Philadelphia duo Chiddy Bang end their momentous year with a prequel to their 2011 release Swelly Life. Having climbed the ladder of US hip-hop in dramatic style – supporting the likes of Jay-Z and Kid Cudi along the way – The Preview looks back on their rapid ascent to stardom and gives us a taste of what’s to come.
The outlook is promising. Both MC Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and DJ Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin are just 19, but the overwhelming impression of The Preview is one of lyrical and musical maturity. Those with the iPod generation’s eclectic musical tastes who revelled equally in the indie electro-rock of Passion Pit and the recent renaissance of rap will love this fantastic mixture of the two.
Smooth opener The Good Life documents their rise, rolling across lifting synths with lyrical aplomb – maybe cheesy rhyme-chaser Tinie Tempah could take a few lessons when they support him on this autumn’s UK tour. Meanwhile, on uplifting and now-ubiquitous Truth, Chiddy quips “I’m well endowed like Harvard and Yale” – he speaks the truth, at least as far as music is concerned. Sampling Better Things by Passion Pit, it is impossible to listen to this uplifting number without a cheeky smile and at the very least a toe-tap.
There isn’t really a weak link on the album; the closest to such a thing is slower track Nothing On We, but even this is a laid-back number which, after a few listens, grows into a reassuring anthem for the down-and-out and depressed. But the jewel in The Preview’s crown is undoubtedly genre-defying Opposite Of Adults. Few would have thought that MGMT‘s Kids could be remixed to make it even catchier than the original, yet DJ Xaphoon Jones pulls it off, giving Chiddy maximum licence for a lyrical swagger rare in so young a rapper. Combining intelligence with a confidently rhythmic fluidity of delivery, his is a virtuoso talent best highlighted on rapid-fire tour-de-force Here We Go, which features Q-Tip.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for two teenagers caught in the spotlight, the often biographical lyrics reminisce about their roots. All Things Go is full of reflection on their time at Drexel University and their subsequent rise into the stratosphere. Dreamy piano and a gentle chorus line mask unease in the lyrics (“Do they love us or is this just a fling?”) forming a delicate contrast – yet another example of the pair’s artistic aptitude.
Above all else, the album is just fun and effortless to listen to. Jealous and deliciously vindictive Bad Day is a joy, with Darwin Deez adding a new dimension with his whiney-but-heartfelt vocals. Morals aside, everyone has someone for whom they think that “everyday should be a bad day” and will delight in singing along with that person in mind.
The length of the record may be an issue for some – at only nine tracks long, it feels a little slim. However, it serves its intended function perfectly, as a tantalising glimpse of what the debut album proper has to offer. The Preview demonstrates that Chiddy Bang have the musical ear, lyrical prowess and maturity beyond their years to make them the next big thing in hip hop.