Live: The Cool Kids

Special to The Times

The iced-out money mongering that ushered a new school of rap into vogue around the turn of this century has had an adverse effect on the tried-and-true taxonomy -- two MCs and one DJ -- that reigned for much of hip-hop’s golden age. Think about it -- two rappers means half the mike time for each, half the attention and, more to the point, half the cash.

Rather than form groups, most contemporary rappers have opted for the solo route with hopes of putting on their friends later if all goes well. With the exception of the Clipse and Little Brother (both formed in the ‘90s), the decade thus far has yielded a dearth of standout hip-hop groups, a far cry from the days when giants such as the Fat Boys, Run-DMC, a Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, EPMD and 2 Live Crew walked the earth.

Enter the Cool Kids, the Starter jacket-clad, Chicago-based duo consisting of 23-year-old Chuck Inglish and 19-year-old Mikey Rocks, who have found themselves the latest darling of the fedoras-and-leggings set that crowded into the Echoplex on Saturday night.

Neither rapper is old enough to remember the ‘80s, but that didn’t stop them from pilfering Nas’ “Do the Smurf, do the wop, baseball bat/Rooftop like I’m bringin’ ‘88 back” hook from “Made You Look” and re-imagining it as their own, old-school tribute, “88.”

Indeed, the Cool Kids’ live set stays faithful to the roots of hip-hop with call-and-response chants, skeletal, bass-heavy beats and a fluid two-man interplay. But instead of drawing their fans from the pool of graying Golden Agers, they’ve built a base among the hipster set whose retro aesthetic goes perfectly with the Cool Kids’ unremembered nostalgia for shell toes and fat gold chains.

Performing cuts such as “I (Mikey) Rock,” with its fuzzy, 808 vintage, and their ode to BMX bikes, “Black Mags,” the Cool Kids have managed to put fresh packaging on an old sound, pairing goofy punch-line raps (“Eating a bowl of them Fruity Pebbles/How gangsta is that?/Not gangsta at all/Oh, you judging me dawg?/You shop at the mall”) to slow steady flows, and beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid in Full.”

Of course, they’ll one day have to innovate their own sound, but for now, they remain one of the more promising new groups to emerge in recent years, with a fun live set that draws from the same wellspring of the canonized groups listed above: of rap as party music, not shoot-the-party-up music.