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Hip-hop is a young man’s game. Like anything culture driven, it starts with the youth at street level, working as diligently as they possibly can for a shot at old school stardom or some viral semblance of fame.

Don’t be mistaken -- we’re not breaking news or kidding ourselves here.

The aging moguls play a major role and dictate plenty. But they are what they are -- an older generation who move further away each year from the feeling of having to create your name, build your brand and, at the end of the day, struggle.

New indie road warriors like Grieves  and Mac Miller are making the rounds. Drake, Nicki Minaj and Yelawolf are bringing a new level of lyricism to the radio. Odd Future might just unravel the whole damn thing. Each has paid their dues in one way or another.

Cali Swag District: “The Kickback”

Hailing from Inglewood, California, Cali Swag District  fall somewhere in between all of that. They’re certainly young -- only two of their three members can legally drink (barely). The neighborhood they grew up was not forgiving. Last May, member M-Bone was murdered in a drive-by shooting. Their major label debut, “The Kickback” (due July 12 via Sony RED), is a sort of overdue tribute to their late member.

Despite the album’s release date being pushed back a handful of times, “The Kickback” is filled with radio ready players. “Teach Me How To Dougie,” seen below, was their smash hit from late last year. When you’ve got First Lady Michelle Obama giving you props, you know you’re about as ready friendly as it gets. CSD is also nominated for “Best Group” at the 2011 BET Awards.

“Everyone believes that we were only going to make a song about dancing and that would be that,” says C-Smoove via phone, cruising down one of those notorious Los Angeles freeways in a Lincoln Navigator with CSD members Yung and JayAre. “‘The Kickback’ is a chance to show our range.”

“The Kickback” is also an opportunity for the group to try and shed some of the gruesome realities of growing up where they did. Their studio time was an opportunity to focus on a craft and keep their hands clean from trouble.

They’ll never deny the people they surround themselves with or where they came from. After all, they are part of the next wave of fresh youth culture. But they won’t deny wanting to know something different.

“Looking at our surroundings was a way to motivate us to stay away from our surroundings,” jokes C-Smoove. “You can separate yourself from it, but you can’t always get away from where you grew up.”

Cali Swag District’s The Kickback is out July 12.

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