Review Summary: Fans waited three years for these 11 tracks. Was it worth the wait? Or is it a fish out of water?
It seems just like yesterday, I heard “Black Mags” on a Rhapsody commercial, back in 2008. However, in the past three years tons of changes have happened to The Cool Kids. The release of “The Bake Sale”, which was a well received EP that gathered fans with producer Chuck Inglish’s simple Golden Age hip-hop inspired beats. Simple boom bap drum beats layered with simple bass chords over them. “The Bake Sale” quite literally left fans hungry for more. Suddenly, Chuck and Mikey’s popularity grew and they started showing up in commercials and video games. They weren’t just a boom bap group trying to imitate a style that producers like Eric B. had already mastered, but instead an underground sensation modifying that exact style and bringing it to hip hop listeners of the late 2000’s. However, shortly after being appointed to Rolling Stone’s “Top Ten Artist to Watch”, they ducked out of the spotlight and were held captive by their label, releasing a few mixtapes and showing up here and there. While these mixtapes showed Chuck and Mikey still retained that classic style we never got a polished physical release. Finally, after three years of back and forth label fighting, we get “When Fish Ride Bicycles”. Three years musically is along time. So the one question is: Do The Cool Kids still got what it takes?
The album opens with “Rush Hour Traffic”, which Chuck leads you down that same old drum and bass path. On this journey we meet some guitars, synthesizers, and a vocal sample “Hey!” and grunt continuously hitting the speakers. So far so good, right? But unfortunately for the rest album, we are left with tracks that can be placed into two categories. 1. Experiments, and 2. Classic Cool Kids.
The first experiment you will recognize are the outside producers. Even though there are only three tracks with these producers, that makes up almost ¼ of the album. When I want to listen to The Cool Kids I expect Chuck Inglish’s production, without it I really have no reason to visit a track or really visit it at all. However, Pharrell and The Neptunes, for the most part, lay down some pretty solid beats, but both are ruined by either the bland and petty rhymes of Chuck and Mikey in “Summer Jam” or by a terrible Pharrell vocal sigh that happens every two second in “Get Right”. At least the third track was co-produced by Chuck, with Travis Barker. Travis’s drums don’t really bring anything standout or unique to the track. Still, all experiments aren’t bad for this album. In “Penny Hardaway”, Chuck puts together four samples that work perfectly together, and Ghostface Killah brings the track to a glorious finish. Gas Station also tries something new with some sort of guitar melody with background synths creeping in, and a fine chorus that kind imitates Kid Cudi’s chorus in “Good Friday”. That Classic Cool Kids style I found only to be on “Bundle Up” and “Rush Hour Traffic” which left me disappointed but I was able to find a few experiments to keep me interested.
Lyrics have never been a strong point for Chuck or Mikey, and with When Fish Ride Bicycles there’s no real change. The lyrics range from your typical girl rhymes (Sour Apples) to your routine summer jams (Get Right and well… Summer Jam). Lyrically they are again and again out shined by guest such as Bun B and Ghostface Killah. However, what The Cool Kids have going for them are great flows, and with theses flow they are able to rap ridiculous choruses and bars that are catchy as hell and turn some of the bad songs into average.
The Cool Kids are trying some new things, but at this rate I can’t say I’m all for it. The very factors that made them unique are slowly slipping away. Not all hope is lost for them, but for fans that waited three years for this will be a little disappointing to see that The Cool Kids have changed. They’re expanding to a wider fan base, but only time will tell if the fans that got them where they are today will follow them into the future.