February 29, 2012

Test Spin: Chiddy Bang

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In the age of Internet, artists are able to convey a variety of eclectic and original styles without the pressure to commercialize and cater to a certain crowd.  Since forming in 2008, Chiddy Bang, composed of Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin, has gained underground fame with their skillful collaboration of hip-hop with sampled alternative tracks.  The band released a succession of Internet mixtapes employing a variety of styles and sampling a diverse assortment of artists, like Ellie Goulding, Passion Pit and Sufjan Stevens, even after gaining a more public following in 2010 with their MGMT-sampling track “Opposite of Adults.”

However, with the band’s first official album Breakfast, the group seems to have lost its quirky edge by conforming to a more mainstream sound rather than experimenting or further developing.  Though it has an entertaining sound with improved production, the album lacks substance, both lyrically and narratively.

The album starts off with a short track, “Intro,” which sets a youthful, jovial mood for the album, providing an accurate indication of the songs to come.  The song is absent of rapping, but features the sound of children talking and laughing over the noise of a busy street in the background.

This leads into “Breakfast,” a fun track whose light humor closely resembles Chiddy Bang’s older songs.  Chiddy proves his rapping abilities while delivering a series of fast-paced cohesive verses with no shortage of rhymes.  This smooth flow mixed with the exciting beats produces an energizing start for the album.

Evidence of Chiddy Bang’s more mainstream, accessible sound is seen in the album’s two released singles.  “Mind Your Manners,” which was released in June, is a catchy and playful track that relies on strong electronic synths and percussion. The sound of children fills the chorus, which carries a nice tune but lacks much depth: “Manners take a second look and you’ll see / There is no one like me.”  Similarly, the album’s second single, “Ray Charles,” channels this pop sound with its gospel-influenced vocals and slower raps.  The song is comical as Chiddy compares himself to the well-known blind singer using a plethora of puns and ironies: “I’m feelin’ like Ray Charles / I got my shades on, I don’t know where they are.”

Chiddy Bang also employs his characteristic word play in “Baby Roulette,” which tackles the issue of contraception and pregnancy.  The lyrics are witty and clever, serving as an educational lesson of sorts, and the production is a particular strong point, with powerful synths and arcade-like noises.

However, this new pop sound becomes bothersome after some time.  The hooks fail to carry some of the tracks and the recurring inclusion of children’s voices within the songs, especially in the choruses, seems out of place and repetitive.  “Happening” features a chorus of childish singing mixed with dull production, creating a song that is busy and without a clear direction.  The feel-good track “Handclaps & Guitars” uses fine production, but the beat barely changes throughout the entire song.  The vocals sound nasally and unpleasant in the chorus, and the clichéd repetition of “I just came to party” does not add depth to the song.

A common problem the duo faces throughout the album is finding an effective balance between the vocals and beats.  While Chiddy appears to hold back on many of his songs by focusing on a more conventional sound, the track “Out 2 Space” captures his smooth flow.  Yet, the beats are not riveting enough to compliment his raps and the chorus is especially cliché: “Officially on top the moon / Things are lookin’ up, things are lookin’ / Out to space.”  The track “Talking to Myself” also features a chorus that sounds more annoying than catchy mostly due to the high-pitched childish vocals.  The track is about the deterioration of a relationship and its uncertain future, but the lyrics portray little emotion and the song’s beats are too carefree and pop to match the overall message, creating a disconnect.

With Breakfast, Chiddy Bang’s attempts to commercialize cost Chiddy and Xaphoon the signature style that they originally gained attention for.  The lyrics and rhythm are too simplified and they are thus unable to showcase the duo’s talents.  Nevertheless, there is no denying that the album delivers catchy and upbeat tracks.  It is certainty a fun listen, but because of its lack of significant substance, it does not resonate for long.  Just like breakfast, it will be quickly forgotten as soon as the next meal arrives.

Original Author: Dina Khatib