interview: Marcus Dowling, live show review: Matthew Shaver, live show photos: Shannon Yazurlo
“We have the best album out right now. You know all of those rappers you’re into right now? Check the family tree. It all comes from us.” – Chuck Inglish of the Cool Kids on why people should buy their latest Green Label Sound released album, When Fish Ride Bicycles
This is a tale of two grown up hipsters who stopped by the warehouse for DC based apparel line DURKL on Tuesday afternoon while in town on their nationwide tour, for long awaited album When Fish Ride Bicycles, Chicago’s Sir Michael Rocks and Detroit’s Chuck Inglish. In 2006, the duo began delivering an epic technical knock out to hip hop that has left the rap industry standing, but not able to continue in the same manner. Hip hop acts that rose to the mainstream in that era were second and third rate carbon copies of happy go lucky southern ballers or East coast blinged out Puffy and Jigga wannabes. Enter The Cool Kids. Independently minded minimalist old school appreciators with an earnest personal signature sound and style, they set a standard for the end of the first decade of the 21st century that has been mirrored and is now a widely accepted formula for underground success.
“I guess you could say that what we started definitely got bigger than us,” opines a thoughtful Rocks. “People were tired of the same old thing, and really got into me honestly talking about myself, and the things I was into.” These things included hot snapback baseball caps and rare, iconic sneakers, items whose overwhelming hipster popularity can be directly traced to the act. Legendary tracks like “88,” “Black Mags” and “A Little Bit Cooler” didn’t just create a style, they defined a generation. “My Jordans were like my gold. It was a way I could easily define myself and how I was unique. I had the kicks, and the fresh hats, shirts, you know, it was all about trying to just express myself.”
Self expression is also at the core of the production end of the Cool Kids spectrum. Sir Michael raps over a retro leaning bombast assault courtesy of the ever confident Chuck Inglish. “No disrespect to Eric B. or whatever, but I want to be remembered as the best producer ever,” Inglish says. “I grew up on Eric B. and Rakim. We’d have family functions, and the 12 inch records would be out. Also, in my neighborhood, it looked and sounded like an L’Trimm (as in of the 1988 one hit wonder “Cars That Go Boom” fame) video. Custom mag tires, lowriders, big systems, everything. The way I produce is completely related to how I grew up. Rap, rock, dance, whatever I produce, I always try to envision it with a bit of my classic mindset involved. ”
Rocks shares the affinity for classic ideas with an intriguing point. “When my parents raised me, they were young, pretty much the same age I am right now. Other Chicago kids grew up around the ‘dusties (a local Chicago term for classic soul records),’ but for me it was all hip hop. Probably one of the first records I heard from birth was (Eric B. and Rakim classic) ‘Paid in Full.’ I’m just really comfortable with those beats.”
Current album When Fish Ride Bicycles changes up very little from a production standpoint with Inglish at the helm, but lyrically offers a bit more. Rocks notes, “I want to grow with our fans. I’m older, and have more to offer now as a lyricist. I’m definitely touching on some new issues in my rhymes and trying to mature.” The album’s structure reflects a matured mind state as well, and is made with the current hip hop landscape in mind. “We have separate bonus tracks for our CD and vinyl versions of the album. You can get the regular album on iTunes on the internet, but until you buy a physical copy, you’re not getting the entire vision,” Inglish says. “We feel like hip hop is watered down, and that things are getting too similar,” alluding to the mixtape assault and lagging physical album sales due to many hip hop fans opting for free internet downloads that defined the era that the Cool Kids were in many ways at the forefront of introducing to music. Chuck Inglish bottom lines the Cool Kids philosophy succinctly. “We’re like the Apple computers of hip hop. We’re always improving the product. Everybody else already bought the iPod, so, we’re off making the iPad.”
“Were just happy to have the album out. It’s been a long time, and we’re both better than we’ve ever been. We want people to buy this album and know that they’re listening to the best group in hip hop at the moment,” says Chuck Inglish. Honest, independent minded and talented. The more times change, the Cool Kids, at the core, remain the same.
LIVEDC: THE COOL KIDS @ RNR HOTEL
I could smell it in the air as soon as the inner doors of the Rock N Roll Hotel swung open. It hung in the rafters like a fog, clinging to every sweaty body in the joint (get it!?). So I was not surprised, when, 20 seconds in to the first song, one brave soul brazenly lit up and thickened the air just a little bit more. The attitude, quickly as it was squashed, was the ideal mindset for a night with The Cool Kids.
I read an interview a few years back in which they stated for their first EP, The Bake Sale, they almost exclusively use a program called Reason, which emulates a lot of older analogue synthesizers. The resulting sound is a lot of low, funky bass lines that harken back to the days of 90’s gangsta rap, and 808 inspired drums that borrow liberally from Erik B. and Rakim, as well as The Beastie Boys.
Self professed “Beach Rappers” Antoine “Sir Michael Rocks” and Evan “Chuck Inglish” dished out the rock solid flow for a rather short period. Not surprising, considering that their first “official” album, When Fish Ride Bicycles, hasn’t even dropped yet. They did hit a lot of the crowd pleasers from their various singles and mixtapes including “Black Mags”, “Mikey Rocks”, “88”, and “A Little Bit Cooler”.
Touching on such existential subjects as: women, smoking up, summertime, taking it back to ‘88, and just generally how awesome they are, if I had a complaint, and I do, it’s that there is not much meat to their show. I don’t expect two guys on microphones and a DJ to blow me away, but add a little flair to the events.
The opening act, Violet Says 5, whom I’ve never heard of, and presumably take home a smaller cut of the door, had a full band and a hype man in a damn panda suit. Bouncing back and forth for a half hour plus, they just brought the house down for me with a hip-hop formula that fell somewhere between Atmosphere and 2 Skinnee J’s (for anyone that remembers those guys).
The whole night was fun, if a bit short. Head bobbing beats, fast and furious cadences, and a good sense of humor elevate the act above most other small club acts. A free contact high and couple of beers courtesy of the large entourage won me over though, so I will stop by and pay my respects anytime The Cool Kids deem D.C. worthy