Written by Samee Anibaba
The Cool Kids are officially back with their first project together in over five years. For a guy that used the wear out my his play button from listening to the hits from their first run back in school, like Black Mags, Bundle Up and Gold And A Pager, I can tell you, it’s been a long five years.
The Chicago rap duo had a sound unmatched by anyone else in hip-hop. At a time when everyone was doing 90s throwbacks to sound different (and pretty much all sounding the same) Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks went even further into 80s hip-hop, with Mikey even calling themselves the ‘new black version of the Beastie Boys’. From EPs to mixtapes to albums, their sound was as refreshing and unique as it was old school.
But then soon after announcing their next album (which was supposed to be called Shark Week, for all the biters), they split up out of nowhere, going on two independent solo careers that had Chuck and Mike dropping amazing music on their own, but with no Sharks in sight.
Fast forward through to 2017 and they’ve reunited. Shark Week is out but Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe, the album every Cool Kids fan didn’t know they were waiting for, is in. They’ve gone through name changes (Mikey is now Sir Michael), dropped mixtapes, albums and Chuck’s dropped the waviest instrumental albums to ever touch a sunday afternoon; but is the original Cool Kids sound still there?
The answer to that question is brought to you (for some reason) by the one and only Hannibal Burress. The comedian provides the perfect intro to the album on The Moonlanding. The beat on this track is simple but hard, which is just the right sound for Chuck and Mike to reintroduce themselves on.
This track is one of many bangers on the album, Chuck, the producer of the group, breaks out a bag of hard beats that sound like their old music taken to the next level. Tunes like TV Dinner and Checkout are clean and minimal but still manage to bring the energy for the two to rap over. It’s tracks like this that make me remember how I’ve always felt about Chuck’s production. The guy is talented and can do things with just a drum loop and some bass that most producers can’t come near. If you want to hear good beats, this is the album for you.
There is more to the sound than simple drum beats, Chuck is always ready to take a left turn and one thing you’d never expect is the Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker on Break Your Legs, a song that borders on rap rock with a hard drum beat on a tune dedicated (not even subtly) to making sure you watch your mouth. There’s also a lot of smooth songs like the vibes on Simple Things (with The Internet’s Syd), the G-Funk song from the future Westside Connections, a tune that needs to gets blasted in the whip while the sun is still out and 9:15PM, a catchy song that features none other than R&B singer Jeremih.
Another great feature on this album is that the lyrical chemistry between the Kids is still there, with the two MCs trading bars about typical Cool Kids topics: clothes, shoes and cars and all the reasons why they’re the coolest rappers out there.
Chuck is still the lowkey one, cool, calm and collected on the track but ready to paint a picture in his verses. Chuck’s come a long way as a rapper and he knows it; his flow is a lot more focused and he mentions it on Checkout, saying: “You niggas prayin’, you ain’t got your shit together, My beats got better, and my bars got heavy”.
Mikey on the other hand has always brought more energy and a cocky but clever confidence in bars and flow and the best track to put their lyricism on show is On The Set. With features from underground rappers Smoke DZA and Boldy James, the four rappers go in over a dark and haunting old school beat. The features are another highlight on this album; singers like Syd and Joyce Wrice complete the vibes on the songs, with smooth voices that take the chill tunes to another level. Meanwhile HXLT stands out as the perfect rapper to feature on Break Your Legs, (despite never even hearing of him before) as he captures the knock your teeth out energy the song needs.
The album delivered everything a Cool Kids fan wants to hear, showing you just how Chuck and Mike developed by themselves over the past five years. Chuck is now a rapper finally on par with Mikey and a producer that in my opinion is still miles ahead of most right now. Mikey can still glide over Chuck’s beats and sound effortlessly cocky. Together they’re almost on Outkast’s level.
The final song, ‘Too Smooth’ (which samples One Two, a track from their Bake Sale EP) ties everything together with a track that brings that old school Cool Kids style. Chuck and Mike keep it consistent with some of their best verses on the whole album like they weren’t even trying. It’s just like Hannibal put it on The Moonlanding: “It’s The Cool Kids, back at it again, still kids and still cool“.
Listen to the whole project below: