Just over three years since the release of their critically acclaimed EP The Bake Sale, Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish have come through with When Fish Ride Bicycles, their highly anticipated debut album. And while The Cool Kids have gotten their hype from their throwback style rooted in the golden era of hip-hop, the LP showcases an evolved, and slightly more contemporary look for the Midwest duo. With a step up in production value, and a stacked guest list of big name features, The Cool Kids look to prove that their debut was worth the wait.
The album kicks off with “Rush Hour Traffic,” followed by “GMC,” and both are tracks that embody the minimalist production fans have come to associate with The Cool Kids. But a few tracks later, on “Sour Apples,” it’s obvious Chuck Inglish has a few new tricks up his sleeve, grabbing percussion from Travis Barker on a cut that finds the duo could be headed towards a more mainstream sound.
The middle of the album is where it begins to climb towards its height. The Cool Kids shine on “Penny Hardaway,” a ’90s track with a new-age Wu-Tang feel, complete with a guest spot from Ghostface. “Bundle Up” makes you want to do just that, as cold, electric keys provide a groovy soundscape. Next is “Gas Station,” which finds Bun B hopping on a laid back Chuck Inglish beat—and the UGK veteran matches up well with the two young emcees, again showing his admirable inclination to collaborate with a new generation of hip-hop talent. “Roll Call” brings Asher Roth, Chip Tha Ripper and Boldy James along for the ride on one of the album’s strongest lyrical displays.
Pharrell gets behind the boards twice on the album, and on these the listener really hears a revamped version of The Cool Kids, for better and worse: It works well on “Summer Jam,” a party song with a catchy hook from Maxine Ashley, but sounds forced on “Get Right,” a filler the album could probably do without.
When Fish Ride Bicycles is an energetic and fun summer album with lots of warm-weather references and car talk. Though longtime listeners might feel Mikey and Chuck have abandoned some of their simplistic vibe for a more mainstream sound (think die-hard Lupe fans with Lasers), the Kids have truly just highlighted their evolution. With this debut, The Cool Kids show that they can hang with the top acts in the game, and from this showing, fans probably won’t have to wait another three years to hear them do so. —Neil Martinez-Belkin