Kid 'N Play

2 Hype

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Kid 'n Play have been unfairly branded as pop sellouts over the years, despite the fact that they really never had a big crossover hit single. It was more their image that crossed over -- they had their own unique sense of visual style, yet they were positive, non-threatening, and, well, too gosh-darn friendly for the taste of street-level purists. Plus, they were young and clean-cut enough for middle-class teenage audiences to identify with. Accusations of being soft notwithstanding, those qualities are exactly what give their debut album, 2 Hype, its refreshing charm. There isn't much on the duo's minds other than friendship, dancing, and dating, and everything stays pretty innocent -- Kid even confesses to being shy around girls on "Undercover." If all of this seems safe and lightweight, it's also a tremendous amount of good, clean fun. Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor's production keeps things danceable and engaging throughout; the sound is fairly spare, with funky and occasionally club-friendly beats, catchy instrumental hooks behind the choruses, and basic DJ scratching. The whole album is pretty consistent, and the songs that were singles -- "Rollin' With Kid 'n Play," "Gittin' Funky," and "2 Hype" -- are nearly matched by some of the album tracks, particularly "Brother Man Get Hip," the story songs "Last Night" and "Undercover," and the explanation of the duo's signature dance move, "Do the Kid 'n Play Kick Step." Neither Kid nor Play is a master technician on the mic, but they're both quite respectable, in contrast to some of the would-be pop idols who followed in the years to come. And even if its sound and style are very much of their time, 2 Hype still holds up surprisingly well, thanks to Kid 'n Play's winning personalities.

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