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Chuck Inglish (of The Cool Kids) Interview

August 19, 2009
The Cool Kids may have easily digestible lyrics, trunk-rattling beats, and loud clothing, but don’t let that fool you: they’re as indie-minded as anyone without a deal. The duo of Chicago’s Mikey Rocks and Mount Clemons, Ill. emcee/producer Chuck Inglish made their own buzz, and have avoided the pitfalls of major label politics by avoiding major labels altogether. They haven’t avoided major label type success though, as The Cool Kids have rode their brand of fun, nostalgic hip-hop to a loyal fan base, and advertisement/placement deals with video games, TV shows and brands such as NBA 2K9, Entourage and Rhapsody. To help get fans ready for the Cool Kids’ show with Clipse and Big Sean at Saint Andrews this Sunday, August 23, Chuck Inglish chopped it up with MichiganHipHop about how staying true to yourself can pay dividends.
You guys don’t come out with material very often, but whenever you do, it always pops. What inspired that “quality over quantity” approach your music?
Why wouldn’t you? When is quantity over quality ever a good situation? Would you rather have a lot of bad shitty food, or would you rather have a little bit of good food? I would always take the latter, just because it’s better. No one wants to recycle…people get over shit fast. I know I do, so I treat my music like I would want to listen to it. If I wasn’t us, and I liked our music, I wouldn’t like us to come out all the time with some bullshit. I would rather us wait till we have something that was cohesive together and makes sense, so nobody can go back and say that we did anything lackluster.
Will you have another mixtape before your album?
Nah, we’re done with mixtapes for a minute. Mixtapes will be way out of style before we come back with one of those. …On That’s Stupid, I really didn’t make any original beats for that, I just chopped up some samples. So that was just six songs sampling, in case you wanted to hear something for the summer. Gone Fishin’ was an album, just because we didn’t want to go through the situations you have to go through in order to put a record out the regular way. It’s a headache to put out a real album, and people don’t know that. … The advantages of the Internet and the people we connect to through the Internet, it was just easy to go about that.
We got up with Don because we had all became pretty good friends over the past couple months prior to doing the mixtape. It wasn’t, “Let’s get up with Don Cannon to do a mixtape.” It was, “Let’s do something, since we know each other and we want to put something out.” The next couple things you hear will be records from us. When the industry people figure out what they want to do, we’ll still be doing old school shit. We’ll put out the CDs, vinyl, and whatever people want to listen to.
Why the album title, When Fish Ride Bicycles?
Um, no real reason, man. We were watching TV, I think it was a Fresh Prince episode. I don’t remember what happened; I think it was when Carlton was trying to go to the Playboy Mansion, and Uncle Phil told him he could go when fish ride bicycles. [laughs] We were like, “All right. Let’s call our album that.” Shit kind of makes sense.
It’s cool, and I’m glad people don’t take offense to it. But our shit, we don’t make it for everyone else. The majority of it is inside jokes to us. When we’re rapping, half the shit we’re talking about, we’re just talking to each other. It’s just cool that people are entertained by it. I never thought any really good music was done with the intentions of pleasing the masses. People will like it because you like it, and you’re you, so they’ll dig you for that. … The whole point of art or music is for people to feel where you’re coming from, not you try to figure out where they’re coming from.
Like you said, you guys don’t try to pander to outside audiences at all. Is that why you aren’t involved in the major label system?
I don’t really believe in that system. I don’t think that system has any will toward helping music progress. It’s just at a point now where they’re trying to get paid off of it. If people take offense to that, if the shoe fits, wear it—do something about it. The same old people that have been running the labels since they were getting money off of it, are the same people trying to get the same money out of it they did the first time. The shit ain’t workin’…so what can you do for me, besides give me some money that ain’t mine and take me to a video station that ain’t even playing videos? When you don’t have none of the outlets popping, what’s your purpose? Who listens to the radio? I haven’t listened to the radio in I don’t know how long. I’ve never heard any of my songs on the radio—not because I was listening for them, but because I don’t listen to the shit. And if it’s on TV, I’ve already seen it on the Internet 50,000 times prior to seeing it on TV. You would think TV would try to beat the Internet out. But they don’t give a fuck, neither. So it’s like, why jump on a sinking ship? …
I don’t know too many artists signed to major labels that are having a good time. They don’t care about the music; they care about the hits. But what the hell is a hit? You can’t make a hit. A hit happens by accident. Certain people like it, they tell other people, it becomes a mood, then it becomes a song that everyone gravitates toward. But if you’re sitting there trying to make a hit, you’re going to make some bullshit.
Now that I know what makes you take that approach, I want to know what goes into your sound. What do you guys like about the 80s aesthetic?
The 80s are when it started. Most people don’t go back to 80s rock, because rock didn’t really start there. All the best bands have roots grounded where things originated at. You look at The White Stripes, they sound like they could be in any other decade, starting from the 1960s to now. It’s kind of timeless music. Even when Hip Hop started, why so many people gravitated toward it; it wasn’t just the thing to do; the shit was fun, it was crazy. … It was party music, it was music to get shit started. It was beats that made you bob your head and made you want to roll your window down and let people know you were listening to the shit. That doesn’t exist anymore, but I’ve never let it go. I didn’t get over it.
Despite you guys not being on a major label, you have a lot of big things going on. You have music on the NBA 2K9 video game, commercials, songs on TV shows. How does that world differ from the music world?
I don’t know. The only reason I feel we got any of that is because of what the music had done. It was purely off of our music. Most people don’t even know what we look like, but they know what we dress like. They don’t know what we look like, but they know exactly when they hear a song that sounds like ours. That’s purely off of … being who we were. It’s not hard to package something that you don’t have to come up with something for. We’re always willing to get down for something cool. When the opportunities come along—which happens for a lot of people, but if you don’t have the right people in place, they’ll talk you out of it. If you don’t have the right people in place, you can miss out on opportunities that any artist that is grinding the way we’re doing it, it can happen for.
That world’s not different, because we’re not trying to be in that world. They just happen to collaborate with musicians, and that’s what they wanted to do. I don’t think they would respect us as much if we were trying to be in that world. We’re really in our own world; that’s the biggest explanation I can give. … If you want to do a commercial, just let us see what the commercial looks like and we’re probably cool with it. Say, “We have this idea,” and we listen to it. A lot of people don’t listen to it. Some people think they get to a certain point where things are beneath them or beyond them, and there’s no reason for us to ever think that way. It’s not us; it’s our music and the talents we’ve been blessed with, and that can be taken from you at any point. You always want to keep your eye open and ear open to stuff that is new and different that you can be a part of.

RESIZETHECOOLKIDS - 5The Cool Kids may have easily digestible lyrics, trunk-rattling beats, and loud clothing, but don’t let that fool you: they’re as indie-minded as anyone without a deal. The duo of Chicago’s Mikey Rocks (pictured right) and Mount Clemons, Mich. emcee/producer Chuck Inglish (pictured left) used songs such as “Black Mags,” “Gold And A Pager,” and “Pennies” to create a buzz on their own, and they’ve avoided the pitfalls of major label politics by avoiding major labels altogether. Their first two projects, The Bake Sale and That’s Stupid, were released independently. Aside from all-star collaborations with the likes of Ludacris and Bun B, the closest their own projects have gotten to relying on a cosign was the DJ Don Cannon-assisted Gone Fishin’ mixtape (download here). They haven’t avoided big business success though, as The Cool Kids have rode their brand of fun, nostalgic hip-hop to a loyal fan base, and advertisement/placement deals with video games, TV shows and brands such as NBA 2K9 and Entourage. To help get fans ready for the Cool Kids’ show with Clipse and Big Sean at Saint Andrews this Sunday, August 23, Chuck Inglish chopped it up with MichiganHipHop about how staying true to yourself can pay dividends.

You guys don’t come out with material very often, but whenever you do, it always pops. What inspired that “quality over quantity” approach your music?
Why wouldn’t you? When is quantity over quality ever a good situation? Would you rather have a lot of bad shitty food, or would you rather have a little bit of good food? I would always take the latter, just because it’s better. No one wants to recycle…people get over shit fast. I know I do, so I treat my music like I would want to listen to it. If I wasn’t us, and I liked our music, I wouldn’t like us to come out all the time with some bullshit. I would rather us wait till we have something that was cohesive together and makes sense, so nobody can go back and say that we did anything lackluster.

Will you have another mixtape before your debut albumWhen Fish Ride Bicycles?
Nah, we’re done with mixtapes for a minute. Mixtapes will be way out of style before we come back with one of those. … On That’s Stupid, I really didn’t make any original beats for that, I just chopped up some samples. So that was just six songs sampling, in case you wanted to hear something for the summer. Gone Fishin’ was an album, just because we didn’t want to go through the situations you have to go through in order to put a record out the regular way. It’s a headache to put out a real album, and people don’t know that. … The advantages of the Internet and the people we connect to through the Internet, it was just easy to go about that.

We got up with Don because we had all became pretty good friends over the past couple months prior to doing the mixtape. It wasn’t, “Let’s get up with Don Cannon to do a mixtape.” It was, “Let’s do something, since we know each other and we want to put something out.” The next couple things you hear will be records from us. When the industry people figure out what they want to do, we’ll still be doing old school shit. We’ll put out the CDs, vinyl, and whatever people want to listen to.

Why the album title, When Fish Ride Bicycles?
Um, no real reason, man. We were watching TV, I think it was a Fresh Prince (of Bel-Air) episode. I don’t remember what happened; I think it was when Carlton was trying to go to the Playboy Mansion, and Uncle Phil told him he could go when fish ride bicycles. [laughs] We were like, “All right. Let’s call our album that.” Shit kind of makes sense.

It’s cool, and I’m glad people don’t take offense to it. But our shit, we don’t make it for everyone else. The majority of it is inside jokes to us. When we’re rapping, half the shit we’re talking about, we’re just talking to each other. It’s just cool that people are entertained by it. I never thought any really good music was done with the intentions of pleasing the masses. People will like it because you like it, and you’re you, so they’ll dig you for that. … The whole point of art or music is for people to feel where you’re coming from, not you try to figure out where they’re coming from.

Like you said, you guys don’t try to pander to outside audiences at all. Is that why you aren’t involved in the major label system?
I don’t really believe in that system. I don’t think that system has any will toward helping music progress. It’s just at a point now where they’re trying to get paid off of it. If people take offense to that, if the shoe fits, wear it—do something about it. The same old people that have been running the labels since they were getting money off of it, are the same people trying to get the same money out of it they did the first time. The shit ain’t workin’…so what can you do for me, besides give me some money that ain’t mine and take me to a video station that ain’t even playing videos? When you don’t have none of the outlets popping, what’s your purpose? Who listens to the radio? I haven’t listened to the radio in I don’t know how long. I’ve never heard any of my songs on the radio—not because I was listening for them, but because I don’t listen to the shit. And if it’s on TV, I’ve already seen it on the Internet 50,000 times prior to seeing it on TV. You would think TV would try to beat the Internet out. But they don’t give a fuck, neither. So it’s like, why jump on a sinking ship?

I don’t know too many artists signed to major labels that are having a good time. They don’t care about the music; they care about the hits. But what the hell is a hit? You can’t make a hit. A hit happens by accident. Certain people like it, they tell other people, it becomes a mood, then it becomes a song that everyone gravitates toward. But if you’re sitting there trying to make a hit, you’re going to make some bullshit.

Now that I know what makes you take that approach, I want to know what goes into your sound. What do you guys like about the 80s aesthetic?
The 80s are when it started. Most people don’t go back to 80s rock, because rock didn’t really start there. All the best bands have roots grounded where things originated at. You look at The White Stripes, they sound like they could be in any other decade, starting from the 1960s to now. It’s kind of timeless music. Even when Hip Hop started, why so many people gravitated toward it; it wasn’t just the thing to do; the shit was fun, it was crazy. … It was party music, it was music to get shit started. It was beats that made you bob your head and made you want to roll your window down and let people know you were listening to the shit. That doesn’t exist anymore, but I’ve never let it go. I didn’t get over it.

How much Michigan Hip Hop do you listen to?
I know about the majority of it. I used to listen to Dayton Family and MC Breed in high school. I listened to Trick Trick when I was in middle school. Every Detroit rapper I’ve heard of. It was crazy, because the majority of people, when I was in high school or middle school, they didn’t know who Slum Village was. I didn’t know who Slum Village was until I got to college. I started doing homework, and I figured everything out. … I was a big rap fan. I had as much as I could have. And when the Internet came, I had all the shit I could get off that. I had everything I wanted to know about. There was no way I could be stomped, you couldn’t put me up on nothin’.

The reason I asked is because your beats have a Detroit element to them, but they still sound completely different. They sound like you could be influenced by Dilla or Dabrye.
Not really. Some of them did, but it’s not because I was conscious of it. Those were things I still wanted to hear, so I would look to have those in the songs I was making just because it was something that kept me entertained. Certain pauses in beats and things being unquarantized [sic], that’s highly Dilla-ish, but it’s not. Those were just the techniques used.

You’ve done beats for other artists—Amanda Diva, Bullet, etc. Do you like making music outside of the “Cool Kids sound?”
Yeah, I do it a lot. I’ve got songs for everybody. More of my music sounds less like Cool Kids shit. I’m working on Tennille’s album, and that sounds like nothing I’ve ever put together. She’s the girl who’s always with us and sings the majority of our shit, she’s on the “Jump Rope” song. I’m working on her stuff now, and I played all instruments. I just wrote full songs. I didn’t really make any beats for it; sometimes I don’t feel like making beats. I write full compositions, and figure out how I can make things work without the benefits of using synthesized instruments where it can be easier.

Despite you guys not being on a major label, you have a lot of big things going on. You have music on the NBA 2K9 video game, commercials, songs on TV shows. How does that world differ from the music world?
I don’t know. The only reason I feel we got any of that is because of what the music had done. It was purely off of our music. Most people don’t even know what we look like, but they know what we dress like. They don’t know what we look like, but they know exactly when they hear a song that sounds like ours. That’s purely off of … being who we were. It’s not hard to package something that you don’t have to come up with something for. We’re always willing to get down for something cool. When the opportunities come along—which happens for a lot of people, but if you don’t have the right people in place, they’ll talk you out of it. If you don’t have the right people in place, you can miss out on opportunities that any artist that is grinding the way we’re doing it, it can happen for.

That world’s not different, because we’re not trying to be in that world. They just happen to collaborate with musicians, and that’s what they wanted to do. I don’t think they would respect us as much if we were trying to be in that world. We’re really in our own world; that’s the biggest explanation I can give. … If you want to do a commercial, just let us see what the commercial looks like and we’re probably cool with it. Say, “We have this idea,” and we listen to it. A lot of people don’t listen to it. Some people think they get to a certain point where things are beneath them or beyond them, and there’s no reason for us to ever think that way. It’s not us; it’s our music and the talents we’ve been blessed with, and that can be taken from you at any point. You always want to keep your eye open and ear open to stuff that is new and different that you can be a part of.

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  1. MichiganHipHop.com » The Cool Kids “Knocked Down” (Video) says:

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