Coming somewhere off the Chicago-Detroit expressway is buzz-worthy new act, The Cool Kids who recently signed to local indie imprint Chocolate Industries. Poised to move on the majors any second now, the duo made up of Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish have ironically caught a huge buzz, named as one of 2008’s top 10 artists to watch by Rolling Stone, and acting as the opening act for M.I.A. They did this, not by trying to duplicate whatever the popular radio sounds are, but instead taking back to basics. But is this something new and original, or merely a cheap knock off of the styles of yesteryear? Within The Bake Sale is the answer.
The opening track, “What Up Man”, a minimalist track made up of 808 bass and repeating vocal samples, sounds like something from the golden era of hip-hop, the 1980’s. This track sets the tone for the entire album, as the retro production and playful freestyle rhymes more or less vibe throughout the project. Thumping beats on “One Two” or “Mikey Rocks” evoke memories of early bass oriented artists – whether Sir Mix-A-Lot or Too $hort, while songs like “88” and “What It Is” throwback to more East Coast styles of production, say Schooly D or Eric B & Rakim. This proves their loyalties aren’t to either coast of classic hip-hop, but all of it.
Ironically, today’s Southern and Bay Area sounds have become so reliant on 808-keyboard production over sampling that this approach works two-fold for The Cool Kids. The chopped and screwed hooks of “Black Mags” (a BMX bike anthem) and “Gold & A Pager” allow the duo to brag on their fresh haircuts and limited edition Nikes, sounding old school, but not dated.
The only problem that The Cool Kids have is the monotony of their sound. With such a simplistic approach to making hip-hop, their laid back deliveries and minimalist tracks can begin to wear thin at times, so it’s better in small doses, like in the case of this EP. That being said, it will be interesting to see what the Kids will come with in the form of their full-length album, When Fish Ride Bicycles.
So is it a gimmick or isn’t it? Yes – it is – but all in all, we can’t be mad at The Cool Kids. For a sound that has pretty much disappeared over the last twenty years, it’s good to see someone bring it back in this era of bounce tracks and bling. There have been far worse attempts at being retro in hip-hop – usually involving blatant ripping off of classic beats – but these cats have made their brand of old school hip-hop from scratch. Props are due. – D.T. Swinga
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