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The Cool Kids: Tacklebox

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Artist: The Cool Kids

Title: Tacklebox
Release date: May 31
Label: Chocolate Recordings

Noted hip-hop fan (and New Times music editor) Martin Cizmar knows I'm lukewarm when it comes to the genre, so he's always on the lookout for hip-hop that I'll dig. Not sure what it is about The Cool Kids that he thought would move me, but the man knows his hip-hop.

Maybe it's that the Cool Kids refer to them as the "new black version of the Beastie Boys." And Martin knows I'm partial to some of the Beastie Boys' output. (Actually, there just as many BB songs that I dislike as there are they I like.) But I generally do like the Beasties' aesthetic.
And it's true, The Cool Kids seem to take a similar approach that is appealing. The Chicago duo is serious about its craft but doesn't seem to take the results too seriously. To put it another way, these guys know they're good at what they do but are, yes, cool enough to give you the impression that they're just in it to have a good time. 

What does this album (available for free at the band's Web site) sound like? It's decidedly retro rap, unadorned and simple, full of self-hyping and pop culture nods as the Cool Kids navigate summer in the city. Toward the latter half of the record, the songs often contain nothing more than a drum machine and a rap. The Cool Kids display plenty of attitude on Tacklebox, but it's of a good-natured sort, as if they're giving a knowing wink to the larger-than-life B.S. fomented in so much hip-hop.

I can't see myself listening to the 15-song Tacklebox "mixtape" a whole lot, but I am glad I heard The Cool Kids and their old-school approach to what has become a genre full of so many cartoonish music.
Best song: "Volume II" and "Birthday"
Rotation: Low-medium
Deja vu: Beastie Boys? Eh, not really.
Grade: B-

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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