Review | The Cool Kids – Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe

After a much-publicised hiatus that led to them establishing themselves as solo artists, Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks (or Sir Michael Rocks, to use his full title) have reunited as the admired duo The Cool Kids.

Their last project together was When Fish Ride Bicycles (2011), however, Chuck explained earlier this year during an interview with HipHopDX that he only considers The Bake Sale (2008) as the group’s other “real” album alongside their latest release Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe.

Despite the breach of six years between projects, The Cool Kids have been able to maintain the popular, culture-defining sound that assisted the attainment of their cult following. Opening tracks ‘The Moonlanding’ and ‘TV Dinner’ are good examples of such, while the closing quartet of ‘Simple Things’, ‘Symptoms Of A Down’, ‘Gr8full’ and ‘Too Smooth’ could easily fit onto the track list of mixtapes like Gone Fishing (2009) or Tacklebox (2010).

‘TV Dinner’, which was the first single from Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe, has the distinctive bounce and flair reminiscent of the duo’s earliest work, but Chuck and Mikey acknowledge Hip Hop’s changing landscape by integrating a modern texture to their characteristically cool style, as heard on ‘Simple Things’. The track includes a superb contribution from Syd (and additional vocals from QUIÑ) making it one of the album’s best efforts. ‘Gr8full’ features an outstanding hook from Joyce Wrice and verse from Pac Div’s Like, with the song drawing comparisons to tracks from The Cool Kids’ past.

Further evidence of Chuck and Mikey recapturing the essence of their musical origins is heard on ‘T.D.A.’, which should instantly remind core followers of the group of ‘Basement Party’ from The Bake Sale, especially as it uses a remarkably similar drum pattern consisting of heavy 808s.

The Cool Kids’ admiration for Pharrell’s work is well known, and subsequently, he was a part of When Fish Ride Bicycles, and although he’s not directly involved with Special Edition Grand Deluxe , his influence can be heard throughout. The most notable example is ‘Break Your Legs’, which even borrows the melody of the hook from N*E*R*D’s ‘Lapdance’, with the rock-inspired track also including drums played by Travis Barker (who they also worked with previously on When Fish Ride Bicycles), giving it that authentic, aggressive rock feel. Another ode to The Neptunes comes via ‘20/20 Vision’ with the screeching synth sirens likely to remind listeners of Pharrell and Chad’s work for the likes of Kelis (‘Caught Out There’) and/or Usher (‘You Don’t Have To Call’).

Being the more accomplished producer of the two, it should come as no surprise that Chuck Inglish has a greater authority over the direction of the album with regards to the production, although, it could be argued that his influence is at times too strong and thus slightly detrimental. ‘Jean Jacket’, for example, is not necessarily a bad song, but it’s unquestionably not a sound you’d associate with The Cool Kids, but could certainly attribute to Chuck’s solo work. With that being the case, Mikey sounds a bit out of place on aforementioned ‘Jean Jacket’ as well as the somewhat cringe-worthy album filler ‘The Motion’. Instead, the album could have benefited from more tracks like ‘On The Set’ – a more introspective song that has space for verses from Boldy James and Smoke DZA.

The Cool Kids have made a welcome return with Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe, undoubtedly appeasing fans with more than enough positive moments that help to modernize their unique sound that was born a decade ago. It’s always difficult to find a balance between satisfying longtime fans and attracting new ones, especially after a lengthy interval, but The Cool Kids seemed to have found a happy medium.

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