The Cool Kids Are Reuniting and We Talked To Them About It
With their easy-going, retro-indebted raps and effortless fashion, they lived up to their name as the kind of guys who you'd totally want to be friends with, while also making music that felt designed for listening to while driving around slowly or drinki
Remember The Cool Kids? If you came up with the rap blog zeitgeist of 2007/2008, you definitely do, because they were one of the main groups that made that time feel like a zeitgeist. With their easy-going, retro-indebted raps and effortless fashion, they lived up to their name as the kind of guys who you'd totally want to be friends with, while also making music that felt designed for listening to while driving around slowly or drinking outside. If you're younger, maybe you've only heard of The Cool Kids as this important and influential veteran group, which is weird because they only came out, like, yesterday.
Nonetheless, it's been a while since there's been any new music from the Cool Kids, or, in fact, since Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks (rebranded as solo artist Sir Michael Rocks) seemed to have any intention of keeping their joint project alive. When Mikey explained in a 2012 interview with AllHipHop that he didn't anticipate another project under the “Cool Kids” name, the news was met with resignation but not exactly surprise, as both members seemed busy with other things. A lone collaboration last summer generated some excitement, but it was made clear that it wasn't headed anywhere. Chuck and Mikey were friends, but there would be no more Cool Kids.
Psych! When Chuck tweeted in January that the two were getting back together for a new project, it was immediately met with surprise and excitement and accolades because absence makes the heart grow fonder, and, as a result, everybody's hearts were very fond of the idea of new Cool Kids music. Two songs, “Computer School” and “Chop,” featuring Iamsu! and HBK Gang, quickly followed, proving the old magic was still intact and that the guys had maybe picked up some cool new friends in the interim, too.
The project, Shark Week, is coming soon, although not before Chuck and Mikey release their solo projects, Convertibles and Banco, respectively. Those are due on April 8 and around the end of April, respectively, and, Mikey notes, “they'll tell the story for what's coming next.” As for Shark Week, the duo hasn't actually made it yet. They plan to record it all in a week – which might involve “taking a trip or a road trip or another type of trip or whatever type of trip” per Chuck. As anticipation for that builds, we hopped on a conference call with the two to find out what to expect, where The Cool Kids are headed, and what the true meaning of friendship is.
Noisey: What prompted the reunion? Was there a specific moment?
Mikey: When you're in a group, you kind of treat it like a relationship. You've kind of got to balance the same shit out. Since we've started we've done pretty much everything together. Like, pretty much every day. Live together, hang out with each other every day, make music every day. Sometimes it's meant for you to go try something for you. On your own. When you're in a group you can't always take that other person with you. And vice versa. I had things I wanted to try out, and it's not something that had anything to do with Chuck. And he had things he needed to do as well that didn't have anything to do with me.
And pretty much we just woke up one day, and it felt right. It felt like the time to start working on this new shit, linking back up. It felt like we'd tried what we wanted to try and learned what we wanted to learn on our own and sort of had that kind of chance to establish ourselves more as individuals, too. It just felt like the right time.
Chuck: It's one of those situations where we also realized there are certain things that we can do together. And that's just fun. It's doing exactly what we used to do, [but] giving it enough time to be fun again. So now it's fun again. It's more about how we want it to be instead of how other people want it to be.
Do you have any specific goals or new focuses coming back together now that you've had some time apart?
Chuck: It's always just to shock ourselves with new and doper shit. To get back to the spot where – when I say fun, I'm not just talking an activity or an emotion, but like that type of spark it gives you when you know you just did something colder than you've ever heard. Just maximizing that. Taking the magic we had at first and just building upon that. That's what the group is. That's what we did. We don't need to expand farther than the emotions we've created already. So we're just trying to maximize that good ass feeling you hear when you know rap music is having fun.
Now that you guys have gone off and worked with other people, are there certain things you've realized about your chemistry, or about what the other one brings to the table that's unique?
Mikey: I just got tired of other peoples' beats for one, man. Most people have good beats, and there's producers that I like, but, for the most part, I want that custom fit, tailored-fit sound. I can't make our shit with anybody else. You could give, like, the same beat and same concept to somebody else, but it ain't our shit. It doesn't have that same chemistry to it. I can try to get somebody to make the same kind of beats with the same kind of sounds and all of this shit, but it's not that same wave. It's natural. It's almost like finishing each other's sentences kind of, but musically. We already kind of already feel where the next move is going and where the vibe is going.
Chuck: Solo things don't have the chemical makeup of what we're doing because what we did is created a niche. And we like that. That's a part of us. And there's other parts of us. We don't have to put our brand above every single thing we think of individually. I have my brand new album coming out soon, and he does, too. That makes the dynamic between both of us stronger because we're two people, and on our own we're still fresher than most motherfuckers.
You both have kind of taken on a bit of a mentorship role toward younger, up-and-coming artists. Have there been certain things that you've taken away from that, or things that those artists have kind of helped you infuse into your own sounds?
Mikey: I think that it's just cool to be able to get around people it's brand new for sometimes. In my personal life, all my friends and stuff, everybody's around 24, 25. Everybody – all my personal friends that don't do music – everybody's kind of getting all grown and responsible. People are locking down with a girl, and some people are having the early kids and trying to get their lifetime job and all of this shit. And as a rapper, your clock is way different.
I can't start locking down and getting all—you get responsible, but you know that part where people are so responsible and so grown that they're just not fun? So that's why, as a rapper, you keep around people who are kind of in the same life as you. And sometimes they are younger. But we all have the same mindframe. We all have the same kind of goals. We're all aiming toward the same thing.
It's cool to be able to shed some knowledge on somebody who you think is dope because you know a little more. In a sense, you're making rap better. You're making music better because you're kind of helping guide a little bit of where it's going to continue to go. Because it could go a fucked up way, too. If you let a lot of younger people – a lot of younger rappers, who could have potentially been dope – if you just let the industry get their hands on them, and let the world get their hands on them, some people get fucked up by that.
Are you planning to bring anyone else into the studio with you, or is it just going to be the two of you?
Chuck: The guest part will be more organic. Not something you can plan out. I think once we get songs and we see how they sound, as friends come passing through – that's usually the best way to do guest features with us is just be there. More or less just like waiting to see what transpires from the songs. Because I've got a lot of things in my head I want to do, different sounds I want to try out.
Once we get there we're going to go with our guts of whatever sounds good. It could be from any genre. We'll try that out before we just try to plan a feature. Because to us, we're the hottest. So we want people that would try to work with us instead of the other way around. Our thing is a collaboration in general. Us making a record is me linking up with him. So us teaming up with someone else would have to be a full understanding, especially for this record.
Chuck, you're in L.A. now, and Mikey, you're in Miami. Why leave Chicago? What have you taken away from being in those new places and doing new things?
Chuck: You just want to see shit. We'd been in Chicago since college. Mikey went to L.A. for a little bit. But the Internet is available. You can live anywhere and still feel close to people who are far away. I was on a mission to make the best album I could make on the solo side of shit, so I came to somewhere where I knew all the resources I needed to do that were. For me it wasn't like a life change. It was just, like, somewhere to work. Pretty much the last two years was just working and seeing my goal completed. So wherever I've got to be to make that happen, that's where I'm going to be at.
Mikey: I've got to move around and see what I like and what inspires me. You stop in some different places and pick up some different shit. And then you go take it to a different spot to grab some more shit and keep on building, building, building it up. America, this is all my home, man. I've been traveling around here since I was fucking 17. I have very, very close friends all around the country, so I'm always at home pretty much everywhere I go.
I remember back in the '90s and stuff when catching planes was like a big thing. It was like a trip. Nowadays a plane feels like a cab to me. I just hop on and go whenever I want. It's cool to be able to bounce around and connect with all your close friends and all your people around the country if you have that luxury.
When you guys came up, you were sort of this groundbreaking group in terms of the way you got big on blogs. You were made fun of for being “hipster rap”and wearing skinny jeans. And now all that stuff is kind of the norm. How do you guys view your legacy, and how do you see yourselves fitting into hip-hop now?
Mikey: Pretty much we came in, and we changed shit. And we didn't look back. It wasn't like a forced thing, man. We came in, we knew what we wanted to do, we knew what we liked. It was like 'fuck that, let's make this.' And we made it. Some people were confused. Some people hated it. Some people loved it. Some people were like 'okay, I don't know what to do.' But we came in and we kicked in some shit, man. That's something that we're proud of. It's in the books already. There's no rewriting it. We came in, we changed shit up, and it's going to continue. It's a part two now.
Do you feel like you've gotten enough credit for your influence?
Chuck: Yeah, I mean we're still here for that. We're still here. It's not over. So I don't want credit now for something that we're not finished doing.
Mikey: Why does society do this weird thing where they want to – like, on Twitter, for example. You know how on Twitter they can't wait to kill somebody? They're like “he's dead, he's dead, he's dead! Blah blah blah!” and all this crazy shit, and the person is tweeting like “Yo, I'm not dead. Calm down. What the hell is going on?”
It's like society has this weird little snowball effect that they'll get the momentum going on something and it'll just roll and roll and roll. What is that? Why do people feel the need to write the ending to every story as soon as it happens and determine what's what? It's crazy because people are infatuated with time, like “okay, this amount of time has happened, this has happened, this has happened.” But, dude, back when the world was based on a bunch of a philosophers and shit – we don't even have any philosophers like that any more – but back then, them dudes would be doing shit until they were like 45 years old and finally come up with, like, one great idea that lasts throughout history.
Genius doesn't have an age. Genius doesn't have a time limit. That's what people have got to get through their minds. Ain't no time limit on shit. I know y'all are used to rappers coming and going. And this dude is That Dude, and now he's done because he's done it for this amount of years or this much time. This shit ain't got no age limit. The genius arrives when it arrives. We're bigger than that. We're not just rap dudes that came in and made a cool song and now we're out of ideas. We created something that was necessary and forced you to think differently. And those ideas continue to come, and we continue to make more of those ideas and force you to think in that way. We're going to continue to flip shit around. I don't know. We might be doing this until we're old!
Rap is different. Music is different now. People start younger. People go for longer now. We're starting to see our first generation of gray-haired rappers. We're starting to see our first generation of, like, granddad rappers. It's great-granddad rappers right now! We're starting to see the first generation of those rappers, so, like, y'all don't know how the story goes! Nobody's been here before. This shit's about to get crazy! This is 2014. That even sounds crazy. We don't know what's going to happen next, so I think everybody should just sit down, wait for the ride to commence, and enjoy it.
Well, you've said that that title, Shark Week, is about encountering biters, to some extent. Do you feel like there are some things people have taken from you guys where you haven't gotten the recognition you deserve?
Chuck: No man, that's not the focus. We said it's for the biters. We're still coming through with new shit, and that's what Shark Week is for. It's the new shit for you to bite. We're not mad about shit. We're just like 'here's some new shit for you to bite.”
Mikey: People bit stuff, but we've been doing this our whole lives. Before I was rapping I was doing shit and people bit it. This has been happening since I was a little kid. I'm just happy to be able to come up with ideas for people to bite. If I had to be the biter, that would be the sad part. That would be scary part because you don't know what to do next. I know what to do next. Every time I know what to do next.
We got a lot of credit from the right people for a lot of things that we've done. We come up with new stuff all the time, so it's not like we have any vendetta against anybody. We don't care, man! We were done with everything that you bit anyway. We're done with the new stuff you're about to bite. We're always on the next level, and that's why we're able to throw you a line. It's like fish, man. We're throwing a line out there, and the bait is the next shit you're gonna bite. Here, take this. We've got a whole bucket full of worms sitting behind us, so, yeah, we'll give you worms one by one if you keep biting.
Tell me about your relationship with each other. What are the sources of tension you've had to deal with?
Chuck: There is none. That's why it works well. There is none. It's just not that type of situation.
It's always easy when you're together?
Chuck: We're just people that know how to be cool to other people. We didn't get into it for the weird shit, so there is no weird shit. If you're not feeling something, you just honestly say it.
Mikey: Yeah, it's just communicating.
Chuck: We don't bring it into the mix. You don't start a group with people you don't think you can fucking handle high-pressure situations from.
That's cool that it's worked out that way, especially considering you guys first met online.
Chuck: Sometimes you know shit. Sometimes shit's made to happen.
Mikey: We know how to just communicate, man. To keep the love and communication just real and honest and open. If it's anything that you don't want to do or anything you do want to do, we just talk about that shit and communicate it. It's honestly a lot of cool people in the world who know how to fucking be friends and communicate, but they always put the weirdo fucking emotional dudes on TV because that's what sells and that's what people want to see. They want to see crying and fights and breakups and makeups and all this weird shit because people are weird.
There are a lot of people that grow up in the world and know how to be cool, that know how to be friends with other people. I grew up, I knew how to be friends! I knew how to share! I knew how to not talk shit about my friend. I knew how to not hit him with stuff. I knew how to, like, if I've got a cool game, you play with your game first, and I'll wait 'til it's my turn to play with your game. Because we're friends. Some people didn't grow up knowing how to have friends, man. It's as simple as that.
Would you say your guys' strong professional relationship has helped you guys communicate better and have stronger relationships in your personal lives?
Chuck: Nah, it's the other way around.
Mikey: You've got to come into this shit already knowing the basics. All this other business shit comes on top of that, and you just sort it out. You figure it out. But the main foundation of it all is: Did you know how to maintain relationships before you rapped? Did you know how to respect people? Did you know how to communicate? Did you know how to be confident with yourself? Did you know how to respect other peoples' space? Did you know how to do these things before you started rapping?
Because if you didn't and you get in a group, what are you going to do? You're not going to last. You're not going to last long. You're going to get mad. You're going to get pissed, this person's going to get pissed. Nobody's going to know what to do, how to deal with it. So it's better to hopefully have that shit ironed out before you start trying to, like, become one of the bigger rap groups in the world. You should probably have that shit figured out before you step into this arena.
Kyle Kramer is a cool kid. He's on Twitter - @KyleKramer