The Buzz On: Kids These Days

Credit: Charles Nolis Anderson

We’ve been into the precocious, eight-piece outfit known as Kids These Days ever since they took over South By Southwest earlier this year. The Chicago-based group is hard to ignore for a few reasons:

1.) Their genre-less genre-hopping fusion of hip-hop, funk, soul and jazz.

2.) They’re all in their teens.

… So they’re kind of like Odd Future but on the opposite day.

Kids These Days recently released the iTunes version of their debut EP, Hard Times, showcasing an amalgam of influences that range from jazz chanteuses to bohemian hip-hop to 1970s soul. Now usually that much genre-mashing is risky — less-talented bands have seen their outsize ambition dull their focus, making their sound more convoluted than clever — but Kids These Days have proven themselves with prodigious skills that belie their age.

Many of the group’s members met when they were just 15 and attending University of Illinois-Chicago and DePaul University’s music schools. Overachievers, clearly. They started off as a cover band, and they’d perform live mashups — Common’s “Be” mixed with Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” is a crowd favorite — before they started producing their own material.

Lead singers Macie Stewart and Liam Cunningham deftly avoid any trend-hopping vocal styles, trading off vocals with soulful timbres that far exceed their actual ages, while MC Vic Mensa’s smooth cadence recalls Talib Kweli or The Roots’ Black Thought more than Lil Wayne or Rick Ross. Which means that Kids These Days’ diverse sound means fans of Jack Johnson, Sharon Jones, The Roots or Norah Jones can all find distinct parts of the group’s tracks to rally around. Check out their “Darling” video and their “Summerscent” video, so we don’t have to say “I told you so” later.