The Cool Kids Break Down Their Favorite Rap Duos
Partners in rhyme speak on what makes a great rap duo
Ever since we dropped our list of “The Best Rap Duos of All Time” we’ve been getting blazed in the comments. No Red and Meth? No Beatnuts? No Bad Meets Evil! We hear you. Look, it’s impossible to please everybody with these lists. Decisions have to be made. Feelings get hurt. The main point is to start a discussion, and that’s exactly what happened. As fate would have it, the Cool Kids—who came in at No. 19 on the list—stopped by MASS APPEAL HQ ahead of their performance at the recent Afropunk festival. Of course we got to talking about what makes a great rap duo. Gems were dropped. Listen up.
What’s the good and bad parts of being in a rap duo?
Chuck Inglish: It’s a lot of rap duos that don’t exist no more. If you understand and respect each other’s creative differences, it’s still a group.
Mikey Rocks: With a rap duo, every song is a collaboration. Every song we make we gotta literally talk to each other and collab. Working solo made me appreciate what working in a group was like. Oooh—this is a whole different thing. You can’t ask about this, it’s two verses instead of one. You can see what you bring to the table and what the other person brings to the table, too. I can see a lot more clearly now. When you doing’ solo stuff you gotta like control everything cause it’s all you. But when you’re working in a partnership you gotta learn how to let things go. I’ll let him do that and I’ll take care of this and we can get more done that way.
It’s a personality thing where a lot of people, especially rappers and stuff, it’s hard to be in a group cause you got ego. You got a lot of people in your ear saying this and that behind you. So it’s hard for some people to ever collaborate successfully. Some people are just better off by themself. And then other people are able to coexist in a group and make it tight. It just depends on the relationship you and the partner have.
What makes a great rap duo?
MR: One of the things that make a good rap duo is they gotta have their own secret kinda like a language, like a code talk that they’re able to put on their songs. You can hear them kinda talking to each other and they’re saying stuff for the other one to react off of. A lot of times even when we make a lot of stuff, I’m writing it to make him be like, “Ohhh shit! That’s crazy!” And he’s doing the same for me. We don’t really think about the whole world at that point yet. If you try to think about tons of different people, that’s too many personalities and little nuances that make it impossible to please 1000 people. So I think it’s easier for us to try to impress each other first. I think any great duo is kinda workin’ in that aspect, if that makes sense.
CI: I think on a different note, they have to be like, almost two polar separate personalities at the same time. When I notice what we look like, I started tapping out when I was watching Next Friday. Cause every time I’m watching Next Friday I’m like, “Oh that’s Day-Day, and I’m Craig.” Even when it comes down to groups, he’s more Andre 3000 and I’m more Big Boi. In those situations, you have two different personalities. You know, like Batman and Robin, Darkwing Duck and Launchpad—all the combinations.
You understand why they work. They don’t really work separately as well as they do together. And I think that’s the underlying factor that makes a group fire. You can have fire solo records, but nobody will be a bigger fan of the solo artist than the group, if you’re a real group. There are certain groups that were like, “Oh yeah, I knew that motherfucker was going solo the whole time.” [Laughs]
MR: You can see it a mile away. You can see it at the beginning sometimes.
CI: But it’s also still unwritten. Because it’s like restaurants—there are so many failures. There’s a couple that work, but with the ones that work, the recipe is still the same. You tend to see more trios stick together than you see duos. You got one odd man. Somebody’s probably the equalizer. But when you’re in a duo, and you want it to stick, both your brains gotta have that man that speaks like, “Aw man, what’s he gonna feel like?” Think about what he’s gonna feel like before you do that shit, or you gonna look stupid. Or he might just let that shit go, but he’s still gonna be like, “Oh you a bitch-ass nigga for that.” And that’s worse. That’s worse than being mad right then, putting those “You a bitch-ass nigga” notes in your head if you supposed to work with somebody. That creates the worst tension in the world. That passive-aggressive, “I ain’t gonna say shit cause we got a shit, but nigga fuck you.”
That goes down with everybody. They’ll be like. “Oh, we’re just gonna get to the money.” But when you can take yourself outside of yourself and not be selfish, it gives you a lot of leeway towards life, how to see situations and how to be fair. If we don’t be fair this shit is over with, and then we can give up any dreams of chilling on super-mega yachts doing real ill cool shit. That shit is chopped. Keep focused on what the big picture is. Let’s do this as big as we can. If that’s the motivation it’s hard to be selfish about anything.
What are your favorite rap duos?
CI: How many do you want? I’m gonna start with OutKast, cause OutKast shaped who I am probably 27 percent. And that’s a big chunk. That’s more than taxes. You know what I’m sayin’?
Yeah, from the first album they put out. I didn’t catch OutKast last. I actually caught OutKast the day “Players Ball” video dropped. I remember watchin’ The Box. It was around Christmas time. I got a slightly photographic memory when it comes to music, so I know exactly where I was at when I came up on some shit. And I remember hearing “Players Ball” and being down in Atlanta that summer and feeling that kind of like electricity. My dad had a friend in Atlanta and I was seeing dudes dressing like Andre from the video, like just seeing that kind of influence. Some southern rappers with like a whole new lyrical…like a Southern Mobb Deep or some shit. And that was how my cousins was puttin’ it to me. “These are some southern Mobb Deep niggas.” And I would be like, “Crazy!”
I used to try to steal my cousin’s tapes. I couldn’t listen to Parental Advisory shit in ’93. My mom wasn’t on that. I was eight, you know what I’m saying? That shit wasn’t cool, to let kids listen to whatever. I would go over my friends’ house and they had parental controls on the TV.
EPMD right after that, cause “You Gots To Chill” changed my life too. First time I saw that video I snapped.
So EPMD, Audio Two…
But Audio Two are pretty much just famous for one record.
CI: But did you hear the album?
Yeah, that was a dope album.
CI: It was fire. Uh, Kriss Kross. Philly’s Most Wanted and the Clipse. Philly’s Most Wanted is extra extra underrated.
MR: They were slept on. They were slept on, man. I might be wrong, but something makes me feel like they were like the experiment for the Clipse. Like it was the prototype for the Clipse. I might be wrong, but I feel like that was the test to make…. “We want a duo, we want a rap duo from Virginia. We want something like that with that flavor.”
CI: But it’s crazy though because [Clipse’s] The Funeral came out before Philly’s Most Wanted. So the Clipse had already been out, then Philly’s Most Wanted came out, then the Clipse came back out.
MR: They came back. I feel like it had something to do with that kinda rest process. It seems like they were like, “I-ight maybe we do this different, do that different.” Then, bam, the Clipse just kinda took over.
CI: You wanna hear two groups that aren’t groups that are groups though? You can’t take them out of the group situation in hip hop. Nas and AZ, and Rae and Ghost. Those are my favorite rap groups, and they not even groups. I been wanting a Nas and AZ album, like, produced in 1995, for like my whole life. If I got a time machine and I could go back, that would be the only thing I would switch up, like, “Y’all niggas gotta do an album now, fam, cause the world is gonna need it.”
Rae and Ghost already got 22 albums if you really add it up. And the most underrated rap album of a group is Bulletproof Wallets. Cause it is a group album. And from the start of that bitch, they just go crazy. Raekwon said to my man,“What I tell you about wearing the wrong New Balance?” [Laughs]
MR: Disciplinary action, you feel me?
CI: That shit is so deep, dog! “What I tell you about wearing the wrong New Balance?” That shit used to raise me up.
MR:They came back. Yeah! That was a wild duo, cause it’s like, damn, they just filtered out two members of a huge group. And it was like, these two go do this by themselves. And it was still Wu-Tang. But it was these two in Wu-Tang. It was wild.
CI: You could just tell they was fused together.
MR: You could tell that they still spent a lot of time together, so it was crazy to see that shit.
CI: One time I was on mushrooms and I had an epiphany while I was watching old Rap City videos. Cause sometimes I like to go in this little time warp sometimes when I’m tripping on mushrooms. So I watched this Raekwon and Ghostface freestyle from Rap City in 2000.
Ghostface had this Iceberg jacket with Snoopy on it. And Rae had this crazy-ass fit and he was rapping, squatting on the toilet. And Ghost didn’t even say shit, he was just dancing doing all Rae’s arm movements. And I sent it to [Mikey] like, “Who is that?” They left it for us. That camaraderie back and forth between them two is why we had to bring Cool Kids back. We got to keep that movement on. Showbiz and AG, that’s a fire-ass album.
MR: UGK, bro. What are we doing, bro? What are we doing here? UGK. RIP Pimp.
CI: Ooooh!!! That was stupid! Oh my God! I forgot UGK!
MR: When I was little. Pimp C had those rants and shit at the end of all the songs, I used to be scared but intrigued at the same time where I couldn’t cut if off. I was like five, scared as fuck.
CI: Bro, that second album, the Dirty Money? I lived off that album. The whole summer of 2000 I didn’t do shit but ride around and go meet up with girls at go track races, and try to figure out what we doing here and drive back listening to UGK. I used to pull out the parking lot, playing that shit extra loud. “Chopping on Blades” was my national anthem. And you can’t get no more game than you could get from Pimp and Bun on some shit.
MR: Yeah, they just talk. They just talk. That’s all it was, was some talk. Every song was just a conversation. Cause he was like, we ain’t rapping. That’s all it was. Country rap tunes. That’s it. You feel me? That was at a time where New York was untouchable. You couldn’t defer from that at all.
CI: They made you feel bad for riding on Daytons. I used to draw low riders and be into low riders hella tough when I was in school. Then I just heard Bun say, “Y’all still riding spokes? We choppin’ blades down here.” And I’m like, “Chopping’ blades?! What the fuck does that mean? Oh my God. I wanna be just like these niggas.” That’s what rap made you do as a child.
So wait, no Dogg Pound?
CI: Dogg Food was one of them ones too. The music store I used to take drum lessons at used to sell tapes and I still couldn’t buy shit with parental advisory on it in 1995. I remember one day coming in with my grandfather. My grandfather used to buy me whatever. He bought me Bone Thugz, Dogg Pound, whatever. I had went like two weeks and came back for some drum lessons with my mom. Goddamn music dude working the register dimed me out. He was like, “How was that Dogg Pound album?” Motherfucker! [Laughs]
MR: You know who else we forgot, too? Their duo actually transcended even just CDs and songs and they got into fuckin’ movies. Red and Meth, man! They took shit from videos to TV and movies, making other shit, writing for other people. That’s a duo right there that’s slept on.
CI: They still touring together. Blackout! was fire. And Blackout! 2 was fire. Red and Meth need way more. I feel like maybe How High kinda spoiled it for people. They definitely need more give back to them on the rap tip. A lot of people just… But How High was a fuckin’ classic.
MR: Yeah it was. Did people not like How High?
CI: I don’t know about their TV show. They had a TV show.
MR: Yeah it was on Fox. It was at a university or something on a college campus.
CI: It was terrible.
MR: They just went too hard.
CI: They squeezed too much out of that. It was like, “Uhhhh! Let’s get one more.”
MR: They squeezed it all out, you feel me? But at that time it was unheard of. “Oh shit! TV show?” Of course.
CI: They had Homeboys in Outer Space at that point. There was a real show called Homeboys in Outer Space. They had a lowrider spaceship, dog. They had a purple lowrider spaceship bouncin’ through space and shit. That shit was on TV. You can’t tell me hip hop didn’t take over at some point.
MR: Somebody was high. “Let’s air this tonight!” Somebody really signed off on that shit. Hell yeah! Homeboys in Outer Space on TV. These dudes riding through space talkin’ crazy.