Old school is the new cool
The Cool Kids are two Chicago hip-hop MCs looking back to a time of gold chains, fat laces, superfly sneakers, Run DMC and Eric B & Rakim. They may owe their success to working the music industry like it’s 2008, but they’re ready to party like it’s 1988,
THE COOL Kids are here to get all Marty McFly on your ass. They are two superfly MCs stationed in the Windy City who believe that hip-hop’s best days were in the past – and they want to go back to those halcyon days.
Back to a time of gold chains, pagers, block parties, Run DMC, fat laces, superfly sneakers, BMX bikes and Eric B & Rakim. Back to those days before gangsta rap, Kanye West and Fiddy. Back to when hiphop was much more innocent than what it has become in 2008.
Justin Timberlake may want to bring sexy back, but the Cool Kids, they want to bring 1988 back. They’re the new school of the old school.
The duo who rhyme that they are “the new black version of the Beastie Boys” are Mikey Rocks (AKA Antoine Reed) and Chuck (Evan Ingersoll). They have a simple blueprint when it comes to making people holler with excitement.
They rap over heavyweight, lowslung bass bumpers not heard since EPMD were in their prime. Hell, these beats even sound a little like EPMD, yet the Cool Kids were not even born when this style was in full flow the first time around.
Mikey says his parents are one reason why he is so in thrall to that golden era of sucker MCs. “I grew up on this stuff,” says Mikey. “As soon as I was born, I was hearing hip-hop. My parents never said ‘You can’t listen to that!’ They would put in anything when I was little. They would play tapes in the car or in the house, and I heard it and I liked it. Luckily, they had good taste in music so I grew up listening to the good stuff.”
It made sense that Mikey would eventually want to make his own tunes. He started rapping when he was eight years of age, before trying his hand at producing beats. “About two or three years ago, when I was 16 or so, I started messing around at home with beats and got hooked right away. I had been writing rhymes for a while, but I just wasn’t feeling rap music at the time, so I put that on the shelf and just got crazy into making beats.”
This led him to Chuck, who had a beat on his MySpace page which Mikey was interested in using. The pair met up, found that they had a lot in common and decided to work together.
It has turned out to be a strong partnership. “There’s two different perspectives with us,” explains Mikey. “We don’t rap the same way or think the same way or even look at things the same way. But it’s the differences which make it all work. We’re both doing exactly what we need to do. We have respect for
each other but what we do has to work for The Cool Kids too.”
When it came to cutting tracks, Mikey and Chuck didn’t have far to look for inspiration. “Of course, I can’t deny it, we definitely take some of the elements of old school hip-hop where people used to have fun and party,” says Mikey. “But we also take elements from other types of music as well.
“I’m not a big fan of redoing something that’s already been done just because it was successful back then.”
Since their first tracks began to appear online, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The hip-hop, indie and pop communities have all found something about the duo to champion, and word about them has quickly spread.
The pair have conducted a bit of a masterclass in how to harness MySpace, blogs and online tools to get your tracks and name out there.
“The internet is so powerful that you can pretty much run a whole campaign for a band with it,” says Mikey. “There was also a lot of word of mouth about us, but the accessibility of the internet which allows people to discover new music was our biggest ally. We don’t need radio to break our records –MySpace has become that radio show. We don’t need labels either to get off the ground because the internet has eliminated the need for that middleman.”
Yet the duo also realise that you sometimes need help to keep the show on the road. They have signed a deal with XL to release the new The Bake Sale EP, and they’ll probably do something similar for the album When Fish Ride Bicycles, due to drop later in the year.
Mikey is fully aware that they could easily have become just another online here-today-gone-tomor- row phenomenon. “It could have happened, for sure,” he says. “We could have been seen as a gimmick, or we could have taken advantage of some of the offers to do really wack corporate stuff which came our way.
“But if we did that, our audience would have gone away from us and dissed us for giving up our integrity like that.
“To be honest, though, we’re past the stage where we’re just some fad. I think that if we were a gimmick, we would have been found out. I think a gimmick has a couple months before people work it out. We’ve paid our dues, we’re sticking around.”
Back to the future: Mikey Rocks and Chuck of Cool Kids