My freshman year of college, I discovered one of Chicago’s many hidden treasures: Kids These Days. The band is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, mixing a sultry blend of rock, rap, jazz, and rhythm and blues. Their musical talent and capabilities are so apparent in their sound that you know it’s the kind of band you have to see live. Unfortunately, their prodigy was short-lived. After four years and one album, the group split up in 2013.
Kids These Days was composed of seven 20-something year old music students, notably Vic Mensa, Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment. The band started off playing live shows in Chicago and eventually began booking gigs at local festivals like Lollapalooza…NBD. In 2012, after working with seasoned producer Jeff Tweedy to convert their live sounds into studio sounds, they released their first album, Traphouse Rock.
The album starts with an instrumental that gives you a taste of their style, then explodes into something better than you can imagine. The first song, ‘GHETTO’ starts with Vic rapping over a guitar sample of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana. Suddenly but seamlessly, the beat switches to a jazz sample of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move on Up,” then eventually finds its way to a slow, distorted blend of the two samples. As you continue to listen, you hear most of the songs follow a similar pattern. My favorite of all is ‘A Man’s Medley,’ a beautiful mash-up of ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ by James Brown and ‘Summertime’ by Ella Fitzgerald.
The group also performs some original songs, with sounds ranging from hard to soft rock. Songs like ‘Don’t Harsh My Mellow’ are an interesting peak into Mensa’s early career and offer insight into his influence for some of his recent songs. Other songs, like ‘L’Afrique’ and ‘Wasted Time’ have a softer tone that make them a little easier to listen to. Plus, ‘Wasted Time’ features Chance The Rapper, who can make any song that much better.