Chicago Rap Phenoms The Cool Kids Are Ready For Their Comeback
Ten years after their breakthrough, they’re back to claim what’s theirs
S o help us, if my generation makes it to middle age, the speech with which I will bore any young person who will listen before returning to their 200-BPM turbo-hardcore will go like this: There was a time when the internet was the Wild West, its terrain shaped by obsessives and nerds instead of algorithms and brands. To immerse oneself in this strange, communal DIY project was to build, bit by bit, one’s idea of utopia. And for music lovers, this era — specifically the post-Xanga, pre-Twitter era of the mid-to-late 2000s — was a straight-up revelation. The music industry hadn’t yet rebounded from the crash in physical album sales, subscription-based streaming services were still a niche market, and for an exhilarating few years, we were in charge. Thoughtfully curated Myspace playlists blasted the songs that defined us (though we’d had some practice artfully capitalizing lyrics in AIM away messages) and let artists learn to control their own digital distribution. And whether your preferred rabbit hole involved obscure Italo disco 12-inch rips, Houston rap oddities, emo bands from nondescript suburbs, or baby’s-first-Logic-experiment electro remixes, there were blogs to be explored for days, run by fellow geeks with day jobs and sprinkled with now-extinct Zshare and Megaupload links to gloriously low-bit mp3s. We had unprecedented access and a platform bound only by our own resourcefulness. Major-label A&Rs were frantically taking notes. The kids had beat The Man at his own game.
“Kudos to the business, though — they took control back,” Antoine Reed, better known as Sir Michael Rocks, says wryly over his burger and fries in a nondescript bar on Chicago’s North Side. “There was a moment in time where they didn’t know what the fuck to do, though, and that was fun.”
“That was tight!” laughs Evan Ingersoll, a.k.a. Chuck Inglish. If anyone gets it, these guys get it. Back then, you knew them as The Cool Kids — two college-age Midwestern beatmakers-turned-rappers who bonded over their love of hard-ass, 1989-style percussion, weird Super Mario sounds, BMX bikes, and gold Run-DMC dookie ropes. (Less as a throwback, mind you, than because they simply looked dope. “I never seen anybody with a platinum chain on that I was like, I gotta get one,” Ingersoll explains. “That’s not tight to me.”) Too savvy to shop themselves out to labels, the duo spent years sharing tracks exclusively through Myspace or mp3 blogs before they even released an official EP. By then, Ingersoll and Reed were local legends, internet cult faves, and were buzzing on the festival circuit; 2008’s The Bake Sale was the first legitimately great rap release to materialize from Myspace. The Cool Kids made this brief, beautiful era of digital anarchy — from ’07 to ’09, let’s say — work for them better than anybody.
Until it didn’t work anymore. Initially announced in 2008, the Cool Kids’ debut album, When Fish Ride Bicycles — whose title sounded more ironic with every pushback — didn’t arrive till 2011. When it finally did, it felt more like a statement about how they never really needed a Capital-A Album in the first place than it did a victory lap. The moment was over, and Ingersoll and Reed knew it. “It wasn’t worth trying to piss in the wind, ’cause that shit was flying back in people’s faces,” says Ingersoll. “I know when the party’s over. Always been that guy. I’ve never been at the party when the cops came, ain’t never been in the party when motherfuckers started tripping — I’ve always been home. The party can’t last forever. But you can have the party somewhere else. And you can bring the party back. It’s still … it.”
The Cool Kids officially, and amicably, disbanded in 2011. Reed signed to Curren$y’s Jet Life Recordings, Ingersoll started his own Sounds Like Fun imprint, and for the next five years, the two released a steady stream of solo projects. Ingersoll would pop up on the occasional Reed song, and vice versa, but in a since-deleted tweet from 2015, Reed made the message clear to anyone still holding on to the past: “THE COOL KIDS ARE NEVER COMING BACK. IM SORRY. SH*T WAS TIGHT … BUT IM ACTUALLY WAY BETTER NOW IF U WLD STOP BEIN A D*CK & LET ME LIVE.” And that was pretty much that.
And then something changed. It was, as a wise prophet noted, the year of realizing things. In the middle of what felt like the darkest, angriest American summer in ages, Ingersoll took to Twitter. “I called Mikey and realized nothing would feel better than us being the originators again,” he wrote in a heartfelt string of tweets. “The Cool Kids are back forreal. The Hiatus is over. We missed being us. We refuse to let people down and not be the actual group. We been through too much… I had really lost my mind this summer. I was losing motivation. All I wanted to do was bring back The Cool.” Reed kept it brief: “EVERYTHING ELSE CAN WAIT. THE WORLD IS FUCKN TRIPPIN RIGHT NOW I JUST WANT SHIT TO FEEL GOOD AGAIN.” That was July 2016. And later tonight, on a single-digit-degree December weekday in Chicago, The Cool Kids will play their first hometown show as a duo in more than half a decade.
But back to before the internet started sucking. The story goes that Reed and Ingersoll met on Myspace, which isn’t entirely true — the two had a mutual friend through making beats, and Ingersoll hit Reed up through Myspace since he didn’t have his cell number. Ingersoll had moved from Detroit to Chicago for college, and Reed, a few years younger, was a high school senior born and raised on the South Side. They met up to collab on some beats — “That was the cool thing to do back then,” Reed says — until Reed revealed that he rapped, too. And thus, The Cool Kids were born.
Anyone who’s tried to build an online empire knows by now that it’s never really sustainable if it isn’t grounded in the real world. The Cool Kids might have appeared to spring from Myspace fully formed, but if you partied in Chicago in the late 2000s, you know that was only half the story. “When there’s a subculture, there’s always a place it came out of,” Ingersoll says. “The reggae club that the punk scene started out of in London. Garage music. House music comes from Chicago house parties and basement parties. It has to start somewhere, you know? And for us, it was Town Hall parties. The Town Hall scene is so under-covered and so under-described, but it’s where everything starts.”
There’s an episode dedicated to Chicago in the archives of the mid-’00s MTV special My Block, on which local musicians acted as tour guides to their hometowns. It’s 2006. In between a juked-out South Side block party and a Lupe Fiasco intro to the West Side, we meet Kid Sister outside Town Hall Pub, an unassuming, sticky-floored dive in Boystown (a North Side neighborhood that’s mostly gay bars and Cubs fans). The rapper born Melisa Young is getting ready for Get Out the Hood, a weeknight party that her brother Josh Young started throwing in ’05 with Curt Cameruci, the other half of his locally beloved but nationally unknown DJ duo Flosstradamus. Kid Sister had grown so used to casually MCing the party, she’d figured she might as well start rapping for real; the next year, her Fool’s Gold single “Pro Nails” would get a Kanye West remix. Floss, whose setup involved four turntables and two mixers, were Chicago’s answer to Diplo and Low-B’s Hollertronix. Cameruci was a former drum’n’bass DJ from Michigan; the Young siblings grew up in the South Side suburb of Markham, the hometown of DJ Spinn and the late DJ Rashad. Their first track (uploaded, obviously, to Myspace) was “Overnight Star,” a mashup of Twista and Sigur Rós that I’m unashamed to admit stayed in heavy rotation on my iPod. (Hand to god, young readers — mashups were a socially acceptable art form during this time.)
Through word of mouth and Myspace, Get Out the Hood had gone from a friends-of-friends Wednesday kickback to a bona fide scene. A YouTube video uploaded the same year shows Josh Young passing Jell-O shots from a cafeteria tray to anyone in arm’s reach as Cameruci plays the Bulls intro theme from a dilapidated stage, complete with an ancient karaoke screen. “Get drunk, niggas!” hollers a baby-faced Reed in a gold chain over a graphic tee. Later, he and Ingersoll perform “Fresher Than You,” never officially released beyond Myspace and Zshare links: “I don’t even walk to the whip no more / Chicks just pick me up and carry me to my car.” Hollywood Holt and Million $ Mano pop up to perform local hit “Caked Up.” In between rap sets, Young and Cameruci’s set is probably something like Three 6 Mafia into The Dismemberment Plan into DJ Deeon. Party photographers — remember those? — snap messy candids to be posted the next day on EveryoneIsFamous, Chicago’s slightly more savory equivalent of The Cobrasnake. Everything smells like spilled Old Style pitchers.
“That era was the height, to me, of musical discovery,” Ingersoll tells me, finishing his beer. “IPods were about to get to their peak. There were sections in Barnes & Noble that you could find every kind of production magazine. Everybody was curious about music, and it still wasn’t as accessible. Unless you had the software-to-gear hybrid, there wasn’t a ton of DJs, because you still had to know how to DJ. Now we’re in an era where everybody’s a musician, so they stand around and judge. The events today run by these tastemakers will never be what Floss created.”
What I mostly remember about the Town Hall scene — even as it grew beyond Town Hall and took over the city at large — was how inclusive it felt, even to folks who weren’t local celebrities. “That was the beautiful part about it. You saw everyone having a great time together,” Ingersoll recalls. “You’ll see somebody dressed in a throwback looking like he was straight out of the goddamn Roc-A-Fella Dream Team album, and then a dude with a biker hat, and girls with fuckin’ Doc Marten boots, and they’re all sharing beer off the same pitcher. That’s what created The Cool Kids. In that incubator, we saw what our world looked like, and thought: Yo, it’s time for this. This is where we live and we’re making music for these people.”
The Town Hall parties eventually faded out as its originators found themselves in Chicago less and less, but the scene didn’t die so much as dissolve into the mainstream. For as many local rap careers as the party ignited, it was more about complete dissolution of genre — an ethos that was catching on, as rap bled into pop, R&B merged with rap, and EDM exploded into everything. Flosstradamus ditched the four turntables to focus on original productions, and they were a global EDM phenomenon a few years later. For Reed and Ingersoll, the unassuming dive bar had opened up a new world of opportunities. Through Flosstradamus, they’d become friends with DJs like Diplo, Steve Aoki, and A-Trak, who was dating Kid Sister and touring with Kanye. It was A-Trak who’d put Kanye on to Daft Punk while touring Europe in 2006; the next year, Kanye released “Stronger” (with sample clearance help from Daft Punk manager/Ed Banger Records head Busy P, after ’Ye apologized for freaking out at Justice at the MTV Europe awards). Everything felt infinitely expansive, yet somehow closer than you’d ever imagined.
The dance music from the Town Hall era may have had a broader long-lasting appeal than the rap, but Ingersoll and Reed say they’ve been taking notes for their comeback. No, it’s not a dance record — what The Cool Kids are after is universality. “Everything came out of that scene,” Ingersoll says emphatically. “To see what they’ve spread out and created is why I know what is going on with us is perfect for right now. Like, Flosstradamus played Soldier Field! As crazy as it sounds, that’s the equivalent of them doing Town Hall in 2016. When you’re DJing, it’s so universal. That’s our intention, that’s what our souls burn for — but with rap. And who doesn’t like rap? Like, get the fuck out of my face!”
A s the Town Hall scene was peaking and its founders touring nonstop, The Cool Kids dropped The Bake Sale — their first commercially available release, still generally considered the duo’s magnum opus. Listening today, the 10-track EP holds up almost bafflingly well compared to other 2008 artifacts. What critics then considered “retro” about Ingersoll’s production now feels timeless, the minimal, Clipse–meets–Beastie Boys drum machines suspended by their own force of gravity. That’s part of why Reed and Ingersoll aren’t jumping to canonize the nearly decade-old project — critics mostly loved it but never really got it. Designations as “retro rap,” or, worse, “hipster rap,” couldn’t help but make the duo feel misunderstood. “It was crazy because, you know, I’m from here, I came from out South. So there was none of that,” Reed remembers. “I never even heard the term ‘hipster’ until I started getting a little more prominent on the rap scene. So when I started getting labeled as that, I was like, I don’t know what the fuck that is.”
“Our style came out looking like it was the ’80s, and we didn’t stop nobody from saying that — but this was new,” Ingersoll adds. “Nobody was doing that. We started seeing the coverage come back like, Oh, this is hipster rap! And we were like, how? It was just us being friends with a multicultural cast who liked the same things. We were struggling with it at first, but now I own up to the shit. We were cool! I think that our style allowed people a comparison for our sound. But it sounded new.” He pauses, marinating for a moment over his burger. “Nothing that we ever did was intended to be the way it was perceived. We just took it and ran with it — and once they made a clear decision on us, we tried to change it, like, Nah, that’s not that. We gonna do this a different way.”
From a distance, it never looked like the Cool Kids were languishing in the years between The Bake Sale and 2011’s When Fish Ride Bicycles. Reed and Ingersoll toured with The Clipse, dropped a handful of mixtapes, popped up on video game soundtracks and Entourage episodes, released singles on Fool’s Gold and Mountain Dew’s newly instated Green Label Sound, and played pretty much every festival imaginable. The duo managed to avoid painting themselves into a corner; they’d guest on a song with the Bloody Beetroots, a Dim Mak electro duo known for DJing in Spiderman masks, then hop on a song with Gary, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs. If anything was changing, it was the environment in which they’d originally thrived — the internet. Myspace users were in rapid decline, phased out by Facebook and game-changing newcomer Twitter. Social media as a promotion and distribution tool was no longer unique; it was becoming the norm. Everyone was an aspiring tastemaker, and formerly DIY sites and events were rapidly overtaken by corporate sponsorship. And that gap between artist and fan that had been narrowing for years was starting to get weird.
“That mystique started to fall away,” says Reed. “You could see when your favorite artist was taking a shit, or when they were eating oranges, or when they’re with the dog. I remember artists that I used to look up to in high school — there was still that huge separation. I could never have a convo, never do a track with them, have them hear my music. It was unheard of. But with our wave, that fell to the wayside. Kids would come up to us, and if they had a rap I’d check it out; if it sucked, I’d be like, ‘Damn, that sucked.’ Since then, everything is live, every artist never turns the camera off. They want you to talk to them all day now.” He shrugs. “I don’t really condone it, but that’s what’s happening.”
“Imagine where Kanye would be right now if he’d never gotten a Twitter account,” I wonder.
“He’d probably be a lot happier,” Reed replies.
“Our bigger cultural figures that came from the generation prior — like early 2000s — got completely lost in translation as to what was going on,” adds Ingersoll. “Like, we had AIM, we had Friendster, we had Myspace, we had BlackPlanet. We were socially network trained. There’s certain things you don’t share. That was what Myspace was about — you built that wall! You was honest, but there was a wall.”
Suddenly Ingersoll remembers exactly what it was that made it obvious, back in ’05, how The Cool Kids would have to distribute their music instead of shopping for a record deal. “You know what did it? Cassie’s ‘Me & U.’ When I went to every girl’s page and I saw that song, I was like, ‘All right, this is what’s crackin’. This is the new radio.’ And they got rid of that on purpose. You had the power and the control. People were creating the Top 10 songs. Now it’s like, they got marketing teams that make shit go viral.”
“We’ll give it to these three YouTube stars, and they’re gonna do this dance…” Reed says, imitating a scheming A&R. “They’re acting like new artists are indie when they have a million-dollar budget. That’s the weirdest thing to me. ’Cause they know that kids hate it when there’s some manufactured artist shoved down their throats, so they’re like, Let’s say he’s not signed and just shove money behind it. It’s not the Wild Wild West anymore. It’s back to being corporate and policed. For a second they lost control, and they panicked. They scrambled around, and it took them a couple years, but they got it back.”
That might change soon, Ingersoll adds. “This new wave of college kids that are coming in the next two years, they’re so intelligent because they’ve never lived without the internet and they can source everything on their own,” he says. “I believe they’re gonna start a revolution. They’re gonna be like, Where are we getting our music from? All right, fuck that. Like, where are you getting your music from? You’re getting your music from Twitter. You get music from memes.”
“MEMES!” Reed repeats with a resigned laugh. “And I love funny memes. But it’s like: A meme to me is a funny thing, but it’s also a dirty thing. Like, it’s passed around between so many people touching it that it’s, like, nasty! Like, ughhh! It’s a filthy thing, in a sense. People are turning music into memes. Everything is a meme now.”
“Only reason why things go viral is ’cause people thought it was funny really quick, and they want to send a joke to their friends,” says Ingersoll. “I mean, the Mannequin Challenge was tight, but it definitely made Hillary Clinton lose.” He laughs — he’s joking, but not really. “People probably looked at her like, You out here doing the Mannequin Challenge, you must have thought you won.”
“Man, they really need to let presidents be presidents and then we have, like, a United States mascot,” Reed says. “He’ll dab, he’ll dance, he’ll do the Mannequin Challenge. And then let the president be a little Bernie Sanders nerd guy in the back, who actually knows what he’s doing and is gonna make shit work. We conflict ourselves with making our president also our mascot. We lose ourselves with that.”
By 2011, The Cool Kids couldn’t shake the feeling that the party was over. “Name the difference between 2011 and 2015 — fucking nothing,” Ingersoll says, still horrified. “Maybe, like, mohawks — motherfuckers had mohawks. They were wearing leather pants and all these hats with a whole bunch of spikes.”
“Oh my god, the swag era,” Reed chimes in. “Everybody looked like Bowser. They had the spikes from Sonic. A lot of Versace patterns, vintage Versace belts used as chains and bracelets. We had to get out of that. It was a dark time. That’s when we were like, All right, let’s reevaluate.”
So for the next five years, Reed and Ingersoll did their respective things. But the fans remained. The same kids who would come through Inglish’s solo shows would’ve been at Reed’s show the week before. “And they wouldn’t ask me, like, Damn, why y’all ain’t together? They’d be like, Man, you heard Mikey’s new shit?” says Ingersoll. It simply wasn’t time for The Cool Kids, and the fans respected it, even if they hoped deep down that the duo would one day change their minds.
Something felt different, though, when Ingersoll and Reed got to 2016. “This was over the summertime,” Reed recalls. “Back-to-back-to-back-to-back crazy shit started happening. Everybody was dying. Police killings. Ordinary-day people were getting mad.”
“There’s certain times when I knew everybody agreed on things — Chappelle’s Show, us, Finding Nemo, shit like that,” says Ingersoll. “As a human on this planet, I don’t want to be the guy …” He trails off for a moment. “I always bring up Outkast. There should be no fucking reason they’re not making records. I don’t know their situation, but that’s bullshit. I always told myself, when I became an artist and it started to work — the shit I always wanted my favorite artists to do, that they never did, I was gonna do. Like, man, it would’ve been tight if Kanye just got his MPC back, put on a white tee and a goddamn Jesus piece chain, got a haircut from Ibn and did a House of Blues run. So when you wake up every day and the news is bad, and music sucks, and movies suck: A’ight, man, you gotta do your part. What’s your part? Every single kid who, when we did our solo shit, was still like, Man, you gotta fuck with their solo shit! We got real fans. We should give them this.”
More than a decade older than when they started, in a barely recognizable cultural landscape, The Cool Kids decided to hit restart. But how do you win over a Lil Uzi Vert fan with no context for what made them cool in the first place? “Those kids, their older brother looked up to us,” Ingersoll assures me. “There’s things that you wouldn’t be able to do if we didn’t do. If Mikey wasn’t walking around rocking skinny peach jeans with some Jordans you ain’t never seen, you wouldn’t think that shit was tight. Wearing what we wanted, we was hearing boos before we even came out on the stage, you know what I’m saying? We did a New York show with Pharoahe Monch in 2008; I had a full Adidas sweatsuit situation, and I heard someone scream, What is this, ’95? If I came out like that in 2017, I’d be a regular motherfucker.”
Looking back, that’s what Reed and Ingersoll seem to feel most proud of, and not just in terms of aesthetics. “Our role was to kick that door open, man,” says Reed. “Shit was stale, it was not fun, and it was very polarized toward one thing, especially when it came to people’s perception of black kids. At that time, everything was 50 Cent, big jeans, wifebeaters and boots, big hoodies. There were kids who didn’t even feel like that, but they had to dress like that, you know what I mean? I knew kids who were super-nerds in school who wore a do-rag and looked like goddamn 50 Cent because that’s all you could do. They wouldn’t have done that if they knew they had a choice.”
Ingersoll points to Lupe Fiasco as an artist who opened the door The Cool Kids walked through. “That was actually the first step in that direction,” he says. “You got somebody from the West Side of Chicago talking about skateboarding. We weren’t like Lupe, but we came from that same caste. We went from 50 Cent to a rapper with glasses, talking ’bout kick, push. When people get over shit, they want the opposite. We grew up looking at how our fathers dressed in the ’80s and talked about stuff that actually mattered to us. We don’t wear just, like, big baggy jeans all the time. We know about anime, we know about books, we’ve eaten different food. This exists.”
Still, if people generally want the opposite of whatever came before, what does that mean for right now? “Now, it’s not about establishing who you are as a person,” Ingersoll says. “It’s about how much you can prove to people that you are who they think you are.” Or, as the writer Sheila Heti put it in her novel How Should a Person Be?, describing the banal, flattened appeal of postmodern celebrity: “I would rather be liked for who I appear to be, and for who I appear to be, to be who I am.” This is our life — the surreally dull endpoint of what was happening on Myspace forever ago.
“Creativity and style should be married, but they don’t really have anything to do with each other,” Ingersoll adds. “Style is taught. Creativity is in you, or it’s not.”
After we finish our burgers and head to their manager’s Bucktown office, Ingersoll and Reed hover over Reed’s phone, deciding to test out the newly debuted Instagram Live feature. “We live! We live!” they shout sarcastically to their followers checking in, in between pummeling each other with rounds of styrofoam bullets from a monstrous stray Nerf gun with a refillable clip. The two take turns responding to incoming comments: “‘Where the bitches at?’” Reed answers incredulously, “It’s 3 p.m., man, relax!”
“He said I look like a fat Ezekiel Elliott!” Ingersoll sputters, fake-hurt, responding to another comment. “Hey, somebody said you a weird-ass nigga, bro,” he adds, turning to Reed.
“I ammmmm!” Reed crows, pelting a wall with Nerf bullets. “Guilty as charged!”
The most Chicago thing about The Cool Kids, by the way, is that they’re funny as fuck. “The Dozens in Chicago is a whole ’nother sport,” Ingersoll explains. “You gotta be funny growing up; you had to learn how to have thick skin and how to be quick, or you gonna get left. You make fun out of everything — not make fun of things, but you make fun out of anything. That’s the most Chicago part about what we do. Everything’s fucking funny, even when it’s not funny.”
“It comes from that wintertime,” adds Reed. “You don’t got nothing to do but sit in the house and talk shit about your friends all day. When it was cold as fuck, you’d be in somebody’s basement playing video games and just honing your skills in shit-talking ’cause you couldn’t go play soccer and shit.”
Reed, who relocated to L.A. years ago out of a sense of professional obligation, has since moved back to his hometown. “That’s what everybody says you’re supposed to do, but I hated it, man!” he says. “I mean, it was OK, but I was like, Fuck, this is annoying! The people, and then the sun every day. It was a little bit of The Twilight Zone. I got a lot of shit done, but it just didn’t feel right, man. Everybody’s in a constant cycle of moving in and out, so you can’t establish anything stable. Everybody hates their hometown, hates being where they’re from, and feels like they’re supposed to go. But sometimes, nah.”
“Something about the Midwest — our people and our grandparents and great-grandparents, they came to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis to get out of the South,” adds Ingersoll, thinking out loud. “They separated themselves from what they were comfortable with, and now we’re naturally separatists. We don’t have the same camaraderie. But we do! Because be out of town with somebody from Chicago, be out of the country with someone from Detroit, and there’s a brotherhood. There’s this collective consciousness. We have that fraternity. If there was a way to combat that, and let people have that same attitude in the place where they’re at, this wouldn’t be a place that you needed to leave.”
Later that night, the mid-December temperature drops to zero degrees, but it doesn’t matter. Thalia Hall, where The Cool Kids will be performing together in their hometown for the first time in half a decade, is filled to its nearly-900-person capacity. The crowd might skew a little older, but the vibe is unmistakable — the same diverse array of faces and styles you might have seen at a 2007 Town Hall night.
I think of something Ingersoll said earlier, when I asked what’s changed the most for the duo over a decade of highs, lows, and complete restarts. “Then, we just had big dreams,” he said. “I don’t think we really weighed out how we wanted it to look for the full spectrum. When you have big dreams and they play out bigger than you thought, sometimes you can kinda be overwhelmed. Now, I’m not shaken by shit. When we first came out, people would dis us for how we looked, and that shit would bother me. Now, you can’t say shit to me, and if you did, I’d probably whoop your ass.” He nods to Reed: “You can ask him, this shit has happened a couple times. But that attitude is maturity. It’s really about the music, and us having fun. Before, it turned into: Are we being The Cool Kids, this grandiose idea everybody created for us? I don’t give a shit! The first really important piece of advice we got when we started working on this album was: Fuck The Cool Kids. We’re already The Cool Kids.”
Finally, to screams from what feels like half the city of Chicago, Ingersoll and Reed bound onstage in coordinating navy-and-burgundy sweatsuits to “Black Mags.” The crowd screams every word: “YO, I GOT THIS ’89, ’90 / PISTONS CHAMP FLAT-BILL / BLACK STARTER CAP WITH THE HOLOGRAM TAGS.” And it’s not just the duo’s biggest hits that feel burned into the crowd’s memory. They know all the solo shit — Reed’s “Cell Dope” and “Memo” get an especially huge response — and they know the new shit, too, from the modernist but ever-so-slightly Slick Rick–ish “Connect 4” to the gently eerie echo of “Running Man,” in which Reed raps with a disaffected smirk: “You still on Ian Connor’s page tryna pick what to wear / These peasants fresh as me? Tell me how / They still distressin’ tees on they couch / Rock band tees and bands they don’t know nothin’ ’bout / You heard of Iron Maiden once? Bro that don’t even count.” The duo perch on the stage’s giant subwoofers, trading bars like they never left.
Originally published at www.mtv.com.