The Cool Kids Clarify Their Early Image, Talk Growing As Peers With Drake & Kid Cudi
Exclusive: Chuck Inglish explains why he doesn't wear Jordans anymore, why people looked at the group's style before music, and how through a Mountain Dew deal, they're living the dream.
“The world does not want to hear you bitch.” This is what Chuck Inglish says to others who may be struggling. He’s had to face some struggles of his own, just to get his group, The Cool Kids, to get a proper release of their debut album. It has been a long time coming but the disc will finally drop next month.
When audiences first caught a glimpse of The Cool Kids peddling down streets in “dope man attire” for their introductory “Black Mags” single in 2007, no one knew that the group would be facing quite a tumultuous journey en route to their first full length album. With their debut When Fish Ride Bicycles finally being released in July, they’ve got a lot to celebrate.
With singles “Bundle Up” and “Swimsuits” currently making some noise, the duo is poised for what is sure to be an eventful summer. Recently, Chuck Inglish took some time out and spoke with HipHopDX about the importance of creative freedom, originality and more. He shared his take on biters, perseverance and working with friends who happen to be well-known in the music industry, namely Bun B, Pharrell Williams and Travis Barker, who are featured on the group’s debut.
HipHopDX: The time that you had to work on this album allowed you to have a certain type of creative freedom. What has that creative freedom allowed you to do with your recording process in terms of improvement, experimentation, changes to verses and so on?
Chuck Inglish: I really believe it could have been the grace of God that we went through what we went through to protect our creative freedom. The fact that creative freedom is even an option is bullshit. Some groups don’t have creative freedom. Why the fuck would you sign an artist to tell them what to do? But that’s the world we’re living in. It bugs me out. All artists should have creative freedom. People don’t tell painters what to paint but for some reason, they try to tell rappers how to rap.
I think our time spent was to protect ourselves from all of the perils of the music industry. It allowed us to keep what we started. There is no third party. This is a two-man shit, to this day. I don’t have to listen to what anybody says but Mikey [Rocks]. If he don’t got a problem with it, it’s going down. I could care less who anybody else thinks they are. Nobody knows what we went through together but us. Nobody understands our shit but us. That’s why we had to develop something to where we’re like a whole ‘nother group now. We ain’t changed, but everybody’s perception... Like, [originally] we put out some shit just fucking around and it set our fate. This time, instead of looking at it like, “We were just fucking around, let’s keep fucking around,” we said, “Let’s get better.” We make 13-16 songs a week, not just beats. We’ve been on vacation with days off on tour, like in Australia. I’m in my part of the hotel room learning how to work this new software I bought and [Mike’s] been writing raps for three days straight. That’s the type of shit I look up and catch us doing. We would never give that up to nobody. I honestly would take a bullet or a bat to the face for that shit. I don’t think too many artists would. You can’t buy me. I don’t care about shit that much that I need that much money. I just gotta feed me and a couple bills I got. What I do, that shit’s easy. I would never give up that kind of freedom to anyone. That shit’s my number one priority. No one’s going to outthink me at my own shit. I know how to make my songs. This is why people know of us. It’s not like someone sent me here with a formula. Our formula is our shit.
DX: At the same time, this album is said to be different from anything you guys have done in the past. How important was it for you to go in and not only do something different from what others currently do but also different from what you usually do?
Chuck Inglish: I don’t believe my own hype, man. I actually don’t even like The Bake Sale. Anything out, within three months, I’m like, “Ah, I don’t want to hear that shit anymore.” It comes from being creative. There’s some shit I’ma like forever because it just happened that way. But, when you’re forming and building certain songs, there are some you just want to beat. Like, I don’t ever want to make “Black Mags 2.” I’m in constant competitions with what I did. I don’t want people to look up and say, “They’re getting lazy.” With this one, I got a little attitude in my head where I’m like, “Dog, there’s nobody better than us at what we do.” So, I don’t’ want to ease you into this new album to let you know that we’ve been progressing. I’m just going to explode this everywhere and see what happens.
With this album, I couldn’t have done anymore on it. They pretty much had to take it from me because I was going to continue to tweak it until I was blue in the face. Every single song on this, I made like a hundred times. We took the beat off, put the raps different; exercising every option I possibly could so I knew that from the first three seconds, you don’t even gotta worry about when the song’s going to kick in. We rap. I’m not trying to get my feelings out or none of that shit. I’m just trying to keep this feeling great like we did the first time.
This ain’t as lighthearted, goofy and about sneakers and shit because we’re not kids no more. That was like four years ago. I was like 21. My number one buying shit was going to the store and buying six or seven pairs of [Nike Air] Jordans. I don’t even wear Jordans like that no more. Ever since we started, the shit’s gotten out of control. Everybody got a pair of them bitches on. I was wearing them because there wasn’t that many left in the stores and they wasn’t upping the restocks. So, I could have a pair and I could walk in a party and there might be only one other person with them. I don’t like doing what other people do. I like doing what I like to do. Even with this record, this is definitely us. We weren’t listening to anyone else and you could definitely tell that shit.
DX: Funny that you mention the Jordans because you could also see it with the throwback gear, snapbacks and classic t-shirts. I remember you guys came out wearing the vintage gear and now…
Chuck Inglish: Oh yeah, we did that shit! It ain’t even a question. We did that shit. I remember being like, that’s all we were [to some]. I remember people’s write-ups were about us being a retro dressing Rap group. I was like, “Fuck that shit! That’s a horrible way to analyze music.” But now that everybody’s doing it, what if we came out now, not in 2006-2007? We’d probably be on a grander scale because people would care more about the music. I know we did that first because that was like the only thing people would say about us, like “Style this. Style that. Retro this. Retro that.” We didn’t think people would take after that, so much so that you don’t even know where it comes from. It’s so crazy now that people don’t even know that we were doing that shit. We had them hats when nobody could find them. They weren’t remaking the hats with the tags. We had to find them bitches with the tags. I’m not tripping. You don’t do anything and have a profile and not expect that somebody might feel like you or someone might bite your ass. There’s hella sharks, man. Our next album is called, Shark Week. We’re building a world of people that refuse to think on their own.
I think all day. Sometimes that’s not the best thing to do because you can stress yourself out. But I’m never out of shit. That’s pretty much been my life. So, when you do something and you’re like, “Yeah, I did that shit. I’m the first one on it.” Even if you can sense that somebody felt like you and had the same shit on that you do, you don’t see the biting in that. It’s just like, “Oh, okay. You got on there when I got there.” Then there’s people that just sit and wait for you to do shit so they could do it. Like, “He did it so it’s cool.” People wasn’t wearing old sports tank tops and shit until we were doing it. Now, it’s cool. They’re like, “We could do that because now niggas ain’t gonna clown us ‘cause the Cool Kids did it first.”
DX: You guys worked with Travis Barker, Pharrell Williams, Ghostface and Bun B among others on this album. What’s one of the most interesting, influential or memorable moments you had while recording with guests for this one?
Chuck Inglish: I lived out a definite dream while working with Travis Barker. We pretty much bounced back and forth from Chicago to North Hollywood, California, where Travis works at, all last year. We would just click up with him at this taco spot by his studio. So, even if we wasn’t working, we were just falling through, kicking it, rolling up a couple and getting these tacos! I remember one day, I sat down on the drums and Travis was on the percussions. We had a jam session for like a half hour. I’ve been a drummer. I started playing drums when I was six. I’ve looked up to every famous drummer. I listen to drum albums. I obsess over drumming. I started making beats because I couldn’t take my drums to school. So, to do that with a living great, Travis is one of the living greats. What Travis Barker could do on the drums, he’s like a John Bonham of our time, like The Funky Drummer, like James Brown’s drummer, like, he’s that dude right now. To actually sit down and jam with him…that was just cool. Also, sitting there with Pharrell asking me what I thought, or building a beat and letting me put that shit together. That’s crazy because four or five years ago, I was looking at other people doing that shit going crazy like, “I can’t wait to do some shit like that!” Before I looked up, I was doing it and doing it on my own with people I knew and they knew me! They knew me, too! To them, I was kind of where they were at. That shit’s still bugged out. In my head, I will always be the little kid that I’ve always been.
I still look up to them. Everybody on my album, I look up to. I’ve become friends with them. It wasn’t a business collaboration because I don’t believe in that shit. I have never featured on anybody’s song that I didn’t know personally. When we went down to Houston, Bun B would come to pick us up from the hotel, we would smoke, go get food, get haircuts, you know what I’m saying? It was never like, “We just need you on the album.” It’s like, “No, we went to your birthday party. We know your kids and all that shit.” It becomes way more natural. So, everybody on the record is family. Mayer Hawthorne, we’re homeboys. He’s from Michigan, too, like me. We like the same music. First conversation we had was about boogie records, a text message thread that went on for like three days.
I like that. I like that that’s what we can do. Back to your point about creative freedom, I like that that’s what we can do. Nothing on our record is forced. Every single song is the best of a group of ten songs we did in one session. We make so much music, there are no album cuts. This is just all the best shit we’ve made in the past three years, like a greatest hits record of shit people haven’t ever heard before.
It’s been a great experience and now that it’s actually coming true, I can actually sit back and think about memories and what it will be like going forward, too. We’re three quarters into the recording of this second album. That shit’s going to be crazier than this. This was just getting it out of the way so we could live, so we could get out of our deal and so that we could actually put shit out. Now that we get to put shit out, I’m about to go crazy.
DX: It’s been quite a journey to get this album out. What element of this experience are you most proud of?
Chuck Inglish: Not losing my mind, not looking at people around me, seeing what they were doing and comparing them to me. At one point, I was on. Drake and Kid Cudi were homies of mine. I was telling them about what I was doing. Then, we kind of hit our shit and then all my homies blow the fuck up, you know what I’m saying? Blow the fuck up, to the point where now I might talk to them every now and then. I didn’t ever look at my situation and compared it to theirs like, “What the fuck are we doing wrong?” I always just stuck to my shit. That’s not my life anyway. I was never like that. I don’t thrive for the spotlight. I like going into the grocery store and niggas not even knowing me. That’s perfect. I like that shit.
But, when you look at your music like, “Damn, I’ve been working so hard and ain’t nobody working harder than me,” you just keep working. You don’t look up like, “Damn. Why ain’t shit crackin’?” Shit was always crackin’! We did little commercials here and there, we had mixtapes, people knew we weren’t gonna drop nothin’ wack. To have that perception, where people know that if you’re going to do something new, it’s going to be better than the last shit, that was the only rope I had to hang on. I hung onto that motherfucker. I just didn’t look at my situation negatively. Yeah, I complained, but look what happened! It’s coming out! It came out in a way that I couldn’t even imagine. I got the best deal any artist could ever get. I got a soft drink company to put out my record and give me all my money! That’s persevering without complaining because the world does not want to hear you bitch. No matter what you think, there’s no one in the world that wants to hear your problems when they’ve got their own, especially when you’re living out what you want to do. Why would I complain? I’m doing what I’ve dreamed of. I can go somewhere and play the drums every single day.
What I do all day is, I meet up with Alchemist. I make beats in the B room, he makes beats in the A room and we’ll go eat. I get to do that. That’s all I wanted to do my whole life. When you look at the small shit and survey your scene, nothing’s wrong. I’m about to put out a record. Kids still fuck with us heavy. There’s kids that don’t even know of us! There’s kids that know the groups that are modeled after us and don’t even know about us. This might be the first shit they ever hear. Then they might go back to get The Bake Sale and that might fuck them up. All of those options are good scenarios. That’s what I’ve learned. No matter what, don’t bitch. Keep working, man, just go. Nothing is going to be perfect. Nothing works out for everybody the way they intended. Sometimes shit gets shitty just so it can get really good. I feel like this is a great example of shitty for something great in the end.