July 1, 2010

The Cool Kids - Tacklebox (Album Review)


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I decided to post a review for The Cool Kids - Tacklebox Mixtape after starting a lengthy post on another site about how I felt about this mixtape or The Cool Kids as a group. First off, I have enjoyed The Cool Kids since long before The Bake Sale hit shelves, as most of those tracks had been around a minute, I enjoyed the cleaned-up version of the songs on the groups debut EP. That's Stupid mixtape followed and continued the groups' ability to create fresh tracks with good lyrics. Most people were down with The Cool Kids at this point, and that's when an entire gang of copycats started rocking what The Cool Kids were rocking like a year ago. This over-saturation of the market in groups with stylish street wear clothes and rhymes that mirrored The Cool Kids followed for about a year and was referred to as "Hipster Rap" in the mainstream market.

Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks in the meantime were working on their debut album When Fish Ride Bicycles, a long delayed album that has fans believing they might actually get it when fish do ride bicycles. However, the group soldiered on despite claimed label troubles that delayed their debut and instead released a few mixtapes. One of these is Tacklebox, the others being Gone Fishing and Merry Christmas. Between Tacklebox and Gone Fishing the group released much of what was originally reportedly heard from Andrew Barber (Fakeshore Drive) during a listening session. So in many ways the fans may have heard most of what the debut would have been originally.

So here’s the ultimate question. Does Tacklebox keep the party going for Chuck and Mikey or are they the last two dudes at their own party? I think the answer is simple and complicated. The Cool Kids may have left their original party and started another one down the block. Tacklebox in many ways redefines some things about The Cool Kids. The beats have a different vibe to them as many are laid-back and great for driving and the lyrical content although somewhat similar from The Bake Sale era, is almost delivered in a different manner than The Bake Sale. Cited by critics of the mixtape, which plays more like an album, as dope beats with weak lyrics is a little off-base in my opinion. I think the lyrics may be different and the delivery may be different, but they are far from weak. I think this release sounds more like a group finding what they would like to accomplish with their music and starting to realize that goal.

The time and work put into these songs and the fact that this is an all original mixtape mostly produced by Inglish (with limited DJ Drops unlike Gone Fishing) says something about the quality of this group and their work ethic. The duo doesn’t unleash a series of guest stars. They almost always handle 95% of the lyrical output with limited guest stars. On this mixtape, Tenille who was also on Gone Fishing, makes an appearance or two and does a great job.

When I listen to this mixtape I do feel that it lacks some things The Bake Sale had, and I miss those things, but in many ways I see new ideas developing and coming to fruition that make this group an undeniable force in hip hop. Nobody wants to hear the same thing twice and if there are hundreds of copycat groups, the best way to combat that is staying creative and I definitely won’t take down a group for experimenting with ideas and trying to create a unique product.

As for the claims Pac Div are better, the hype train has de-railed, or The Cool Kids missed their chance I'm going to say this:

I think in some ways album delays definitely affect the popularity of a group or trend and the buzz. I also think the product and timing affect things. The Cool Kids came out and were doing something kind of unique. A lot of artists from Chicago starting getting buzz like Hollywood Holt, Kid Sister, Flosstradamus, Kidz In The Hall, DJ Mano, and He Say/She Say. Most of those artists have been less productive than The Cool Kids. All of those artists, other than Kid Sister who released her debut to mostly crickets after a super long wait, just haven't produced much music. The West Coast produced artists have really just been more productive than a lot of the Chicago artists that emerged with the "hipster" rap tag. Kidz In The Hall is the exception and they've done really well building a good following outside of the "hipster" tag. So as far as the Chicago scene goes you can’t say The Cool Kids don’t have material out. They released two all original mixtapes last year alone and one this year for a total of = 41 original tracks in two years that is a solid number of original material.

I mean I was really looking forward to a Hollywood Holt album a year or two ago and I still am, but the dude hasn't released a new song in like 2 or 3 years not one full new track. That kind of delay kills buzz.

With The Cool Kids they've been active but the album is what a lot of people are waiting on to determine whether or not they can repeat the success of The Bake Sale. The worst thing any artist can do is set around and let the trend jumpers make more money off the trend and ruin what that artist set out to do...make something original. For The Cool Kids they may weather the storm and Tacklebox is definitely a good determining factor that this duo has a lot left in the tank.

Standout tracks:

- Volume II
- Strawberry Girl
- Summer Nights
- Freak City
- Fishing Lessons

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