Often the case with innovation, pioneers go less remembered with later adapters reaping greater financial rewards and acclaim once successful business models are set in place. In the instance of Hip Hop’s Digital Age, TDE’s camp has eased their way into somewhat of an industry takeover while their predecessors continue mapping out blueprints from a few steps behind. Along with U-N-I (Thurz and Yonas Michael) and Pac Div, The Cool Kids are a prime example of those to make an impact during Internet Rap’s infancy who have yet to arrive at a true breakout moment. Going separate creative paths, Chuck Inglish has remained a relatively low-key producer while Sir Michael Rocks has seemingly shifted his focus. His aspirations developing him into an archetype for the current climate of information overload, Banco is Sir Michael Rocks’ first go at leaving the free mixtape circuit to sell his work.
Formerly walking amongst tastemakers, Sir Michael Rocks faces the challenge of maintaining a presence and keeping pace within a changing scene. With admiration for his solo work stemming from a knack for setting an atmospheric vibe, Banco bets against the odds as Michael’s hometown of Chicago is now defined by two sounds: the angst driven Drill movement and soulful alternatives such as Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper. Matching neither style, he shows love to Windy City forefathers Do Or Die on the smoothed out “Some Ish.” An otherwise respectable celebration of his roots, he employs the exhausted strategy of seeking a Twista feature when seeking to represent the Midwest. In this case, the plan may be trite, but the execution is still done skillfully.
Most mainstream oriented emcees carry themselves with an air of arrogance, and the former Mikey Rocks is no different here. He vacillates between a self-referential stream of consciousness (the likely byproduct of his method of half-freestyled rhymes) and flexing swagger to the point of exaggeration. Though overly narcissistic, his second nature is a youthful energy that can’t be denied. “Memo” places a tricked out spin on Madvillain’s “Accordion,” suggesting Michael (a self-professed anime enthusiast whose rhymes reference the RPG genre of video games) is secretly more eclectic than he’s willing to display on this particular record. Catering to multiple crowds, the widespread collaboration on Banco make it difficult to figure out exactly where his creative allegiances lie. Young winners Casey Veggies and IamSu! show up to salute fast women on “Bussin,” while “Kill Switch” boils down to needlessly loud and violent fantasy with forgettable upstarts Robb Banks and Pouya bringing little to the table. The greatest surprise comes by way of “Lost Boys,” an ode of sorts to the Wild West as Trinidad James unexpectedly steals the show. Recorded while his buzz was stronger, this redemption for James’ otherwise lackluster career to date is masterminded by Mac Miller who co-stars in the booth and on the production side.
Having grown up inches from the spotlight, Sir Michael Rocks redesigns his image as the long anticipated Banco is his official debut attempting professional self-agency. His most glaring creative flaw is resorting to commonplace tropes, especially given how left of field he’s demonstrated he can be both as a soloist and a member of the Cool Kids. “Ain’t Nothin’ Like” evidences this, as he and his partner Chuck Inglish latch onto DJ Mustard’s wave (with the help of OG philanderer Too Short) aiming to craft a simplistic club banger so as to fit in with the times. A hero to the ADD generation, he risks confusing his built-in audience as “Fuck Seaworld” best draws comparison to Lil B’s trademark non-sequitirs. The choice of shrouding his trademark oddity in stock cuts and sheer confidence is a curious one, but Banco remains entertaining for the most part. Sir Michael Rocks gets by without saying much or offering anything particularly introspective because of a sometimes excellent presentation. But until these faults are addressed it’s hard to envision him elevating past the cusp of stardom.