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The Cool Kids

For a primer on the power of golden-age hip-hop, meet Chicago's Cool Kids, exhibit A. The signifiers are everywhere you listen. There's the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys" Starter cap, lovingly described in the opening bars of "Black Mags." There's a song simply titled "88," which pays similar homage to Guess jeans and vintage kicks, and scratches in a fat power chord that Def Jam purists will recognize and love. There's the spare, slow, bass-and-boom-bap sound that recalls any number of classic '80s duos (EPMD is most often cited). Funny thing: The Cool Kids, a.k.a. Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks, were both babies when the trends they're repping were first established. Regardless, there's no denying that the Cool Kids' clever odes to a simpler, less thug-centric time sound refreshingly fresh.

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