As acts like Gym Class Heroes and the Cool Kids have proven in recent years, it’s possible to successfully straddle the worlds of hip-hop and indie rock—if you can find the right beats for the former while speaking the language of the latter. For Philadelphia college duo Chiddy Bang, the way into the hearts of the AP audience is through cutting bits of such indie touchstones as MGMT, Passion Pit and Sufjan Stevens and pasting them into genial, old-school rap structure. Such swipes—especially the one from MGMT’s “Kids” that animates the standout single “Opposite Of Adults”—put vocalist Chiddy and DJ/producer Xaphoon Jones on the map this year, and the eight-song The Preview continues the buildup for the pair’s proper full-length debut.
The sample-anything inventiveness of their mixtapes has inevitably been boiled down into a more streamlined and pop-friendly sound, although for the most part it’s a successful consolidation of strengths, as the Q-Tip feature “Here We Go” demonstrates. The key track, though, is the Pharrell-produced “The Good Life.” Is this familiarly spare tune, with its open-to-interpretation, positive-thinking message, the breakthrough hit that will catapult Chiddy Bang to heights even Gym Class Heroes haven’t yet reached? Or is it simply Chiddy cheddar, a track that signals a premature death knell for the duo’s inventive promise? (Or both?) Other tunes on The Preview—especially the aggrievedly funny kiss-off “Bad Day”—argue that Chiddy will be able to continue the balancing act between their different constituencies, but the full answer won’t come until next year, and should be one of 2011’s more intriguing developments.