Pop Life

The Distillery: The Cool Kids' "Going Fishin'" mixtape

Chuck "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll (Michigan) and Antoine "Mikey Rocks" Reed (Illinois) - the Cool Kids, to you - may qualify as the 00s' biggest teases. Since 2007, they've unleashed a cavalcade of individual tracks and mixtapes, massaging Internet buzz into a sort of droning hum: 80s babies building a name with hot sixteens full of 80s signifiers and 80s-aping flows over 80s boom-bap beats. (See "Black Mags," which was featured in a late 2007/early 2008 Rhapsody commercial in tandem with Sara Barilles' "Love Song" - so don't front like you've never heard it.) And just When Fish Ride Bicycles - the Kids' oft-delayed full-length debut - seems on the verge of seeing release, Inglish and Rocks (in conjunction with Don Cannon) drop yet another frickin' mixtape on us.

Guess what? This one's better. A whole lot better. Gone Fishin' is so boss and confident, in fact, that it's almost impossible to (a) imagine how Bicycles can improve on its self-assured mastery or (b) distill these 21 declarations of rhyme dominance down to a measily 10. To understand why this is, imagine that you're stopped at a red light; look over, and you'll notice a young man bumping jams behind the wheel of a tricked-out, late model Ford Mustang. His seat is reclined way, way back; he appears to be taking a nap. Yet when that light turns green, he manuvers that car like a NASCAR veteran, whipping right, then around other motorists as though they're standing still.

The Cool Kids' swagger is heavy-lidded, subdermal swagger; the duo's complex internal rhyme schemes and lethal, mumbled metaphors can easily slip under less-than-alert listeners' radars, making multiple listens a given even if their amiable, two-homies-clownin'-in-Triple-Fat-Goose-coats congenially isn't to your taste.

2. "Hammer Brothers": I've so come to associate the Cool Kids with dumb mixtape maestro yells, stuttered-verse edits, and cut-rate fidelity that I'm a bit nervous how a proper Cool Kids album without that stuff will sound. Unsurprisingly, "Brothers" relies on a circa-88 instrumental hook - upswept horn sample, inky beats, lotsa white space - that the Kids will with unhurried gems like "Just let your head bang like it's hammers in your hat" and "Shorty in the Grand Am/Said 'Chuck, what is y'allllll doin'?" and "I'm in the Cutlass Supreme, and it attracts mad dust/And smudges, appreciate if you don't touch it."

3 "Champions": The Cool Kids love sports, and they don't care who knows! Perhaps owing to his midwest bona fides, these dudes don't fuck with foreign whips: "If it ain't American, then I can't even drive it."

7. "Step Back": This beat, full of blistering seethe and menace, is the sort of joint you'd expect Clipse to absolutely murder; the Cool Kids calmy disembowl it. Mikey Rocks: "Slick, like when you take your wave cap off, before you brush it/Then you throw your fitted back on."

9. "The Last Stretch" feat. Jahda: One of Fishin's strengths is how guest spots are kept to a minumum, and - with the exception of Tennille's facile songbird hook on "Jump Rope" - they're all indispensible, even Jahda's cameo here, which sounds like she phoned it in from nightclub ("Get out my lane, this is my space, ho/You just gettin' the name, you's a MySpace ho"). Then Chuck and Mikey are chilling in your living room, trying to figure out which piece of furniture is more comfortable to sit in, Goldilocks style.

10. "The Art of Noise" (Interlude): The denouement of this track reminds me a bit of Kanye West's "Gone" - you know, the part where it sounds like the song's over - but then it just isn't, and the melody and last few verses seem to suddenly ascend to halycon poignancy out of nowhere. Chuck: "Polo the cologne, and my closet's like a horse race/North Face, bubble cuz it's chilly where I'm livin'/I could tell you how the pork taste, eatin' like a villian/In the Caddy DeVille, pops pulled up in it..."

11. "The Light Company": Arrogant? Sure, but with reason. Mikey: "I'm in the best shape of my life/Me rapping with these kids is like racing a bike against a man with one kick on."

12. "Popcorn": Sometimes, as here, one gets the sense that Mikey and Chuck don't give much of a damn about the accoutrements of wealth (chains) or accompanying props (Cool Water cologne) as they do about screwing with meter and hyperbole; few contemporary rappers take as much pleasure in vibing on the sounds and possibilities inherent in everyday words as the Cool Kids do.

14. "Pennies" remix feat. Ludacris & Bun B: From fetishizing over boat decks to ESPN-fodder riffs to Ludacris shouting down your complaints about how loud his stereo is and Bun B silencing the room with an icy glare.

17. "Tune Up": Basslines bump, keyboard sirens whine, DJ scratches skitter, the Cool Kids cement their supremecy. Chuck: "Who, us?/Yeah, Mikey and Chuck/Launchpad and Darkwing Duck." The verbiage and vernacular here is so gnarled and tangled that transcribing is (a) tough going and (b) a bit insulting to the whole, because these guys are on fire without breaking a sweat - even when the underlying theme is being hospitalized.

21. "Knocked Down": This outro rides a funky, churchy organ into the sunset as Chuck welcomes you to his plum restaurant table and Mikey branches out into HGTV nomenclature. We're in good hands, and get the sense that they could flow on like this forever and a day.

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Ray Cummings