If you’re my age (22) and from Chicago, and the Cool Kids didn’t mean worlds to you when you were growing up, then we probably don’t see eye to eye on much. When I was 14, I didn’t listen to anything else besides The Cool Kids EP, The Bake Sale. Every day when I would take the bus to school, I would listen to the whole EP from front to back, carefully mouthing the lyrics while staying aware of the adlibs and quirky bits and pieces in the production. The Cool Kids were even the first rap show I went to, which was held in some type of loft space and featured performances by Kid Sister and a mashup set from Flosstradamus.
A few weeks ago, I was approached about doing an interview with one of the founders of my first favorite hip-hop group, Chuck Inglish. Without sounding like too much of a Stan, I accepted with pure enthusiasm. While I was thinking about what I was going to ask him, it hit me that The Cool Kids were the main reason I’m involved with music in Chicago. As soon as I became a Cool Kids fanatic, I started paying attention to streetwear and sneaker culture. I began paying attention to the Chicago music scene. But most importantly, I started reading music blogs. Fake Shore Drive, Ruby Hornet, and so many more were my immediate destination upon getting home from school. It was at that time I became the internet music digger I am today, and I owe a lot of it to how The Cool Kids shaped me.
With all respect to Sir Michael Rocks, I always loved Chuck the most. From the way he carried himself to the way he sounded on all the Cool Kids records, I knew him and I had similar styles and interests. His tendency to make sports references clicked with my high school athlete self. The beats he constructed were simple but hard hitting and had a swank to them that I had always wanted but didn’t know existed. All around, he was my favorite artist for much of my high school years.
In this interview, Chuck talks about the parallels between today’s Chicago music scene versus the one he came up in, his interesting connection to Soulection co-founder Joe Kay, and his views on the state of music in 2015. I can truly say this is has been the most exciting thing to happen to me in my short writing career and I’d like to thank Chuck and everyone involved for making this happen. Enjoy.
In 2015, what parallels do you see between the Chicago music scene today and the one that you came up in?
It’s just a way bigger arena. Not like more people in it, but the accreditation is way higher. Most of the grassroots scene (Chance, Vic, Mick Jenkins etc.) has a bigger light now. That’s the biggest difference to me. When we came about, it was all about Flosstradamus and Kid Sister and breaking ground with a musical movement that people weren’t sure of at the time. The difference is now, there’s been a lot more ground dug up and foundation. The kids who grew up watching up are super versed in what we tried to set up.
How does it feel seeing artists who came up with you in Chicago like Flosstradamus and even guys like Diplo and A-Trak, who were pushing your music back in the day, reach these impeccable levels of success in EDM/electronic music?
Around the time we were putting out The Bake Sale, it was sort of unfathomable to us that Diplo was selling out the Metro and now, he’s selling out Soldier Field. When I think back on what it was like back then, I knew there was potential for this to happen. They did what artists are supposed to do and gradually evolved into bigger and better things. It works, however, because at the same time you can see Diplo at Soldier Field, you can still also see him at the Metro and it still works.
I peeped your latest Fader article and you mentioned something about how artists release music so much today. Are artists over-releasing music today?
If done passionately, then it’s not that big of an issue. If you’re doing it because you know that the climate calls for you to always be pushing out music, then that’s just kind of like slave labor. You’re not giving quality product. Future is a workforce. That’s just how he came up. He lives in the studio and everything he’s doing is inspired by what’s around him. It’s hard to classify what he’s doing. It’s not forced, what he’s doing, at all. The worst part about it is that it creates an environment that makes the consumer greedy. Everyone’s all “that’s cool, give us the next one” like this shit is something easy to just throw together. On the other hand, musicians sometimes make it seem like it’s just thrown together and it becomes hard to defend when everybody at home is looking for something new. People want new music every week. When it comes to me, I’m trying to satisfy a deep, subconscious want to hear things. I’m trying to accompany my new fans and those who have been following me for years. You shouldn’t pressure your favorite artists for new music every week. Everybody is going to do it their own way. Not everybody is going to do it one type of way. It’s a hard game to play.
One thing that you and Mikey also sort of started, in my life at least, was bringing in a sense of style and fashion that hadn’t been seen in hip-hop for some time. One thing I’ve noticed since is your relationship with the store Procell in NYC. Tell me a little bit about them and a little bit about some of your favorite Chicago spots for clothes.
I’ve known Brian since my first trip to NYC in ‘06-‘07. He had a store called Code of Arms and I went there to do an article with the New York Times. From that moment, I think Brian and I just became friends off our knowledge of the era I grew up in. The Starter jacket era was my era. We clicked on our attention to detail regarding things pertaining to that era. From then on, when I had something that I needed or wanted, he could always find it for me. Whenever he’d get something he’d think I’d want, he’d let me know about it first. Back then; though it was my hobby, it was also apart of my brand. I didn’t like shopping for anything else. I didn’t like anything else anyone was wearing. When it comes to Chicago, I go to Success. I used to live right down the street. Anytime I was trying to get a pair of shoes, they always looked out. Leaders, of course. Fat Tiger Workshops, of course. And Saint Alfred. Saint Alfred has been the clubhouse for everybody since like ’05. They’re a Chicago staple. They really helped start the whole Wicker Park/Bucktown transformation.
I really got into music blogs because of the Cool Kids and the artists who you guys came up with back in ’06-’07. I feel like you guys were the real pioneers for using music blogs to gain clout. So, where do you think music blogs are at today? Are they helping artists or using them for their own gain?
I think shits gotten way out of hand as far as the egos of a lot of blogs. This isn’t a specific jab at anyone, I just feel like blogs are in constant need of content everyday. Instead of being a place where you discover new artists, it’s just perpetuating the same shit. I think the only way to discover new music is through Soundcloud. It’s hard to find new music on blogs without the sense that it’s been paid for. It’s always fixed now. I’m not speaking from a place of frustration, because I appreciate all the coverage I get. But, I’m not in a position where it doesn’t affect me greatly if they don’t post my shit. I’ll always acknowledge Illroots for being a blog that posts what they post and there’s no bullshit behind it. A lot of artists have made their push to fame by getting on Illroots. I remember in 2010 when they started posting all of A$AP Rocky’s music. Really anyone who came through the underground, they were posting about. Another blog that never posts something just because everyone else has posted it that day is Fake Shore Drive. A lot of blogs are repeat use offenders. They don’t cover any new content, its just regurgitation. And under the song, they put a blurb that is completely not thought out and contains no information. I feel those blogs have really overstayed their welcome.
What is Chuck Inglish playing in his spare time?
Right now, I’m listening to a lot of radio stations. There are too many albums out for me to really focus down on anything. I hear everything as soon as it comes out so by the time people make their decisions, I can’t say if I like it or if I’ve moved passed it. I like to be first to shit. I listen to music to digest it. More or less, I’d say my Soundcloud front page is where I get a lot of my new music. I listen to a lot of Soulection’s stuff right now. It’s pretty fail proof. Everything is new and there’s always something to discover.
I’ve heard before that Soulection’s Joe Kay was one of your earliest fans?
Yeah, I’m dead ass when I say Joe Kay might have been one of the first people who believed in what I was doing back then in ’05-’06. My first couple thousand followers on MySpace were dead ass kids from his high school that he was putting onto my music. That was just when I had my own MySpace and was just making beats, before I met Mikey. When we started posting Cool Kids songs, he was right there spreading it to everyone he knew. I would definitely put him down as one of the first ambassadors to the Cool Kids. It’s crazy because I always remembered him from back then, even before everything. I remember we did a show in L.A. in ’07 and he was front row. He probably brought half the crowd that was there. Then, I remember being down at SXSW like two or three years ago, right as Soulection was kind of popping up, and going to one of their shows. They were playing crazy ass remixes and spinning the dopest shit and I heard the DJ say his name was Joe Kay and I was like “get the fuck outta’ here…” I walked over and it was the same dude. That’s one of those crazy connections that makes me feel like the world is intertwined and people who are here for good always connect some way.
How do you think the Cool Kids would have faired in the era of no social media.
I think we probably would’ve been hotter. I think if we were shared at a time prior to social media, it would’ve been way doper. We survived the worst of times. We didn’t come in at the best of times. We dropped the year that everyone went broke and started losing their houses and jobs. ’08 was cool but it really wasn’t that cool. People were scared about the future of music with albums and movies being leaked on the Internet. We didn’t come out at a time where anything was for sure. If it were a different time, we probably would’ve gained a lot more notoriety. But it isn’t really about that. I did it to not have to go back to college and do something I loved. But I couldn’t imagine coming out at a different time. It was meant to be. •
Peep Chuck’s latest project, Everybody’s Big Brother below.