Last night big news broke on Twitter. Chuck Inglish and Sir Michael Rocks, long known as The Cool Kids, were reuniting after five years apart, and eight years after they first really broke onto the scene.
As is so often the case with music, for many that news was less "news" and more like a time machine, suddenly bringing back all these memories of when the Midwest duo were cruising through hip-hop on their bikes, draped in gold chains. And since music is so closely tied to memory, it also made me realize that on the internet, and in culture, five years might as well be a millenia. The Cool Kids really do belong to another era, an era that truly started with the release of "Black Mags."
The fact that Black kids rocking old school fashion, riding bikes and rapping over sparse 808-driven beats doesn't feel particularly remarkable now is only proof of their influence. This was 2008 and hip-hop was in a real transition period. Rick Ross is cementing his place in the game, Eminem's coming out of his worst drug addict years and Lil Wayne has taken over the game with the release of Carter III. There really was nothing else out there like The Cool Kids, and their rise is also proof of the internet's exploding influence. When Lupe announced that they would be part of his All-City Chess Club group, which also included everyone from Charles Hamilton to B.o.B., it felt like a perfect fit. They were all young outsiders who leveraged the suddenly wide open internet to break down doors previously locked up by major labels.
In short order Mikey and Chuck find themselves a part of a new pack of groundbreaking artists, and to use a hip-hop cliche, they were poppin. The media loved them, fans loved them, they were touring heavily, opening for major acts like M.I.A. and were having their music placed in TV shows like Entourage, Nike commercials with LeBron and Kobe and video games like NBA2K and working with Green Label, Mt. Dew's just beginning music creation program.
When the duo chose to forgo the major label route and sign with the independent label Chocolate Industries it felt like a bold statement, the equivalent of Joey Bada$$ or Chance the Rapper staying indie but years before, but unfortunately the momentum began to falter. Despite a steady stream of mixtapes, by the time their proper debut album dropped in 2011, WhenFish Ride Bicycles, it was beginning to feel like their initial wave had already crested, and individually the two members were pursuing other avenues, with Mikey taking on a new name, Sir Michael Rocks, and signing with Curren$y's Jet Life imprint while Chuck also produced a bevy of solo material. Shortly after, it was over for the two. (It's worth noting that the other buzzing duos of that era, Kidz in the Hall and U-N-I, also eventually broke up.)
Chuck is completely right. The duo really were the first to push a lot of music styles and fashion into the spotlight, and is so often the case, others with bigger platforms have taken those seeds and headed straight for the charts. Even reunited they may never become the full-fledged "stars" it seemed like they might once become, but if you're feeling a certain buzz of excitement and energy from those of us who were already immersed in the rap-internet world circa 2009, that's why. The Cool Kids helped change what being cool looked like and sounded like once, and they might just be able to do it again.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.