It’s both absurd and entirely believable in 2008 to see a ten-track release called an “EP,” especially if it’s a hip-hop record. Consider that the average hip-hop album contains between 15 and 20 tracks (I’m totally making up that statistic, but I’d put money on it regardless), and 10 seems like an awfully slim lineup, in spite of the Illmatic precedent. The Cool Kids’ Bake Sale is one such oddity. It feels like a full-length album, sort of, but it’s also pretty brief, running about a half-hour in length. Even LL Cool J’s Radio, an album that The Cool Kids have no doubt studied, seems epic by comparison.
Interestingly enough, brevity is one such quality that makes The Cool Kids such a desirable commodity. Kicking out playful rhymes about haircuts and food over old-school 808 beats and synth throbs, the Chicago duo makes the bold claim that they’re “bringing 88 back,” the statement itself a Nas reference. Yet while the group’s source material is, undoubtedly, top notch, a tribute act this ain’t. Rather, The Cool Kids have a youthful freshness and sense of laid-back fun that’s curiously absent from the majority of rap being pressed in the ’00s. Because of this, a few cynics have dismissed it as `hipster rap,’ a dismissal as petty as a dig at community organizers.
Hipster or not, The Bake Sale is pure, beat-banging joy. In spite of my admiration for El-P, GZA and Dälek, I’ll go on record as saying The Cool Kids just sound like they’d more fun to kick it with. Single “88” sets the duo’s agenda with a “99 Problems” beat and one-liners like “sicker than the flu” and “all you wack rappers need to keep your day jobs/ when my work here is done I’m-a take the day off.” “What Up Man” has a beat built on vocalized chants of “tick tick clap/ tick tickticktick clap,” while “One Two” finds the Kids hyping themselves (jokingly?) as the “new black version of the Beastie Boys” over a fat synth bassline. The 808 is cast aside in favor of an uptempo drum loop and jazzy bassline in “What It Is. ” “A Little Bit Cooler” opts for some downtempo hardcore g-funk, contrasting amusingly with lines like “I’m a rebel/ eating a bowl of them Fruity Pebbles.” And “Bassment Party” even harkens back to the halcyon days of early ’90s Miami bass.
For a group that has a fairly minimal approach, The Cool Kids show a surprising wealth of creativity on The Bake Sale. Yet, considering it’s merely an introductory EP for the Illinois duo, there’s precious room to grow and expand. If you need to cram one last party in before the official end of summer, this is your soundtrack.
LL Cool J – Radio
Cadence Weapon – Breaking Kayfabe
Run-DMC – Raising Hell
Video: “Black Mags”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.