Kids These Days – Traphouse Rock [Album Review]

For what its worth, Kids These Days is a collective of seven musically gifted individuals: drummer Greg Landfair, trombonist J.P. Floyd, bassist Lane Beckstrom, as well as guitarist and vocalist Liam Cunningham, Nico Segal on trumpet, Macie Stewart on vocals, and Vic Mensa adding the rhymes.

I start with this basic identification for two reasons: First, so when you hear the name Kids These Days, you actually know the amount of musical talent that goes into making their music. Second, because given the army of like-minded, often closely knit, Chicago youth that fervently supports them, it’s easy to confuse the group itself with the larger movement that has mandated its success. It is this connection with an entire generation of local music lovers, combined with a medley of personal experiences, that has enabled the group’s dynamic, genre-bending sound. On their debut full-length project, Traphouse Rock, Kids These Days finally offers a full 15 songs of hip-hop, jazz, soul, rock, and everything in between, functioning both as a preview of what to expect, and a well polished image of how far they have come as products of the midwestern metropolis.

From the funk and rock driven rhythms of ‘Ghetto’ that carry a horn-derived shout out to Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up,’ to the jazzy laments on the transience of life and love on ‘Wasting Time,’ which includes a heartfelt verse from Chance The Rapper, nearly every song on Traphouse Rock showcases the potential of musical collaboration. At times, the group only flexes certain muscles; on ‘Don’t Harsh my Mellow,’ Vic spits Chicago’s reality, while dramatic piano chords punctuate his lyrics. But just when you think you’ve pigeonholed their sound, the group unleashes the full force of its musical persuasion. Suddenly, a furious medley of drum work, horn blares, and background vocals bring the song into focus. What was initially a prideful expression of street independence crescendos into a chorus of rebellious energy.

Elsewhere on the project, their musical dexterity continues to shine as the group’s vocalists connect seamlessly with their instrumental counterparts. Thus, every lyrical message employs its own musical mood, as highlights like ‘Bud Biliken,’ ‘L’Afrique,’ ‘A Man’s Medley,’ ‘Who Do U-Luv,’ and ‘Talk To You’ all progress naturally (just like the intro) through emotional narrative. Note that I just named nearly every full song on the tape, and frankly ‘Don’t Fall in Love,’ ‘Doo-Wah,’ and ‘Don’t Blame Me’ are equally dope, because the musical ride is that consistent. At the album release party/listening session that went down at a Young Chicago Authors spot last week, I saw children younger than twelve asking for Vic to sign their copy of the tape. If that’s not indicative of the direction this group is heading, I don’t know what is. They have undeniable talent and chemistry, and while this first full-length release isn’t perfect, it marks an impressive starting point where Kids These Days is sure to grow from, with an entire city rooting them on.

For more from the group, check out their website and twitter, read Metrojolt’s recent interview with Vic Mensa, and download the album for free. They’ve begun turning the heads of outlets like The New York Times, so if our cosign isn’t enough, just know how heavily you’re sleeping.