SXSW 2011: Bootlegging, blog-rap, the Cool Kids and Black Hippies: The Nah Right/Smoking Section showcase
When I interviewed Chuck D recently, he pinned rap's ails on the demise of the group. And certainly with album sales declining and egos still ballooning, much of the last decade featured few legitimate new outfits.
But things started to change when the Cool Kids, who played the Nah Right/Smoking Section showcase on Thursday afternoon, emerged in 2007. Sporting a retro 808 fetish and a fashion aesthetic straight out of '88, the duo of Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks were two of the first rappers to rise to fame in the blog era.
Though four years later they still haven't sold an LP in stores, they've managed to be massively influential and cake off of live shows to the point where they can afford all the vintage Air Jordans they want. The stark minimalism of Inglish's beats and Rock's teenage swag raps established a template for the jerkin' movement, but it also won them the respect of top-rung MCss (Freddie Gibbs and Inglish comprise 2/3 of new group "Pulled Over By The Cops").
So the Cool Kids performance was part nod to the lane they helped build, part a chance to see their brand of Windy City cool freeze up humid Austin. And they didn't disappoint, delivering a confident, hyper-smooth set of their best material culled from the last four years. In fact, if there was a problem, it was that nothing could chill the scorching, overcrowded room, still shocked by the set that preceded them.
If you don't know Black Hippy yet, you will. At least if you pay attention to rap. Sometime in the last year, a quartet of heretofore solo artists -- Kendrick Lamar (formerly K. Dot), Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Warner Bros. refugee Jay Rock -- decided to consolidate and form like Voltron. The decision was the wisest one they could've made. Granted, Lamar has built a rep as one of Los Angeles' best rappers, an honor confirmed by Dr. Dre's decision to reportedly include him on the mythologically delayed "Detox." But his best work may come in union with his fellow hippies.