Doc Zeus is 184 in blog years.
In the Internet age, our fickle and cruel digital rulers have gotten us addicted to the ceaseless ooze of information. The maw must be fed, context is irrelevant and nothing matters beyond the fleeting moments of the Now. All is forgotten. Everything is disposable. Nihilism is our one true God. At least, that’s how I imagine the Cool Kids must have felt after unfairly languishing in label purgatory the last few years.
In regards to the Great Internet Blog Hype Cycle, the Cool Kids are all but fossilized relics of an age that has long lived past the expiration date on the milk carton. Their music belongs to the practically Precambrian era of 2008 AD and the explosion of hipster rap life forms that grew and sprouted in the wild like neon day-glo weeds. It seems as if entire generations of rappers have had their very careers flash before us since the Cool Kids first emerged then faded into the Drake New World and the Based Age.
The internet seems to artificially speed up the period of relevance for a young rap group, as fans and record executives quickly shift their attention to the next big thing, leaving fledging rap acts to struggle and rot. The Cool Kids could have easily slid into the Papoosian black hole of permanent irrelevance, but the group persevered to see their debut album, When Fish Ride Bicycles through. And surprisingly, it’s pretty damn good.
If you are familiar with their work, When Fish Ride Bicycles is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Cool Kids after years of grinding on the underground. Their music continues to be 808 heavy, neo-80s party rap delivered with the group’s characteristic icy cool demeanor and boastful rhymes. Chuck English and Mikey Rocks are not seeking to reinvent the wheel that made them internet sensations, instead choosing to keep the album remarkably straight forward and simple.
The beats are crisp and bright, the rhymes have an understated, goofy wit and the songs are about what they know best – bikes, girls and trucks with the booming system. It’s the type of album that plays best over beers and barbecue at an evening summer rooftop party in Brooklyn (Yes, those are awesome, haters. Embrace your hipster gods!) or road trip music on a drive to the beach for the weekend.
It’s not a particularly ambitious album, nor does it need to be. Even during their initial rise to prominence, the Cool Kids were never acknowledged as particularly deft lyricists or visionary musical innovators on par with our great god-emperor, Kanye the Tempestuous. They simply made non-polarizing neo-boom bap but with a particular flair for goofy nostalgic fun that somewhat eluded their early-00s predecessors like Little Brother.
Their strength was that the music was fun and never was concerned with condescending to mainstream rap fans or proselytizing to the audience about the group’s claims to Golden Age authenticity. In its own way, it was the truest example of the aesthetic they were aping. Their music was about fun first, last and only. The best songs on Fish stick strictly to that formula. On “Sour Apples,” Chuck and Mikey trade verses about the girls at clubs who won’t give them the time of day while on the Mayer Hawthorne-assisted “Swimsuits,” the guys rap about what happens after the girls finally warm up to them and get in their swim wear with them. The Neptunes produce a few tracks and add a swaggering 70s funk to “Summer Jam” and “Get Right” while Bun B and Ghostface roll through the proceedings at different points acting like sage older brothers as they kick warm and imposing rhymes about the same subjects. Clocking in around 40 minutes, When Fish Ride Bicycles is a light summery album that stays true to itself.
Considering the struggles the group went through in order to get this album released, it could have been easy for the Cool Kids to become bitter and fall into the trap that many fledgling rap artists do when they become stuck in label purgatory. They could have easily bent to the will of their label and made an album full of pre-packaged pop songs with a Haley Williams hook and a Trans-Euro Smeezington shine. And it would have been just as easy for them to become as bitterly obsessed with settling old scores with record industry crabs and made an album of obtuse, jaded songwriting that plagued the recent Saigon album. Instead, the kids played it smart and remained true to the foundation they built for themselves as they sent one song at a time to the blogs. It worked. Wale take notice.
MP3: The Cool Kids ft. Bun B-“Gas Station”
MP3: The Cool Kids ft. Ghostface Killah-“Penny Hardaway”