The Bake Sale
On a humid evening during the final days of this year’s SXSW, The Cool Kids played to a crowd made up of white, thick-necked jocks and jockettes. The Girls Gone Wild crowd wanted to get retarded – Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish courteously provided the soundtrack for them. Their DJ played along; snatched clips of Cypress Hill and House Of Pain were slotted in among their originals. Tellingly, though, the biggest cheers and hand-waving were reserved for ‘Black Mags’ – The Cool Kids’ slinky, Dre-channelling paean to two-wheelers, proving the strength of their party-hardy, future classics. ‘The Bake Sale’ beats that truth home.
Leading the pack of the new wave of Chicago hip-hoppers (acquaint yourself also with Kid Sister and Flosstradamus), The Cool Kids are charging ahead by looking back. By re-energising old-school influences, Mikey and Chuck are subverting rap’s well-worn agenda. The skeletal beats of Rakim and Run-DMC’s cheap, synthy FX-box ring throughout the album (‘Jingling’ could even be on ‘Raising Hell’, nestled in-between ‘It’s Tricky’ and ‘Walk This Way’). ‘The Bake Sale’’s standout moments, however, are when these beats are peppered with elements of the Dirty South’s club action (‘Bassment Party’) or when hyphy meets Salem, as on ‘Gold And A Pager’.
Lyrically, it’s a similar story. Fellow Chicagoan Kanye West legitimised a kind of nerdy, suburban rap hero, while Lupe Fiasco took it to the next level with the comic-book geek-out concept LP ‘The Cool’. ‘The Bake Sale’ continues this grand tradition of deconstructing the 50ft-tall hard-man-of-rap image and talking about normal life.
Calling themselves the “new black version of the Beastie Boys” (on the nursery rhyme-esque ‘One Two’), they eschew hip-hop’s egotistical, confrontational edges for something more laid-back and fun. Witty, knowing rhymes about the convenience store (‘What Up Man’), Sega’n’cereal (‘A Little Bit Cooler’) and, um, how much they rock (‘Mikey Rocks’) slide up against low-slung beats, proving there’s more to hip-hop than getting shot nine times. “How gangsta is that? Not at all”, they rap on ‘A Little Bit Cooler’. Indeed, ‘The Bake Sale’ is way too good for posturing.