'88 Til Inanity 

The Cool Kids Are A'ight

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Conventional wisdom, whatever that is, holds the late '80s to be hiphop's "golden age," back when hiphop music had substance, style, and—best of all—fun. It was worlds away from the barren shores of where today's emcees have taken it, with their tales of money, hos, and clothes—you know, "all a nigga knows." So when the duo of Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish—the Chicago/Detroit crew known as the Cool Kids—make it their personal mission to bring '88 back, it should be a refreshing return to the real, right? Well...

Ah, hipster-hop is really such an ugly term—its root word is so often indiscriminately used to label anybody in white sunglasses. Adbusters magazine ran a piece labeling so-called hipster culture as "The Dead End of Western Civilization," a culture totally devoid of anything genuine or vital, cannibalizing the past. While I'd normally dismiss that sort of generalization as lazy, it actually applies pretty well to the Cool Kids.

Their strain of hiphop is definitely fun (Who couldn't go dumb to "Black Mags" or "What it Is"?), and Inglish deserves credit as being one of the few producers that's clearly trying to pay some kind of homage to the under-appreciated beat science of Rick Rubin. It's just that on the mic, Mikey and Chuck are not so much Erick and Parrish as they are Kid 'n Play (minus the charisma, and the kick-step—wouldn't wanna scuff those vintage Jordans). The two emcees, while free of the regulation gangsta posturing of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, don't have too much going on aside from their eBay swagger and trademark '80s signifiers. Amateurish flows and rinse-repeat name-checking of BMX bikes, herringbone chains, Starter caps, and boomboxes are not quite enough to captivate for much longer than the 30-odd minute span of their first official release, The Bake Sale EP. Hopefully their upcoming LP, When Fish Ride Bicycles, manages to display some real personality—or else they're sure to go the way of the Cabbage Patch.

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