The Cool Kids made their stamp in the Chicago rap scene in 2007, cultivating a fanbase with their throwback style reminiscent of the golden era of hip-hop. In late 2012, Sir Michael Rocks and producer Chuck Inglish announced they would be focusing on their solo careers, which meant The Cool Kids would be on an indefinite hiatus. That wouldn’t be the last time we’ve heard from the duo. Both have continue to establish their own lanes. Chuck is producing for other hip-hop acts, while Sir Mikey is now under Curren$y’s Jet Life Recordings.

Though there hasn't been any new records by the Cool Kids, Sir Michael Rocks has plenty of music on the way. Notably, he has the forthcoming EP Banco that will serve as his first retail project. Here, he speaks with XXL on why he’s running with the alias “Banco Populair.” He talks of the big features on the EP, Curren$y’s work ethic and his influence on him. He also touches on the Cool Kids’ separation and how it will benefit them in the long run.—Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

XXL: Everybody used to know you as one part of The Cool Kids, but now you're establishing yourself as a solo artist. How does that feel?

Sir Michael Rocks: It's just good to be able to establish myself like you're saying. It feels good to finally get my respect as a solo artist. What I was finding in the group was that it's important to establish yourself as well. I would see a lot of the times, people wouldn't even know who was in The Cool Kids. They wouldn't know our names. They'd be saying our names wrong.

Obviously people don't really know us like that, so I took it as a chance to establish ourselves more. It clicked to me that the name was bigger than what people knew about us, so we got to establish ourselves and let people know. You know that Clipse is Pusha T and Malice, you know A Tribe Called Quest is Phife and Tip, you know that Mobb Deep is Havoc and Prodigy, but people weren't getting that with us. It's been work, it's been a learning process and it's been a ladder being climbed, but it's so rewarding to see the fruits of the labor start to come out. People starting to honor what you're doing and starting to notice, and gaining fans and love from people—it wasn't always like this on the solo side.

You're also running with another name, Banco Populair. What's up with that?

That's just the alias. Like I was telling somebody else, it means "popular bank" in Dominican. It's a Dominican bank and that's where I got it. I put my own spin on it and I just get in the mode. It feels good to have an alias to go into. Sometimes, when you hear that on that song, you know it's about to happen. I'm already going off once you hear that. It just feels good to have people recognize what's up. I'm glad people are picking up on it.

Is Banco an album or an EP?

It's the EP. I'm just easing people into getting used to buying stuff from me. As of now, I haven't charged anybody for anything. I've given away like five mixtapes full of all original music, all original songs for free. During that time I was figuring out what sounds I want to go with, producers I like, what gets people going when it comes to me, what people want to hear from me. I was getting used to all that and figuring it out, and now with Banco, I feel like I finally got a good idea of what's up and what I need to do. Now I'm ready to get people used to buying stuff from me. Now it's going to get real. Before it was cool. We were testing the waters, seeing what's what and experimenting.

Lap of Lux did pretty well.

That was the best one I've dropped so far. I had never gotten that many views or downloads from anything that I've dropped so far. It was such a huge jump, too, from Premier Politics to Lap of Lux as far as awareness, as far as people knowing what's up and watching videos and downloads. It was a big jump, so I'm expecting similar results with Banco. I'm finishing it up right now, putting the finishing touches on and waiting for the features to come.

What are you thinking about track wise? A lot of people do EPs with ten or eleven tracks. Are you going real small?

I'm going about ten or eleven. I think that that's just enough for me to knock 'em dead, but make 'em still want more. I'm not trying to give them twenty or seventeen right now. I don't want no filler. I want boom, boom, boom the whole time, just non-stop smackers from beginning to end so people can want more. It's going to be a lot of people's first time seeing me because I'm starting to get on a different platform now, where I'm getting introduced to a world that they didn't really know me even as The Cool Kids. With this first impression, I want to knock them out. I want to knock them out the box and keep them wanting more.

You mentioned some features. Who are you working with?

For right now, I got some features from some artists that ya'll have featured, definitely some names, and some names bigger than myself. I do that to get in the ball game with everybody. I think it'll be cool to see me on tracks with other artists. Usually, I do a lot by myself or with other people that are my peers, you know, Casey [Veggies], Dom [Kennedy] or people that are the same caliber as myself.

Now I want to kind of reach up a little higher and grab some people that I haven't worked with yet, grab some bigger artists that I haven't worked with yet and really just start playing ball. It's time. I got the songs and I got the back-story. I got it. It is just time to play ball now.

How's Jet Life right now? Did you sign with them recently?

It's less of a signed contract type of thing, more so an affiliation. It's less of an artist on the roster; more so just like a movement. It's a movement, a state of mind. It's a style. I'm definitely rocking with that shit. As far as me being a signed artist, that's not the case, but that's the fam.

Curren$y, he helped out when I was doing the Premier Politics stuff. He saw the music was dope, the videos were dope. He gave a helping hand and a more of a platform to put your stuff out to. People like to see artists communicate. They like to see artists team up, you know what I'm saying? The fans love to see artists team up and he saw that opportunity. After Premier Politics went out, we did some songs and some videos. We gave awareness to those thousands of fans that he has. That affiliation is definitely a good look.

As far as being signed, I'm really just waiting for my situation right now. I'm putting out music and building up more leverage. I could go get deals. I could go get a deal today if I wanted to walk down the street and into an office, but I want to build it up more myself. I want to build up more of my own leverage, so when I go into these spots, they already got it laid on the table for me. I won't have to go wheeling and dealing. I don't have to go ask. They'll already know what's up. I don't want to go beg and plead and prove why I'm dope.

Curren$y has a crazy work ethic. You're talking about how you want to build yourself right now. He's kind of built himself through the mixtape and touring circuits. Have you picked up some things from him?

Exactly that. I really saw the steam he picked up while he was on his tough grind. As of late, he hasn't been on it like that. He's still dropping them, but at one point in time he was boom, boom, boom, boom and that's when things really started heating up.

I learned that through Dame, too. Dame is really a lot of the reason for why that was popping off back when everything was clicking with them. I was there at that same time and that's why me and Curren$y became good friends like that. Dame really expressed the importance of to keep casting out your net. It's like fishing. The more you cast out your net, the more fish you're going to catch. If you cast your net our four or five times, keep going constantly, you're catching more and more fish. Sometimes it's a little, sometimes it's a lot, but you're bringing in more constantly. The fish are like fans and he taught me to keep casting that net. That's when Curren$y was dropping non-stop mixtapes and that's why I'm dropping project after project, quality stuff man.

I read in this past interview that you really wanted to focus on your solo stuff. So, is The Cool Kids stuff out of the question for you?

Me and Chuck, we both live in Los Angeles, so we see each other every day. We're still working on a lot of stuff together besides just rapping together. The main thing I want to express is that we're doing this solo stuff because we got to establish ourselves individually. It's not healthy for us to be this group that people don't even know who's who.

They don't know our names, they don't know how many people are in this group. That's not healthy. Some people did, our fans did, but then it's a weird group of people who say they love us and they don't even know our names. They're kind of like weird, in the middle fans, and those people need to be aware too. We need to develop ourselves on the solo side. Chuck is a producer first and foremost. He made all the beats for The Cool Kids and in that period he really didn't make beats for anyone else. He's a producer who can have such a large range of sounds. He needs to make a beat for Rihanna. He needs to make a beat for Ross. He needs to make a beat for me. This dude is a great musician and he's got to expand. While we were doing our stuff, we weren't working with anyone else, but as a producer, that's how he's going survive.

Right now, he's getting his catalog spread out with tons of other artists and really getting his own name up as a producer. When we first came into this and met up, we had a conversation. We said we're going to get in here and smash as a group, but then we can do whatever we want. You want to do some production; you can do whatever you want. You want to do some rapping, go do it. We had this conversation back in 2007. This is nothing new to us.

Even if you guys are together, you aren't setting music aside for The Cool Kids? You're just solely focused on solo work?

We're just going with the solo stuff right now. I'm interested to see what it's going to sound like, you know what I'm saying? It's got to be dope. After you work with someone for so many years, you get so used to each other musically that you don't get that same passion and same wanting to sound dope as when you first met.

When we first met, I didn't know him all that well, and I was like I need to show this dude I'm going hard. I need to go as hard as I can and impress this dude. This is a new friend of mine and I got to shell out. When you work with somebody for so long, you get comfortable and you get used to it. You know what they're going to do and they know what you're going to do.

I'm interested to see, like when we haven't been working together for a while and we come back, it might be crazier than the first time. We're going to have learned so many different things that we can teach each other.

When are you looking at, like a timeline, for the EP to drop?

Early this year, so around springtime we should be ready. Until then, I'm going to have new videos and all that stuff, so it's not like I'm about to drop off or anything. There's going to be new, unreleased stuff coming out until then. We're going to ease you all into it.