“Black Mags” goes hard to this date (even though both are probably sick of it). It was the combination of both personality and musical talent that created a new lane in the realm of hip-hop, unleashing the hardest records equipped with a hypnotizing bounce within the production. These guys are animated, down-to-earth, passionate, and overall dope.
Fast forward to 2020, overcoming hardships and breakups, the Chicago natives have found their way to the acting world — almost as passionate as they were about the music to begin with. Beyond that, collaborations with The Alchemist, Kenny Beats, Maxo Kream, and many more showcase their ability to be versatile, while staying true to their hip-hop roots.
Most recently, The Cool Kids teamed up with dance music producer Louis The Child for a new single titled “Bag It Up.”
While the money’s a nice bonus, at the core these guys believe in doing and going after what you love most. AllHipHop caught up with Mike and Chuck over a Rapper Weed joint, reminiscing on what’s happened since the release of Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe.
AllHipHop: What’s been going on in the world of The Cool Kids?
Sir Mike: Man, we’ve been working on a lot of new music. We had an entire movie we had a great part in, Widows. Did our thing in there. Working on another movie actually as we speak. Been keeping the machine rolling with new music.
Chuck: You got a show that’s poppin’ every day.
Sir Mike: I got a Twitch stream, they’ve been really supportive and putting the battery in our s##t. Starting in March, I’ll have a show directly on the Twitch channel with Twitch once a month. Imagine Desus & Mero, Eric Andre, but 3D s##t. Trippy s##t.
AllHipHop: Whoa, 3D? What’s the premise of the show?
Sir Mike: It’s talk-show format, so imagine a late night show. We make live tracks from scratch. Our DJ for The Cool Kids is on there with me, he’ll produce tracks. I’ll make songs based on what we did in the stream earlier, whether it’s the news or whatever the chat’s talking about. It’s super interactive, real 2020 s##t.
AllHipHop: How did you land on Twitch?
Sir Mike: One of my friends Eric knows everybody. He saw that we’re working on Twitch streaming and said “oh, I gotta hook you up with my people over there.” We ended up linking up, going to San Francisco and doing a performance. One thing turned into another and now, we’re doing our own show.
AllHipHop: Chuck, are you on the Twitch wave?
Chuck: I’ve been on there. I’m a recurring guest. It’s like Rude Jude on The Jenny Jones show, if you’re old enough to peep that. My special guest appearances are outrageous because you never know what I’m going to say. It’s tapping into futuristic activities. Everybody’s not going to be on their phone as much in the next 4 or 5 years.
AllHipHop: Really, you think?
Chuck: You’re going to be able to do phone stuff at your house. You’ll have your phone on your TV. The activity you entertain while you’re on social media won’t be restricted to phones. They’re going to have Instagram for whatever multimedia screen you got in your house. They’re going to be able to edit your pictures on a big screen. That’s the way I see it.
In order to be ahead of the times… the fact that we’re both writing a movie not based on our lives, but from our imagination. That has the same spirit of bending the curves or doing something that’s either familiar or genre-bending — but doing it through film and using our music to paint the picture with visuals. A lot of people spend a lot of money and effort in their videos, but videos are disposable. People don’t sit in the house like “let’s put on videos.” You might if you’re a music fan, but people together as a unit watch films. Films populate way wider than where music can go.
Sir Mike: That’s true.
Chuck: Experimenting with both, they become one and the same now that we’re in 2020. No song that’s ever been that big went without a video. You think about “Old Town Road.” That song was good, but when you saw the video… you win a Grammy for a video. Oscars will always trump Grammys. Look at the road. Did you see the road? They blocked that s##t. They got way more important people in the movies than they do in music. [chuckles]
When you think about a movie budget — Birds of Prey feel like they failed because they made $33 million this week. They made $33 million dollars, the weekend’s not even over and they already said it’s a fail. In the industry where you make $33 million and you still didn’t win? It’s definitely bigger. You have to be Lionel Richie to get a $5 million album advance right now. $5 million movie is an independent movie coming out on Amazon Prime. It’s 2 different worlds depending on the audiences they can get.
AllHipHop: How easy or difficult was it for you guys to transition into the film world?
Chuck: That’s where I started. I decided to rap so I didn’t have to graduate with my filmmaking degree. I didn’t want to do that s##t no more.
Sir Mike: It actually came about pretty simple. We were picked to play ourselves almost, which was crazy because I didn’t think there’d be a role ever for specifically two dudes like us — but there it was. We’re both pretty natural at it. I wasn’t in a foreign place. It feels like you’re in a studio creating stuff like we’re doing here, but more visually-focused than listening to s##t obviously. It’s more physical there. It’s a lot more movement-based, a lot more visually-based, but it’s the same as creating. Once you’re a professional creator of something, whatever the medium is evens out no matter where you’re at. If you’re pro at what you’re already doing.
AllHipHop: Do you feel you still have the same passion recording as you do in the film world?
Chuck: Me creating this film I’m writing, that we’re putting out together, my avenue is limitless. I have to work within the constraints of your ears. With a movie, I can make art for ears and eyes. It’s a different challenge when you see it complete. I see it done, then I work backwards. I’ve always done that with music. I’ve always seen the cover, videos, what we wore, how it sounded in the car before I even started making the song.
It’s living inside of a very vivid imagination, but now I get to see it. The thing about films over music in general is the instant gratification you get from making the art. With music, you’ll make an album and maybe not until you perform that album do you get to see what it did for people. You can go to the movie theater with everybody and sit in the back, motherf##kers might not even know you’re there. You get to watch people’s reactions in real time.
Also the camaraderie of teamwork, you can’t do that s##t on your own. Me and him could sit and make an album with nobody else involved. I mix it, all that s##t. But it’s two people. As cool as that is, knowing that you’re working with a team of 200, 300 people who all have to be in line — and to watch that synchronicity. That’s always something I wanted to do since I was a child. But to see a big budget film get made or see people that worked on other movies get excited when they see each other working on this one — knowing their stories and how many movies they’ve done, it sounds like my world.
One thing that a lot of people don’t have in films is ideas or the experience. A lot of movies are regurgitated. “Let’s do a remake. Let’s do a reboot.” You don’t have an original idea. Me and him have hella original stories. Hella ideas, hella based on things that we’ve been through. People we’ve been around been through. We can come up with 60 movies in the next 3 years if we wanted to. None of that takes away from the music that we’re making, because that’s the best part. Nobody has films without soundtracks. Even 1917 had some sort of strings in that motherf##ker. I don’t get 1917 or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I might’ve looked at my phone. I was watching both of them b##ches on bootleg to keep it 100.
AllHipHop: Do you guys go to the theater?
Chuck: I go to the movies all the time.
Sir Mike: I go to the movies way too much.
Chuck: Honey Boy is the most underrated movie of the year. People might like Shia Labeouf that much, but you can’t put that movie next to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and say this is better than that. It’s its own entity. They’re both telling recounts of old Hollywood stories. That’s Cool Kids in the future.
AllHipHop: What inspires you to create music today?
Chuck: Inspire? Inspire gets tricky because you have to rely on that s##t. I tend to shy away from inspiration. If it happens, then it’s tight. Hell yeah.
Sir Mike: It’s too dangerous to rely on that, because that’s not always guaranteed. Inspiration, the right feeling and s##t.
AllHipHop: What do you rely on?
Sir Mike: Discipline, basically. It’s knowing you have to do your s##t. If you got some inspiration then obviously great, but that’s not always guaranteed. You still have to create the s##t. You have to push the needle yourself.
Chuck: You can’t rely or it will run out. You have to be disciplined to want to see yourself perform or reach for new notes. Everyday isn’t a bad day as long as you make something. Sometimes you’ll make something, then come back to it. Or make a folder. Recently, I made a folder with 11 beats. I swear to God, I thought I lost that s##t. I knew it was crazy as hell but when I made it, I wasn’t in a mood.
I wasn’t in s##t. I was watching basketball at a studio just putting drums together, maxing it with notes. I came back to that folder almost 11 months later. I thought I lost it on a drive. I bounced every single one of them s##ts out like “oh, that’s crazy.” Added some extra s##t. You don’t really lose anything as long as you look at it as an activity. If you had to find inspiration to go play basketball, you’d get cut from the team. You have to be good everyday. You have to treat your s##t like a sport and not an art form. Because art is moody as f##k and it will keep you broke.
Sir Mike: It will keep you from doing anything. To wait for inspiration, you have to either rely on drugs all the time or be lucky enough to always walk outside, see a butterfly and be inspired. It’s not humanly possible. We’re not wired like that. We’re not always inspired. What’re you going to do when you’re not inspired? Not do s##t and wait? Who knows how long that drought will go before you get inspired again. 8 months pass, you didn’t do s##t and you didn’t get any better. You have to at least work the muscle out. Keep getting better and better and better by striking at it repetitively. If you try to wait for the golden ticket to fall from the sky, then you’re going to waste a lot of time.
Chuck: What he said on the people taking drugs to find inspiration, that s##t happens a lot. Then you end up hitting a wall.
Sir Mike: Right, you see how many times that’s happened.
Chuck: Drugs are intelligent man, they’ll f##k with you. They’ll make you think s##t is rocking that way, then it’s not. You keep chasing after that. “The last hot s##t, I had these pills.” Now you’re taking these pills to get started. Not knowing that night was just that night, s##t worked out that night. You get caught in this hole thinking you need this or that to get to where you need to get to. Now, you f##ked. Inspiring might have to be split from inspiration. Inspiring feels like a different word. Inspiration means you have to look for it. Inspiring can happen from anything. You can be inspired to cook, out of nowhere.
AllHipHop: What if it’s just what they’re inspired by in that moment?
Chuck: You don’t want to rely on being inspired or inspiration to work, is our point. We stay away from waiting for things to inspire us. If that was the case, we’d never hit the studio. That’s not what we would do unless we knew this was our purpose and to keep the muscle going. Because when I wake up, there’s days I don’t want to be in this motherf##ker.
For what? I’ma come and play the same baseline I played yesterday. I got these trap drums because they’re easy to search for, I done made the third straight beat the same. Everybody goes through that s##t. But on that fourth beat, when you say f##k it, I’ma go get some water. Go smoke a joint, listen to something. That fourth joint, because you in here, you might be inspired by something. I wasn’t inspired to make music, I got here because I need to be here. Being here, something can strike.
Sir Mike: For real, you have to show up first. You have to be there. You have to show up to receive inspiration. You don’t have a chance popping up if you’re not there already.
AllHipHop: Is this personal experience?
Sir Mike: Yeah, of course. All the time.
Chuck: I’ve been through it as much as you can be through it. I smoothed it out. You only do that by taking yourself outside of what you think your process. Asking yourself “alright, why did this happen?” Reading books to be like “oh this s##t happened to other people.” People who take my journey, their story’s the same. s##t goes up and down. There’s ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys.
AllHipHop: Chuck, I’ve been seeing your name on a lot of beats.
Chuck: That’s the name of the company: Produced by Chuck English. That’s what I put on everything. That’s my brand. When you see produced by me, you’re like “alright I’ma click that. Whatever that is, I’ma see what it is,” because you know it can go any other way.
AllHipHop: What’s your favorite song you’ve produced?
Chuck: I don’t know if I’ve made my favorite song yet. I critique my s##t. For the past 2 years, all my mixes except for one or two have been perfect. As far as the energy, I love all my children the same. I am fans of ones that are executed better than others. To play the game, it’s a song that we have on the last album called “The Motion.” That’s my favorite thing I put together, the best thing I produced.
AllHipHop: What was it like working with The Alchemist?
Sir Mike: It’s crazy working with Alchemist. Any rap fan from 1994 forward, you already ran across this figure. You know who this is. The legacy has been cemented already. I actually ran into him for the first time as an adult. He f##ks your head up because he’s exactly how you’d think, but he’s way more human. Working with him, he’s a robot in the sense that he doesn’t really stop ever. It’s really strange. He could though, he has every reason to be like “alright, I made all these songs. I can chill and sit back, not have to worry about anything.” He could be straight forever, but he won’t stop. He doesn’t let up the gas on the pressure either.
Chuck: He keeps getting better.
Sir Mike: He still makes better s##t. He’s in the studio staying up and sleeping with you while you’re there. I don’t know any producers on that level who’ve done what he’s done, who are still in the trenches with you. He’ll sit there and make the s##t with you. He doesn’t come in and play a couple keys, then gets coffee and leaves you with the beat. Nah, he’s in there damn near writing the rap with you. It’s crazy to see how much of a machine he actually is when it comes to getting s##t done, the quality he still injects into everything he’s doing.
He doesn’t hinder you either. He never does anything to put the song into a certain box. He’s still growing. He’s still intrigued so he’s still interested to see what other people bring to the table. Usually somebody who’s done a bunch of s##t come in like “I know what to do. Listen to me, I’ma do this and that.” He’s going in there: “so what you thinking? What do you have? What do you think of this? What do you think of that?” He’s interested to see what other people have.
Visually, he’s interested in visuals more than music. Graphics. He’s really in tune with the s##t he’s interested in. To see somebody who’s done what he’s done, be able to have that same eye, that ear, and that battery in his back to keep making better s##t. People usually plateau after a while. He couldn’t be a person driven by “I’m inspired by something,” because he’s already done everything inspiring.