The Cool Kids’ “Checkout”


The proto-viral duo has reconvened to release a surprise album, “Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe.”


When Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish first gained notoriety, in 2007, as
the Cool Kids, music was just starting to court social media as a means
of distribution. MySpace had stumbled into a second wind of relevance,
as amateur artists self-released tracks straight from their pages; to
have gained popularity through the Internet was still considered novel,
and there was a natural segregation between artists who had CDs in
stores and those who had links on the Web. The Cool Kids were poster
children for this next wave, earning fans around the country from their
native Chicago with proto-viral MySpace singles. But they were more than
early adopters of a new medium. They offered up a new sound as well:
terse, lumpy drums; icy, odd synths; and deadpan vocal delivery of airy
boasts about sneaker boutiques and BMX bikes. They enjoyed a kind of
focussed fame: deals with tasteful labels like Diplo’s Mad Decent, a tour with M.I.A.,
and a Rhapsody commercial with Sara Bareilles that still
holds up.

A decade later, the duo has reconvened to release a surprise album,
“Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe,” a nearly crystallized version of
the musicians’ earliest form. Mikey’s elastic handling of syllables throughout
“Checkout,” the record’s lead single, is as uninhibited as it’s ever
been, and Chuck, who also acts as the group’s producer, is all
gravel-voiced saunter. You can hear their influence on rappers
like Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky: they all are among a
narrow generation of post-boom bap, pre-trap artists who cleared the
room before there was much to fill it with. Unlike many of their
successors, the Cool Kids still get their kicks from witty couplets and
punch lines: “Good weed, gluten-free” is as precise a line as one can
ask for from an unsung pair of rap nerds staging a long overdue