Chiddy Bang's debut album, after an acclaimed mixtape and a somewhat less well-received EP, “The Preview”, arrives with the complex mission of abandoning precisely what made this Philadelphia duo the flavour of the week a few years ago: a sound based on bright, explicit samples from indie-rock bands, from MGMT to Passion Pit and Sufjan Stevens, put in a musical context somewhere between hipster rap and post-Kanye West hip-hop. It sounded fresh and surprising at first, but it was a formula doomed to self-destruct, not only for legal reasons (the licenses would cost zillions) but also because of the creative aspect: the first time it's funny, the second time it becomes a bit stale, and the third time around, war committees are formed. So it is a major challenge: to get rid of the one thing that brought you fame and start over again almost from the very beginning with the already-difficult task of recording a first album. Sink your teeth into that one.
The best news about “Breakfast” is that Chiddy Bang have managed to preserve the spark of their early days in a new concept for which they no longer simply sample the latest indie hits – instead, they've done a proper search and given their sound a makeover. Now they sample Icona Pop and improve the original on “Mind Your Manners”, a sure-fire hit destined for our summer soundtrack; or they secretly use Ellie Goulding, for whom they already did a remix of “Under The Sheets”, on “Out 2 Space”; and Train, on the slightly more insipid “Baby Roulette”. But the formula doesn't always give the same result: on the second half of the album, it becomes a bit of a repetitive affair, losing its freshness. After “Whatever We Want”, you get the feeling that you've heard it all before; the whole thing slows down, as if they'd run out of gas and inspiration, finishing the album almost out of inertia.
The thing is, if the whole of “Breakfast” were as good as the first five tracks, it would be a different story entirely. The first half is where the couple gives the best of themselves, where they show that they can have a future without the need to use and reuse the same formula over and over again. “Ray Charles”, the title track, and “Mind Your Manners” are three impressive singles, among the best stuff they've done so far, but most of all they're perfect examples of what Chiddy Bang try to do in their songs: establish a kind of modern hip-hop, global and naturally fused with some pop-rock sensibilities, able to stand on its own, beyond the limits of fads and hypes. Maybe for new generations, born with hip-hop already open to other genres and enjoyed by many different social classes, their ideas don't seem so groundbreaking or daring, but for those of us past a certain age, Chiddy Bang's sound is exotic, fascinating and fun. It's imperfect and irregular, and still very vague, but unbeatable when it hits the nail right on the head.