The ’80s Ain’t Going Nowhere
On The Bake Sale, MySpace and music blog sensations The Cool Kids live up to the critical geekage by resurrecting the sound and spirit of hip-hop’s golden era. The Cool Kids, consisting of Chicago duo Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish, work primarily within the minimalist boom bap template of late ’80s hip-hop. Every woodblock, 808 kick drum, and punchy snare on the album is meticulously placed with old school vibe in mind. Opener “What Up Man” sets the aesthetic tone for the entire album. Here, like on most of The Bake Sale, the beat is the focal point of attention. Comprised of samples of the duo mouthing “tick,” “clap,” and “bass,” these vocalizations are played back on a drum machine. This is exactly what made old school hip-hop so fun, the most basic parts used to create a stylish, swaggering whole.
The standout track “88,” also the year Mikey Rocks was born, sounds like Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys. Over nasty drums, the duo laundry lists dances and fads that were in long before they were able to take part. Even one-hit wonders Men Without Hats get a shout-out in the middle breakdown section with a direct quote from “Safety Dance.”
On the closing track “Jingling,” listeners get a flow and swag that recalls Clipse (think “Mr. Me Too”) minus the coke talk. The LL Cool J-referencing “you’re jingling baby” chorus is the final in a long list of direct verbal and sonic attributions.
Long before everybody got a little paid and way too serious, this is what hip-hop was: freshness. While Mikey and Chuck aren’t God’s gift to MCing, their calm lyric delivery works well with their tracks. Throughout The Bake Sale, The Cool Kids knowingly wink, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, at the old school. What makes The Bake Sale work is the watchmaker-like precision of the beats and the easy swagger the duo displays on the mic.