In the late ’00s, Chicago rap outfit The Cool Kids started to make a mark with rumbling throwback production, old-school flow, and a unique style. And though they put out a few great mixtapes and a solid debut album (When Fish Ride Bicycles), the duo never quite took over the way they should’ve, Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish spending the last few years instead on solo projects. And while Chuck’s solo LP this year embellished on the minimal-ish style, Sir Mike’s latest, Banco, expands on the already rangy style of tapes like Premiere Politics 1.5, showing off the Kid’s diverse potential, but much like Chuck’s album, it can feel a bit disjointed.
The first notable shift is the ultra-smooth “Some Ish”. The track’s verses (including one from Twista) drift on chillwave synth and ’90s sex scene distorted guitar arching, while the hook features some Auto-Tuned singing. It’s not hard to imagine Chance the Rapper going over this one, though considering Rocks was already on the scene when Chance got suspended, it sounds entirely natural in the Cool Kid’s voice. This, though, is followed by a skit in which Mike gets pushed off a dock and thinks he’s drowning. It’s an odd choice, and one that breaks the flow before the excellent “Bussin”. Featuring Casey Veggies and IAMSU!, the track rides on a chiming sample that sounds ripped from the Willy Wonka soundtrack. The three drop catchy verses about their prowess, with Su referencing N.W.A. and Veggies repping his Japanese denim.
Later, “Playstation 1.5” traverses the sleepy-eyed alternative trap territory of Lucki Eck$, another Chicago young gun who’s certainly been influenced by the Cool Kids. The most exciting production on the disc comes on “Kill Switch”, which builds off of what could be the screaming of fireworks shooting into the sky, backed by lux synth stabs and rattling, tinny cymbal. Other than the fact that Mikey sits on top of both tracks to talk up his game, the two feel rather unrelated.
The most important track on the album, though, is the star-studded “Ain’t Nothin Like”. With production courtesy of rapidly rising DJ Mustard and features from partner in crime Inglish and Bay Area legend Too Short, this one bodes well for the Kids’ long-awaited reunion. That said, with each solo release, Rocks continues to solidify his identity outside of the duo, while also pushing the desire for the reunion even further. Though elements of it seem somewhat unconnected, Banco should go a long way towards making the solo stuff just as much of a hot commodity.
Essential Tracks: “Bussin”, “Kill Switch”