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The Cool Kids - The Bake Sale

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Artist: The Cool Kids

Album: The Bake Sale

Label: Chocolate Industries

Review date: Jun. 3, 2008

There’s been a lot of hoopla about Chicago’s The Cool Kids for the past year or so, and it’s fair to say that a lot of it has been deserved. The Cool Kids make solid hip hop that, one hopes, should prove more lasting than the ephemera that currently characterizes the genre. Regardless of their retrofitted fashion sense, their devotion to 1988, or whatever other stylistic choices they make, the Cool Kids are primarily about the beat and the rhyme. There’s no need to qualify it—there’s nothing “indie,” or “underground,” or location-specific about the Cool Kids. As “What Up Man,” The Bake Sale's direct and flawless opener, suggests, Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish are true to the form.

Still, there remains something worrisome about the duo. It is exactly their passion for 1980s memorabilia—the gold ropes, the flipped brims, the Xeroxed Marley Marl and Rick Rubin song constructions—that raises doubts about whether the Cool Kids are anything more than part of a backwards-looking fad.

The Bake Sale recycles a number of songs that were previously available on the group’s Myspace page and on their previous Totally Flossed Out mixtape. So for those listeners already familiar with the Cool Kids’ initial output, The Bake Sale is disappointing in its failure to reveal much new about who these fellows are and what path they might follow. The excellent "88" (which subtly tweaks J-Kwon's "Tipsy") and the bombed-speaker bass honk of “Black Mags” are reprised here. So too is the tired “Gold and a Pager,” a song whose joke—the Cool Kids still use beepers!—may thud louder than its plodding drumbeat.

The new material is similarly mixed. “A Little Bit Cooler” is a bright series of boasts, deadpanned in ambiguous self-derision, about the Cool Kids’ ahead-of-the-curve wardrobe and taste. It’s also the best pseudo-endorsement that Fruity Pebbles is likely to receive anytime soon. “Bassment Party,” however, sounds forced. Must every rapper with an inch of cleverness resort to Miami bass facsimiles so they can be lewd yet inoffensively comic? Miami bass was interesting because of its power to shock; in the hands of the Cool Kids and others, it has become little more than schlock.

So The Bake Sale is a hodgepodge of the inspired and the insipid. But why not show a little faith? The quality of the material here is high enough to grant the benefit of the doubt that Rocks and Inglish are worthy of acclaim for more than just their sense of fashion. For sure, the Cool Kids are lucky in a number of respects—they’re hardly the first rappers to use 1980s hip hop as their beacon and, because of current trends in popular youth culture, they do seem to be in the best position to become successful by doing it. But they’ve also got chops and, most impressively, have carved out a fresh sound in a cramped scene. They're not just in the right place at the right time.

The Bake Sale is therefore perhaps best described as a promise. It’s a record that is fine in its own right but is all the better for what it portends in the future. So why not take them at their word? The Bake Sale is worth believing.

By Ben Yaster

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