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05 February 2008

Exclusive: Cool Kids Q&A

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The Cool Kids are hip-hop babies -- for real. Evan “Chuck Inglish” Ingersoll, 23, and Antoine “Mikey Rocks” Reed, 19, weren’t raised on classic soul or funk like many of rap’s older stars. Instead, they grew up in the suburbs of Mount Clemens, Michigan and  Matteson, Illinois, respectively, on a steady diet of Nas, Jay-Z, Slick Rick, and Eric B. and Rakim. They’re more than familiar with the music that today’s “hip-hop is dead” purists yearn for. Their video for “Black Mags” is an ode to BMX bikes and rap’s golden ‘80s -- with fly girls rockin’ huge doorknockers and d-boys donning crisp kicks and Starter hats. It’s far from a gimmick though: the Chicago duo channels the carefree and energetic essence of that era rather than trying to recreate it. 2008 should see the release of an EP or full-length from these critical darlings, who Rhapsody recently tapped for a starring role in a commercial with Sara Bareilles. We reunited with the Kids in New York. Warning: Artists who don’t support downloading won’t be too happy with the interview that follows.

Rhapsody: What would you say is the most trouble you guys got into coming?                
Mikey: I was 16 on Halloween and we were driving around egging people and throwing water balloons. We had on all-black and ski masks in my friend Mike’s Dodge Intrepid. We threw eggs at this Explorer. Then the headlights came on and we were like, “Oh sh*t.” We sped off and then they start chasing us. They rammed us from behind and wouldn’t stop. I think it was this girl that went to our school’s dad and he was a known drug dealer, so he might have thought it was something else. At one point we stopped and dude hopped out the back with a baseball bat and shattered Mike’s back windshield. Then we got to a dead end somehow. I was like, “Yo, everyone might as well run ‘cause this dude is trying to kill us.” And then we heard shots. The same night the cops came to all our houses. We came back the next day. And the car was totally totaled. I was grounded for, like, ever.

Chuck, when you were young, your father made you memorize “Paid in Full”...
Chuck: My mom was upset like, “Why do you have a three year old rapping this song about money?” But my dad liked the song. My grandfather used to have me do it anytime there was a family function. I just came to love the cool songs that made me feel like I was the popular kid. It also goes into the point, what song out right now would a dad make their kid memorize? There’s not too many. It’s sad. When people ask, “Why do we make music?” It’s because there aren’t songs that [are] cool to teach your kid. Half of the time, it’s crap or inappropriate.

You guys obviously have a heavy old school-influence. How far back does your musical frame of reference go?
Chuck: His is more like the beginning of Jay-Z and Nas. Mine was more towards the end of where all those crews like the Get Fresh Crew were splitting up. It doesn’t make sense for people to think that we couldn’t know [that music]. If that’s the first thing you hear, then that’s all you know -- it’s like your language. Are people gonna say, “Hey, those kids don’t know anything about English because they weren’t around when the language was developed.” We came up on it. It wasn’t like, “Let’s do the old school thing because it’s cool.” Nobody is gonna tell Jack White he doesn’t know what’s going on when Led Zeppelin was poppin’. I’m stubborn. I don’t wanna sound futuristic. I wanna sound like [when] it started because that’s what made it such the phenomenon. Back then, they were bringing people together. It was punk kids coming to Afrika Bambaataa shows.

How do you guys feel about your “Ringtone Rap” peers, like Hurricane Chris and Soulja Boy  Tell' Em?
Mikey: A lot of people give dudes like that flack because it’s like, “Oh, you’re not a true lyricist.” That stuff is fun. If it’s making the party jump and it’s a dope song, why hate on the dudes?

Chuck: Hurricane Chris can rap. I actually get mad that people throw him in that category. “A Bay Bay” was a dope song if no one knew what it meant. Bay Bay was a DJ. That was some real  New Orleansbounce club that popped off. “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was a song that was two years old.

Mikey: People are thinking these songs are for you to sit in your room while you’re reading your book and analyze. These are songs you play at a party and have a good time.

Chuck: I don’t wanna hear Talib Kweli at a party.

Mikey: I’m not trying to hear “Ether” at a party. That would make me feel weird. Their stuff is made for certain situations.

How did “Black Mags” come about?
Chuck: The dude that did the video, Joe Esquivel, he comes over and we wanted to do a little short, “How Chuck Makes Beats” video. I was just going through sound banks and I found the snare that was in there and I had just got some velocity sensitive pads, like MPC pads. I started playing on them and then I hit the bass. ... I listened to it and couldn’t stop thinking about a rap to write to it, and the first line of the song just came to me.

Mikey: He had his verse and then I was thinking about what would be ill for a hook concept. Then he started leaning toward, “Pedal down the foothill,” from “Gold and a Pager,” and then I was thinking, “Damn, that line I said in ‘1,2,’ ‘I’m on the Dyno with the black mag’ --  put that with the half you already have in there.”

How long did it take to shoot that video?
Chuck: Three days. Joe got a couple of his boys he shot skate videos with to help out. We did some shows to get $2000. Some kid that went to the same school I went to was like, “We should put these animations in there. At first, I was like, “Why?” Next thing you know, we saw the test shots for it and we were like, “Damn.”

One of the first things that stuck out about the video were how tight Mikey’s jeans were.
Chuck: We’ve heard that shit so many times. [Laughs].

Mikey: Yeah, it’s more or less a shocker because I’m black. A lot of other ethnic groups rock tight jeans. It wasn’t really anything new to me. I guess people didn’t know what to think. It’s just a weird first impression for some people. I sometimes forget that there’s a whole rest of the world that doesn’t live in a city.

Chuck: You get those people that are like, Oh, this video sucks ‘cause the dude’s pants are tight.

How hard was it to translate your strong online presence into actual airplay and shows?
Mikey: The online community is such a credible source of finding new stuff that it was kind of like our mixtape. Nowadays, a blogger is more credible than a huge hip-hop magazine.

Chuck: Before the blogs, we made sure to get all our joints to the DJs that mattered. We came through Flosstradamus. So with them having the plugs they had, other DJs would be like, “What’s that?” [DJs] were trying to beat other people to playing it. So we knew we had something. We don’t wanna be a part of the old formula. ... The music that we’re making [is] for this first “album” that is not an album. Songs that will get put on a disc, so you can either have or not have. What we’re doing right now is what we want people to know first.

Mikey: The right format to present it to the public.

Chuck: Packaging, format, how we tell you about it, all that. Everybody is like, “Aright, so when’s the album coming out?” We’re probably just going to keep leaking songs till we figure this thing out. Why not? Who cares? If we have a song and you want to hear it, you can get it. So what is the point? I’m just really rebellious toward what I can and can’t do. I can do whatever I want. If it was up to me, I’d just make CDs and put them out. You can’t sell music, man. It’s not possible. You can sell tickets to a show so you can do those songs. We’re past selling music. It’s boring. Saying, “Here, buy my CD,” is like saying, “I hate you. Just give me it. What are you going to do with my $12?”

Did you see Ghostface’s blog entry where he was mad that people didn’t buy his new album?
Chuck: It hurts to hear Ghostface say that. Artists that wanna protect their music or [say] don’t bootleg or don’t download, what are you gonna do? It’s like trying to stop everybody from doing drugs. You gonna tell somebody to not smoke weed? It’s not gonna happen. We have this Totally Flossed Out EP that we didn’t do or put together or even name that people are downloading. For a while, we tried to stop all the downloading sites. And then as you put one down, there’s another one that pops up. So it’s like that [arcade game] -- bang one head, the other one pops up. You gonna keep on doing that?

Has your label Chocolate Industries been telling you guys not to leak songs?
Chuck: It has nothing to do with the label. People might criticize us for it like, “Oh, you’re stupid. You should want to get your money.” This is why our whole generation of entertainers is so out of their mind right now. Everybody is cracked out ‘cause of that greed. If you’re good and you’re true to yourself, money will come. First of all, I didn’t know what else I would ever do.

You had no other aspirations?
Chuck: I had no other aspirations. People are like, “Are you guys gonna make a clothing line?” I would never want to be a part of a business where I had to develop clothes. I like to wear them. A fragrance line? I wear soap. The only thing we really like doing is making songs and meeting other musicians that like to make songs. There is an industry where we can all make music and live comfortably. No one understands that we’re on the brink of not having that any more because there’s nothing good left. I don’t know what happened. You got actresses making albums. There’s no way that should be happening.

Mikey: Everybody wants to be the quarterback when you might be a good lineman. Nobody wanna be the manager of the zoo.

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cool kids are soooo ill saw them in toronto two weeks ago

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