The Cool Kids

Posted January 14, 2008
Tags: The Cool Kids,

Editorial note: This review was originally titled "The Totally Flossed Out EP," but shortly...

The Future of Hip-Hop's Past Album Review

Editorial note: This review was originally titled "The Totally Flossed Out EP," but shortly after posting it I received the following message from The Cool Kids:
"YO.. Thats not our album.. whoever told u it was... was mistaken... that is a bootleg.. a quarter of the songs.. and two of the songs arent even on the album.. if you know who posted that review... please ask them to take it down... and not promote that title and explain to the readers the misunderstanding. Were trying to stop the spread of that.. our album is way more than what has been spread.. and we dont want people or djs.. or web blogs wasting their time on it right now. Thanks -Chuck"

First and foremost I want to apologize directly to The Cool Kids and to our readers for my mistake, as a matter of policy DJBooth does not post any "bootlegged" material anywhere on the site. With that in mind I've considered the article in detail, and after much thought have decided it will remain on the site with the "Totally Flossed Out EP" title removed. Not because I'm so in love with my own writing that I can't stand to have it erased (believe me, it wouldn't be the first time one of my stories didn't make it to print), but because:

1) No "leaked" tracks have been posted, and after removing any reference to "The Totally Flossed Out EP" this article is in no way different than other endorsed features written in other publications.

2) Keeping the core of this article not only gives The Cool Kids a larger platform to have their voices heard and "stop the spread" of the bootlegged EP, but also gives everyone a chance to discuss and become aware of the situation in a way simply removing the article doesn't provide. Now more than ever hip-hop needs transparency, dialogue, and originality, and by exposing the situation openly and honestly I can only hope my mistake becomes some small catalyst for conversation. Are bootlegged albums responsible for declining hip-hop sales? How does this affect expectations for their debut album The Bake Sale? What is Keith Sweat up to right now? All great questions, let's discuss them below. As always DJBooth welcomes and will publish any response from The Cool Kids, or any artists featured on the site. So here it is people: read it, think about it, talk about it, criticize me, whatever you want to do, we're listening.

- Nathan

And now for something brand new. Man it feels good to type that sentence, sadly it's not something I get to write very often. Contemporary hip-hop has become infamous for its creative stagnation (last year featured approximately 277 songs titled either “I Get Money” or “I’m A Gangster”), but it’s hardly a situation that’s unique to hip-hop. The entertainment industry is seemingly allergic to innovation across the board; do we really want to live in a world where Rambo 6 is due to hit movie screens in a few weeks? Well no more; from now on I’m going to use my meager critic powers to unapologetically praise originality and scorn rip-offs (yeah, that means you “guy who just recorded his hook with a T-Pain voicebox”). Am I ranting? Hell yes I am. In fact, if this review were a college thesis I’d title it “In Defense of the New; The Cool Kids.”

Now that I’ve built some momentum let’s stop and take a deep breath. The Cool Kids are a Chicago area duo who haven’t created their sound completely from scratch, they’ve just brought together different eras and styles into one refreshingly new package. The Cool Kids recipe consists of a number of recognizable flavors: an old school fun-loving sensibility (like EPMD), reliance on spare booming-bass beats (a la Pharrell), an affinity for alternative fashion and culture (think Lupe Fiasco), and a slow and steady rhyme style reminiscent of the Clipse. Are they reinventing hip-hop? No, but at the least might reinvigorate it.

The Cool Kids first started building their buzz around Black Mags, a track that at first listen seems to have chopped n’screwed roots, until you realize that when they say they’re “dope peddlers” they’re talking about riding bikes, not slinging rocks. Black Mag’s production is defiantly spare, the kind of beat that sounds more at home on a boombox than a car system. For their part MCs Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks employ slowly paced flows just a shade louder than spoken; which makes sense, being cool means never getting too excited, right? Some have said that Black Mags will do for BMX bikes what Lupe’s Kick Push did for skating, except Kick Push didn’t do much for skating except remind the world that black people skate too. The effect of Black Mags should be no different; I wouldn’t expect to see legions of kids pedaling down a street near you, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Being “cool” is a frustratingly elusive thing, as anyone who’s ever been to high school can attest to. After all, just what is “cool”? One definition is simply going against the current trends, and that’s why the Cool Kids have deliberately patterned their sound more after the late ‘80’s hip-hop movement than the hustling rap of 50 Cent - much the same way white kids will listen to The Beatles instead of Good Charlotte. Accordingly, the track A Little Bit Cooler serves as is the manifesto for an idea of coolness that doesn’t rely on what’s currently “hot.” In fact the Cool Kids entire concept could be summed up in the opening lines: “Eating a bowl of them fruity pebbles/how gansgsta is that?/not gangsta at all/oh, you judging me dog?/please, you shop at the mall.” They’ve described themselves as “black Beastie Boys,” and A Little Bit Cooler is certainly a direct cousin of the Beastie’s classic cut Paul Revere, but crucially theirs is a re-envisioning of what came before, not just a nostalgic re-treading of the past.

It’s important to remember that The Cool Kids don’t traffic in nostalgia, nostalgia is rooted in memory. When the Cool Kids say they’re “bringing ’88 back,” most notably on the aptly titled track 88, they’re talking more about their idea of what 1988 was like than reality. After all, Mikey Rocks is only 19 - it’s entirely possible he spent more of 1988 in his mother’s womb than jamming to Keith Sweat (like yours truly, shout out to Keith Sweat!). I am a full-fledged Cool Kids supporter. Their debut album The Bake Sale is due to drop soon, and I’ll be sure to bring out my BK Knights for the occasion. Not as a tribute to the past, but as a salute to anyone trying to expand the possibilities of hip-hop’s future.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted January 14, 2008
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