The Cool Kids

Bake Sale

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Despite reams of online hype and commercial anticipation, the release of the Cool Kids' debut EP still radiated sonic excitement, a blast at once sharp, funny, and intimate. Here, after all, is a triumph of absolute aestheticism. The name fulfills itself, not just in that these kids do seem pretty cool (all 16-bit name-drops and shoe talk), but because musically each moment -- each immaculately chosen drum hit, each spare sci-fi sonic embellishment, each depth-charge punch line -- is precision-placed for maximum efficacy. Which is to say, though the point may be a bit moot, maximum coolness. This is a production exhibition first and foremost, and in that regard the EP's success is absolute, from the Clipse-via-Beastie Boys crush of "88" to the Fannypack bounce of "Bassment Party" to the indescribably fresh "What Up Man," which might contain the funniest idea in post-millennial hip-hop this side of Lil Wayne's flow. The Cool Kids recast mainstream hip-hop as a medium of geeked-out self-reflexivity, which isn't a viewpoint that's been handled rewardingly since the Native Tongues' loopy, album-centric heyday. But instead of lamenting the genre's artistic erosion lyrically (like the pedantic Talib Kweli), they infuse their music with the spirit of that time and prove through example how the golden age sound earned its name. Still, the best part of this release isn't the sainted artists it recalls, alternately EPMD, DJ Premier, and the Bomb Squad. Like the Ramones way before them, this revivalism isn't for the nostalgic or the academic. It's for -- well, there's that name again.

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