The Cool Kids changed everything. Without Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks uniting to make Golden Age-inspired hip-hop with fresh raps about their love of clothes, girls and pimped out BMXes, we wouldn't be where we are today.
The racks of JD Sports wouldn’t be filled with snapbacks, and artists like A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$ and Tyler, The Creator wouldn’t find themselves at the forefront of hip-hop music. It’s clear that The Cool Kids were ahead of their time. And sadly, like many of pop culture’s most pioneering figures, they don’t get the credit for the movement they have inspired.
Inglish, real name Evan Ingersoll, isn’t about to accept this. He’s not happy with the way that the public have perceived things, and is preparing to change all that by throwing another spanner in the works.
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Chuck Inglish, ‘Easily’ feat. Ab-Soul and Mac Miller, from ‘Convertibles’
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“People aren’t going to see this coming. and I like to do things I’m not really expected to do,” he tells Clash of his forthcoming solo record, ‘Convertibles’. “People will listen to Chuck Inglish instrumental tapes, but not take as much of a chance on my solo [record] because they don’t know what it’s going to sound like. ‘Oh he’s rapping?’ Well, I rapped in The Cool Kids, I was on every song, and I made the beats too.”
While many may just see him as The Cool Kids’ beat maker, ‘Convertibles’ proves him to be a lot more. Recorded around 2012, the album features a number of today’s hottest artists, including Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa and Action Bronson “before they were famous”.
“But those features that I got, these people were friends and people I respected at the time that I was making that record,” he explains of the star-studded line-up. “Their careers have taken off since we’ve done that record. And maybe that’s just the fact that I can temperature gauge, I know when shit’s going to be dope. If the record had come out in 2012 like I thought it was, this wouldn’t be the same conversation – because those people aren’t known to you, they’re people that I’m introducing to you, so it’s not that much of a feature.”
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"When he asked me for a beat it was like, 'F*ck yeah, because I’ve been listening to your shit in the car for a long ass time'."
Chuck on first working with Danny Brown
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Despite such a strong line-up of guests, ‘Convertibles’ shouldn’t be treated as a compilation. In fact, if it was up to Inglish the features wouldn’t even be listed, as he feels that would encourage people to sit with the whole LP, rather than skipping to contributors they better recognise.
Breaking new artists is undoubtedly Inglish’s forte, having drawn interest to newcomers such as Danny Brown, his cousin Boldy James and the aforementioned Chance, all before there was any real buzz surrounding them.
“Me and Danny have been crossing paths since like early ’07,” Chuck tells us. “The camp he came out of and all of the people he was working with, we have a lot of the same friends in music, in Detroit.” Inglish produced ‘I’m Out’ for Brown’s 2010 LP ‘The Hybrid’: “When he asked me for a beat it was like, 'F*ck yeah, because I’ve been listening to your shit in the car for a long ass time'. And our song to me is one of the best ones, not even because I made it, but because we come from the same place and I can see exactly what he’s saying.”
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Chuck Inglish, ‘Four 12s’ feat. Da$h and Retch, from the mixtape ‘Droptops’
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Having garnered a lot of blog buzz this past year, Inglish’s album-closing, Chance-featuring ‘Glam’ actually pre-dates the Chicago MC’s debut mixtape ‘10 Day’, let alone 2013’s breakthrough ‘Acid Rap’.
“I’m going to make this song now, so that people can see where you’re going,” explains Inglish of his foresight in bringing Chance into his solo venture. “Chance was just high-energy rap, and not many people knew that he was singing at that point. ‘Glam’ freeze-frames Chance The Rapper in a time when I thought he was going to be the biggest f*cking thing happening. If you needed a song in that pure raw talent phase of your life, that’s where the production side comes in.”
“I’m trying to make music that sustains through time,” says Chuck of the album’s goal, citing N.E.R.D’s ‘In Search Of…’ and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Justified’ as the kind of lasting power he aspires to. “Those albums will play 30 years from now, and will still sound futuristic and new. With certain records, you can tell the rules didn’t apply to them at that time, and they last.”
Things certainly look good going by his back catalogue. Throw on The Cool Kids’ ‘The Bake Sale’ now and you’d think that it dropped last week. Despite the fact that most of the tracks on ‘Convertibles’ were recorded a couple of years ago, everything sounds new. Inglish attributes its diversity of styles and sounds to his background in DJing.
“That just comes from knowing that you can tie different songs together with different vibes, different tempos, but [they fit] together by having a common denominator, which is that groove or that bounce. That’s what I pride myself on.”
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Chuck Inglish, ‘Legs’ feat. Chromeo, from ‘Convertibles’
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From the dancefloor disco of the Chromeo-starring ‘Legs’ to the boom-bap hip-hop of ‘Easily’ and the ’90s R&B Uptown Remix sound of ‘Attitude’, ‘Convertibles’ takes us on a musical journey through a variety of moods and genres, all with Chuck’s own twists in effect.
“I sat in an airport on the way back from South By Southwest and I was listening to people who’d been to the interactive day, and they were just breaking shit apart,” Chuck recalls of his trip to Austin a few weeks back. “They couldn’t enjoy one thing that happened. We don’t let music be good anymore – we break the person that made it down so much that if the record was great, you take it with like a grain of salt.”
He certainly has a point: social media allows us all to be critics, and many of us are forgetting to be fans. Where ‘Convertibles’ may not be directly addressing social issues or taking a conceptual approach, this is a challenge in itself. “Instead of trying to get your approval I’m trying to say, ‘F*ck you, I bet you can’t say you don’t like this shit.’ That’s a challenge in itself too, and I’m down for that!” And if there’s nothing else that can be said about ‘Convertibles’, it’s an undeniably enjoyable listen.
Despite being an early adopter of social media, initially linking with Mikey Rocks and forming The Cool Kids via MySpace, Chuck blames it for the current lack of engagement and disposability of music.
“Now it has to go back to the start: let’s put out a song and see if people really like it,” he says. “You don’t get to check and see if your friend tweets about it first, so you can feel accepted enough to tweet about it second.”
He suggests that people are looking for acceptance by following the music they think they are supposed to like, as opposed to what they are naturally drawn to. “If you go out and hear it in a bar and you see other people that like it, that’s way more of a natural connection. Some cute girl mumbling the words at the bar, and you’re like, ‘Damn you like that song too?’ Instead of already knowing everybody has heard it already, as that burns the songs out faster.
“The discovery of music is what kept it pure. You can’t discover music anymore, because if somebody likes it they post it all over every blog before you even get out of school and it makes you not even want to hear it anymore.”
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The Cool Kids, ‘Rush Hour Traffic’, from ‘When Fish Ride Bicycles’
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Another perception that frustrates Chuck is the false assumption that there he has fallen out with his Cool Kids partner. “Why couldn’t two people that put out music for everybody else to enjoy have a f*cking break, without it being negative? Why couldn’t anybody write about the fact that here’s one group that understands each other enough to know when it’s not time to make music? When we do come back and we want to do it, it won’t be contrived. It [won’t be] a f*cking comeback record.”
The pair have both had success with their respective solo careers, and are planning to release a follow-up to 2011’s Cool Kids LP ‘When Fish Ride Bicycles’ later this year. But its recording has not yet started. “The album is going to be recorded all at once,” Chuck announces. “About three weeks before it comes out, [that’s] we’re going to record it. We haven’t done one f*cking song for it yet. We’re going to a city we’re not even telling people we’re in, and we’re going to record it the way we want to. And then there will be no singles released, we’re just going to drop that mother*cker.”
He hopes that this will allow the record to surpass the usual social media build, where fans are familiar with half of the tracks before the album’s released. “I want you to listen to that shit like you’d listen to it if it was a f*cking record in a record store, and you just wanted to see what it sounded like,” he explains. “People want the preview to the movie to be the movie before they go see it, and I’m not budging on that. I want to impress myself with how I put out a record, and f*ck everybody else.”
“I don’t mean that in a negative way,” he assures, leading into another soliloquy to finish up our conversation. “I’m doing this so that this music and this culture can exist still. The consumer has the full f*cking control, and it’s a dictatorship. I’m not f*cking doing that. It’s a revolution on this side. I’m not being dictated into making music the way other people that don’t make music do – those who don’t even have a CD collection can’t tell me shit. If you haven’t bought ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ on a f*cking CD, then you can’t tell me shit! And that’s how I feel!”
The Cool Kids changed everything, and from the passion and ideas that tick over in Chuck Inglish’s mind, it doesn’t seem like they are done making their mark yet.
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Words: Grant Brydon
‘Wu-Tang Forever’ came on two CDs, y’know. Find Chuck Inglish online, here.
‘Convertibles’ is released through Federal Prism on April 7th (UK).