The Cool Kids are A+ students of old-school rap, and they make it sound so easy. The Chicago duo of Mikey Rocks (19) and Chuck Inglish (23) strip hip-hop down to stark funk beats, casual smears of bass, a bleep or blip or clap here or there and a laid-back flow that rarely rises above sotto voce. Their boasts are braggadoci(oh well) and they don't give a fuck if you believe the veracity of them. Think early Run-DMC crossed with Suicide (for the production) and LL Cool J on Quaaludes (for the delivery) and a staunch belief that less is more than enough.
The Cool Kids' new EP, The Bake Sale (Chocolate Industries), consists of 10 variations on this theme: blasé raps that ooze confidence and production so minimal you want to mentally fill in the gaps with sampled strings, chicken-scratch guitar riffs or brass stabs, but then you realize the tracks sound dope as hell as they are, in all their skeletal anti-glory.
After the unearned bluster of so much '00s hip-hop, the Cool Kids' slouching, heavy-lidded funk and understated self-awareness sound incredibly fresh. They've received a lot of hype so far, but to these jaded ears, it seems deserved. The Bake Sale is one of my favorite hip-hop releases of 2008, even if it is just a highly detailed and skilled parody of Reagan-era rap—though I believe the Cool Kids are sincere. Ultimately, though, I don't care if they're goofin' or troofin'. The Bake Sale is some lackadaisical, funkdamental awesomeness.
“Jingling” obviously refers to LL's “Jingling Baby,” but its laggard electro patter is much less hyper than Cool James' antecedent. The Cool Kids even acknowledge this when they rap about receiving a note that asks them to “pick up the pace.” But they steadfastly keep it chill, regardless. They rhyme “Spike Lee” with “They girlfriends want a guy just like me.” They flout thuggishness with “No sense in throwin' punches/Let's do lunch, man/You like me, too/Ain't no future in your frontin'.” In “Jingling,” whispers trump bellows and backward-sucking sounds usurp boom-bap. It's a weird universe the Cool Kids inhabit, and I, for one, am grateful.