BLURRED VISION: “We’ve played shows where it’s half hipster kids and half gangster kids, and we’ve played shows where there’s nothing but college kids,” says Xaphoon Jones (right).
Man, did I want to hate Chiddy Bang and his producer/percussionist accomplice, Xaphoon Jones, with all my heartlessness. What with Chiddy's cutesy nostalgic moniker, the skateboarding in their videos, and their major-label status, there seemed little reason not to lump them in with all the manufactured post-Wayne hype rappers. Except for one small thing: despite their popularity with stud-belted youngsters, Xaphoon and Chiddy, aged just 20 and 19, are nice beyond their years. It took me just a few listens to realize that if hip-hop is indeed supposed to evolve, then they're the closest thing we have to contemporary archetypes.
The awful majority of pop-angled hip-hop acts reflect nothing more than last month's commercial craze. But Xaphoon and Chiddy, despite being college dropouts for the time being, are powered by more than just Kanye. Their tracks have demonstrated a fat range of impressions, from Curtis Mayfield to Curtis Jackson, and Xaphoon assures me that their upcoming EMI full-length will further fluctuate between throwback blueprints and futuristic ideals, between party time and conscious rhyming. As for their breakout single — "Opposite of Adults," with its interpolation of MGMT's "Kids" — what's more old school than piggybacking a rock-and-roll mega-hit?
"You had to be taken seriously back in the day," says Xaphoon by phone from a rental car while cruising through Santa Monica. "For us, the producer/MC duo represents an era of hip-hop in which there was more of a love for the game, and of having fun and making music. Now, I think we're re-entering an era in which hip-hop artists are comfortable with their real identities, and we're proud to be a part of that."
Since meeting at Drexel University in Philadelphia two years ago, Chiddy and Xaphoon have had the sort of magic-carpet ride that few murder-free rap acts enjoy these days. On the heels of this year's Opposite of Adults EP, they've toured extensively and gigged with everyone from Bun B to Passion Pit. And Chiddy was tapped to smack the Gorillaz remix of "Stylo" with Mos Def.
"We've played shows where it's half hipster kids and half gangster kids, and we've played shows where there's nothing but college kids," says Xaphoon. "We're the perfect opening band — we can work with any genre, any artist, and any demographic. But in America, I'd say the average Chiddy Bang fan is dancing on the line between being a hipster and a bro, kind of like a hip-bro."
I'm reluctant to play professor and embarrass them in front of the entire nu-rap class by suggesting that their peers should follow Chiddy Bang's example. Still, it's good to see a musically inclined hip-hop group blow up on the merit of something other than megalomaniacal buffoonery. Even if Chiddy and Xaphoon don't have the entire solution to the dreadful monotony of mainstream boom-bap, the answer might just lie somewhere in their sound and attitude.