The Cool Kids’ sensibilities evoke images of hip-hop’s golden era in the late ’80s, yet the duo’s sound is neither as retro nor gimmicky as you would think. The two members — Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks — focus themselves around the idea of cool, yet (like most cool people) they both claim to do a lot of un-cool stuff. Newcomers to the scene, they’re humble and welcoming when approached, but they face the world with a “like us or leave us the fuck alone” attitude, which might partially explain the motivation behind their decision to self-release their debut album this summer. (“Out of spite” was their exact wording.)
The group’s first appearance in San Francisco, on May 11, embodied a similar spirit. The Chicago natives spent most of the evening mingling with the crowd, excited to see the likes of Kid 606, Trackademics, and Josie Stingray in attendance. Most artists are too jaded or burnt out to do that at this point. But once they hit the stage, they stepped inside their larger-than-life alter egos, where they are irrefutably cool. With hat brims turned up, skinny jeans, Jordans, gold chains and gold-rimmed glasses, I swore I was staring at the hybrid offspring of Big Daddy Kane and Spank Rock. The Cool Kids not only pay homage to the spirit of hip-hop, they breathe new life into it.
The live show was refreshing, devoid of the “this is real hip-hop” cliches that have come to mire the set of most artists not signed to major labels. While running through some of their more known songs — such as “One, Two” and “I Rock” — it was impressive to see a group with only four months of buzz behind it keep the entire crowd moving. Many of the songs they ran through, including “Black Mags” and “Cooler Than You,” had been unheard by nearly everyone in attendance. Sure, they may not have had the vocal presence and control of a Black Thought or the tightness of the Clipse but the most important thing they mastered is how to keep the show live. By the end of the show, they had half of the crowd up on stage with them during the encore and were hardly fazed by it.
The Cool Kids aren’t obsessed with being cool (they were hardly amused when I half-jokingly asked which one was cooler). They’re not trying to blow anyone away with lyrical acrobatics or flashy stage antics. They just do what they like and hope everyone else sees it the same way. The group has an EP, an album, and remixes (with the possibility of Chromeo’s “Fancy Footwork”) on the way, and I’m looking forward to them. This was one of the better shows I’ve been to this year. And if I come off as too much of a fan, fuck it. If you can’t have fun at a good show, why go at all?