the same exact — we might do a joint kind of release joint with Naledge’s thing and myself. And then we’re going to put out this Kidz in the Hall project and then start getting ready for the proper solo albums. For us, people are just really getting to know Kidz in the Hall, so we kind of want to give them a little teaser as to who we are as individuals, but we definitely have to bring the whole Kidz in the Hall situation home and then set the proper situation for us to pull our solo albums out.
ML: What was the last thing each of you bought? Like anything.
Naledge: I just bought a turkey sandwich.
Double-0: I bought waffle house last night.