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Do you remember when rock was young?
I don’t. Rock was just barely old enough to legally drink when I came along—but I DO remember when hip hop was young. It was an upstart musical genre that had largely been the purview of a few Brooklyn neighborhoods, but over the course of a few summers it swept the nation and the world.
Nearly 40 years later, the cheesy beats of the Roland TR-808 have been replaced with sophistication, nuance, diversity and maturity. There is hardly a better example of that than the next-generation sound of Kids from Across the Street.
Some clarification is in order before we can proceed. Hip hop, like jazz, is a pretty big tent encompassing an ever-growing number of sub-genres. One must be very specific in order to have a meaningful conversation about an artist, a task made all the more daunting by artists whose work seems intentionally designed to defy description.
I like that. It means you have to dig deep and really think about the music—so score one for Kids from Across the Street for putting together an EP that is first and foremost thought-provoking.
Psychedelic hip hop. I don’t know if that’s a thing or not, I don’t know if that was the goal of our young artists or if they would flinch at the designation, but it’s what I hear when I listen to their tracks. Christian Beairsto and Aaron Avery take turns on the mic and both have a smooth and easy flow. They are excellent rappers—but there’s much more to the group than that.
Erin Leonard and Amanda Hebbe lend their exceptional vocal skills to the project, and while I don’t know which is singing when, it hardly matters. Both vocalists sing in a way best described as “delicious.” Don’t know how singing could be delicious? Poor you.
Blake Porter is the resident guitarist in this hip hop ensemble because this hip hop ensemble has a guitarist and that’s where the music takes a 90-degree turn from typical.
If you took away all the vocal tracks and just retained Porter’s tasty guitar riffs set against the backdrop of lush, textured synths and keys, you’d have quintessential acid rock—albeit in three-minute bursts instead of the mind-numbing 20-minute solos typical of that genre. Acid rock light, perhaps?
However you might label the individual elements, the fact remains that the group’s “pinch of this, dash of that” approach has resulted in a saucy new dish that expands the boundaries of an already increasingly divergent style. Whether you are a fan of hip hop or not, Kids from Across the Street is a pleasant surprise, an amalgamation of seemingly disparate elements into something new and wonderful.
The EP is set to drop in May and features five tracks that display the range of the group to great effect. “Death of Sun” is a nod to science fiction, while “Lucy’s Dream” would make Danny Elfman proud. “Runaway” is a serious tune with a whimsical side (“My swag is like Urkel”? That’s funny no matter who you are…) “Out of Bed” is a sturdy tune but “Seductive” is my personal favorite among the five tracks, being the best single example of the fusion of elements that is Kids from Across the Street.
No doubt the Kids give an occasional nod to old-school roots, but this is new school, fresh and original, unexpected even, and it’s worth your time. Follow them on Facebook, check them out locally, look them up on 423 Bragging Rights; the bottom line is the Kids from Across the Street is what’s good.