From the magazine: ISSUE 87, June/July 2013
People are still getting used to seeing Sir Michael Rocks alone. For years, he stood beside friend and fellow Chicago native Chuck Inglish as Mikey Rocks of the Cool Kids, a hip-hop pair who found some success in the late 2000s as a retro, ’90s-styled rap outfit. Today, though, Rocks is a solo artist looking to make good on a promise of stardom he feels the Cool Kids never fulfilled. “Just a word of advice for anybody trynna rap or do any shit like this,” Rocks says by phone, from outside of a Los Angeles barbershop. “If you ever gotta sue somebody, don’t sue them. Just try to kill them, or like, send some niggas on the streets to kill them. For one, you gone spend a whole lot less money, and for two, it’s gone waste a whole lot less time.”
He’s talking about a years-long lawsuit he opened to get the Cool Kids out of a deal with their first label, Chocolate Industries. It was a headache that delayed the eventual Green Label Sound release of their debut album, When Fish Ride Bicycles, until 2011. Rocks says the process nearly killed his passion for making music, but as a newfound solo artist, he seems motivated by his independence. “I feel so free now, cause I get to just say whatever the fuck I want to say all the time,” he says. “When you’re in a group, you gotta kinda meet in the middle so the songs can make sense and things can be balanced.”
Compared to the Cool Kids, Rocks’ solo offerings—like his latest mixtape, While You Wait, and last year’s Lap of Lux series—find the 24-year-old at his most unhinged. The Cool Kids met when they were both just 16 and made their name rapping about the types of things that kids from most demographics can appreciate—young relationships, Air Jordans and riding BMX bikes. Now, Sir Michael Rocks touches on nearly all of rap’s most continuously abused tropes—the burdens of financial excess, the joys of recreational drug use, hoes—but does so with charm and finesse, fully confident in the axe he’s been swinging for nearly a decade.
A few months ago, Rocks moved to LA to focus on finishing his first solo album, Banco, which he plans to self-release. He says he records constantly in a home studio, devoting off-time to his clothing line, Mariani, and that he and Inglish, who also lives in LA, hang out whenever they can. According to Rocks, he already has plenty of fans who’ve never heard of the Cool Kids, and he’s excited to give his career a compelling second act. “A lot of people that you see on top now are people that have come out with something before,” Rocks says, citing artists like Miguel, Rick Ross and 2 Chainz, all of whom found their biggest success later in their careers. “If you’re a talented artist, all it takes is shaping your brand and shaping your sound and shaping your personality and shit, and once you get it right, the talent is gone shine through.” Admittedly still working on all of the aforementioned, he caps his statement with a remark that seems to double both as a declaration and challenge to himself: “If you’re a talented artist.”