When most people hear Chicago hip-hop, their minds automatically turn to the ever-present Kanye West, rising star Lupe Fiasco, or long-time hip-hopper, Common. But it’s time to add another name to the all-star Chicago hip-hop scene: the Cool Kids. Harking back to rap in the late 80s- often ironically- their sparse beats and playful rhymes are a refreshing change of pace amidst the over-the-top but frequently thoughtless hip-hop flooding the airwaves and television today.
The Cool Kids aren’t just the new kids on the block- they’ve been using new and innovative ways of distributing their music. Before releasing a single on Fool’s Gold and signing to Chocolate Industries, members Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish released all of their music through their myspace page, growing a following from these free downloads and live shows. Their easy-going attitude is all about delivering good music to fans. Their latest effort, a twenty-five minute mixtape called That’s Stupid is available for direct download from their myspace page. The reason for the mixtape? Inglish writes on their blog that it’s just so fans “have new Cool Kids shit for the summer.” How thoughtful of them!
Because of their new approach to promoting themselves, the Cool Kids’ buzz has managed to last much longer than some critics might have imagined. Even though some have labeled them as nothing more than “hipster-hop,” they are still one of the buzziest acts that will appear in the quickly-approaching CMJ music marathon. They did a high-profile tour with MIA last fall and spent this summer touring on the Rock the Bells tour, all without having a proper album. When Fish Ride Bicycles, the name of the forthcoming LP, was promised by the end of this summer, but will now probably be released closer to the end of 2008. All of this build-up has managed to keep the Cool Kids on all of the cool kids’ radars.
Rock and Inglish are also budding fashionistas. Their rhymes touting shoes, new styles, hairdos and bikes have garnered them praise as lifestyle taste-makers, blending hipster and hip-hop in innovative ways. While lyrics about shoes and skateboards have replaced the now typical hip-hop fare of girls, cars, and money, some might question the validity of simply shifting their focus to other material goods. But their sense of hip-hop history (yes, believe it or not, even the late 80s are becoming historical now) and extremely well-crafted beats, gives them an intelligence that shines through, regardless of the specific subject matter. When they rap that they are “the new black version of the Beastie Boys,” the Cool Kids remind us of a few things. That even though many of us grew up with the Beastie Boys, who themselves often played off of hip-hop’s historical trends, the genre has now been around and thriving for over thirty years. The Cool Kids remind us that the genre needs to keep evolving, and they do it with intelligence and, most of all, style. Only time will tell what the Cool Kids’ own influence on hip-hop will be