featured interview

iCon The Mick King and Chum are Cool-Aide! Since six years, iCon the Mic King and Chum the Skrilla Guerilla are a duo. Now they're a group. Cool-Aide is the name while both artists shortened their names to MiC K!NG and Chum. Short and easy. The debut album is scheduled for 2010. In the meanwhile they have released 'Flavor Ade', a collection of flavourful fun music to get warmed up.

MiC K!NG, in the liner notes you wrote: "Thanks Chum for finally giving me the beats I asked for." So were you not happy with the previous release(s) or was it a matter of convincing him to switch up styles?

MiC K!NG: I've worked with Chum for about six years now and the Cool-Aide project was the first time he made my music a priority. That in itself is ironic because he'd always complain about how no one followed through on using his beats. So anyway what would happen is I'd ask him for a track that I knew I'd kill and he'd tell me he's saving it for so-and-so. Or I'd ask him to make me a certain type of beat and he'd say 'yeah' and never do it. The best example of that would be a song we did called 'Very Well' on our forthcoming self-titled album.

I asked Chum to make me a disco beat in 2004 and in 2008 I finally got it. I was always happy with every beat I rocked over at the time otherwise I wouldn't have picked them. But up until Cool-Aide there were very few beats that Chum made and was like “this is for iCON.” You can't tell Chum to do anything. He had to want to start doing new shit before he'd finally give me a disco track. So before, it was more like I take what I can get. Now it's like ok we're on the same page let's try this out.

Chum: I can't be convinced to do anything really, I'm a real asshole about things like that. If that's not where I am, it's just not happening. We set out to make an even darker underground record, and well, I guess my ears were somewhere else.

How many people have called you the 2009 DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince already? Could you tell us in what way you tried to integrate their influence into this album and why? Is this like a tribute?

MK: Everyone who reviews the album seems to agree with that, but I was the first to make that assertion. I feel like Jazzy Jeff definitely gets his respect but Fresh Prince is incredibly underrated. When we did the 'Flavor Ade' tracks I said I wanted to remake 'I'm All That' and Chum was down. So we did it. That song is a nod to their greatness but I wouldn't say the whole album carries any more direct influence other than the fact that I smile when I rap and Chum can transformer scratch. But I definitely do want to go on the record and say that I love Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince the way a lot of people love Gangstarr. POW!

C: I don't really get a chance to read all the reviews and what not, but some that I've read, I find it funny that some of these people don't know that 'All That 2009' is a remake of one of their songs. They were all about having fun, and still are really, and that's what we ended up doing with Cool-Aide. So like them, we're just having fun with it.

You're also having fun on a dancing tip. 'Take Steps' and 'Neo Jack Swing' are like your tribute to the late 80's hip house and New Jack Swing...

MK: Well when I was growing up every hip-hop single had a house remix on the b-side so it was just one of those things that came with the instructions of the game. Mind you I was in my pre-teens at the time so I kinda just heard all that stuff on the radio. But man everybody that was doing new jack swing was tight to me. 'It Feels Good' by Tony Tone Toni was my jawn!

C: I was really into new jack swing when it came out! I was young and all the cute girls loved BBD. When I look back on it now, none of those dudes could sing for shit! (laughs) The production value that went into new jack swing though is impressive. Teddy Riley was a monster, so was Jam & Lewis. People don't remember, but The Bomb Squad did BBD's shit. I wasn't into hip house at all, maybe except for 'Girl I'll House You' (Jungle Brothers, ed.) and 'Now That We've Found Love' (Heavy D & The Boyz, ed.). 'Take Steps' is actually pretty close to the music I play when I DJ these days, and I actually make a lot of electro, house, and dance tracks.

What about Kid N Play?

MK: Man, I loved Kid N Play! I don't remember too many of their songs off top right now other than 'Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody' but I loved them because they were on that fun shit too! I do have their records on vinyl though, I might have to go back through the stash. 'Class Act' was an ill movie too. 'House Party 1 & 2' as well. That whole era just represents a really fun time in my life. Most people dwell on 95-96 or whatever but there is a lot of great influences to be mined out of the late 80's & early 90's without trying to fully recreate it. You won't catch me wearing my clothes inside out but Another Bad Creation had a couple songs that I'll still do the running man to at a party!

C: I can't lie, I thought dude was white for mad long and I always wanted that flat top! Music wise though, now that I look back on it, mad cheesy! (laughs)

Both genres were/are mostly despised amongst hip-hop fans -same goes for Fresh Prince & Jazzy Jeff- especially the later generations, and probably a lot of your fans. Was it your specific goal to make them aware of the fact that those genres are a part of hip-hop history too, to bring it back under the attention of today's hip-hop adepts?

MK: My perspective on it is we have all these hipster rappers going around dressing like it's 92 in cross colours with high top fades or mohawks and then they jump on some Baltimore booty music and start rapping horribly and they think it's cool because they're having fun. My goal was to lead by example and show you can still have a whole lot of fun and actually rap incredible at the same time. It's not about the history lesson it's a future lesson. Because the music is still progressive just in the fact that we incorporated a higher caliber of lyricism with fun tracks and made honest good music that you can just pop in at a party and people will enjoy themselves.

C: Not really on my part. I don't really care so much these days about showing people what's part of hip-hop and what's not, it's become sort of a beat topic and ends up being the stupid argument of who's more hip-hop. We're not getting any younger, so why not just celebrate life?

It's clear that you wanted to cross boundaries and surprise the listener...at what point did you decide to do this, to flip the script and change up your style?

MK: Well, when Chum and I started the whole Cool-Aide project he had just sent me like 3 dark and evil tracks and we were setting out to make a record that continued on in the same vein as the last effort. But we'd both been embracing different types of music in our solo endeavors and instead what took shape was something much more accessible and bigger sounding, basically the opposite of what we'd done before. The first track we did was 'Kind of A Woman' and we stumbled upon some just straight up good music that isn't too heady. Just some really dope shit. I think if anything we set out to surprise ourselves and have a whole lot of fun in the process of making some really good music.

C: I wouldn't say, for me anyway, there really wasn't a time or a decision, it just sort of happened.

Could you explain the concept behind 'I'm the best mayne'? You gotta explain how this robot voice track came to life...

C: I'm gonna leave all the big explaining to MiC, but basically I just wanted to say some dumb shit and abuse my auto-tune plug-in. (laughs)

MK: There was a viral YouTube video featuring a guy by the name of Eli Porter and 'I'm the Best Mayne.I diiiiid it' is a phrase he says in it. I told Chum I wanted to do a crunk joint and I wanted to rap like all the crunk rappers do about my guns and my jewels and my cars. But I wanted to do it in a real nuclear and creative way and make this satirical song. So I enlisted my man Has-Lo from Northeast Philly to jump on it after he expressed excitement about it and we laid it down.

It was just gonna be the two verses and we laid it and left Chum's studio. Chum sends it to me later on with the offbeat ass autotuned addition to the hook and I'm listening like 'why the fuck is my producer doing vocals on my hook?' and then I got to the verse and I was like 'wow this dude is insane.' After a few more listens I realized that Chum adding himself to the track really sealed the deal and sent it home. The ironic part is most people think all three verses are me and that it's a serious song.

MiC K!NG, you abbreviated names from Icon the Mic King to M!C King. Why did the iCON had to drop?

MK: People couldn't remember the full thing. I'm trying to cut back on the self-defeating practices. It's time to win. I'll always be iCON though.

Chum, same question? What about the Skrilla Guerilla...

C: People would always get it wrong like 'Scrilla Gorilla' or something like that. Plus, that's a lot to type, and there isn't anyone else in my field with the name Chum, so I own that. If anyone wants to contest it, I'm sure my friends at Fog City Wrestling will provide the ring, I'll put my Shit Show Libre mask on, and we can go head up for it. (laughs)

How did you guys hook up with Slug and Elzhi?

MK: Slug, I've known him for a long time and I finally had a track that I thought he would be a wonderful addition to. So I sent it over to him and he sent back a verse I loved. I asked him to approach his verse as though he's been where I have to go and he's giving me advice; much like our real life relationship. Elzhi and I have never met, he's someone whose rhyme talent I respect and when I google myself people said they wanted to hear me with him so I reached out and got a verse from him.

C: I really like Slug's verse on 'Snake Oil', I'm glad and thankful for him giving us that quality.

Chum, what's the situation with the Demigodz...?

C: We're almost done with the album, it's coming when it's done. We're all hard at work right now on new projects like Apathy's next album already. Celph's album is amazing! I had the pleasure of hearing the whole thing recently, amazing, I love it. I'm also currently circulating beats for my production album called 'Beats You To Death', and that's exactly what it's going to do. I'm a headbanger at heart, and that's showing with the production on my album.

Why did the tracks on this album didn't fit within the upcoming 'Cool-Aide' debut?

MK: The 'Cool-Aide' album holds itself together more thematically. 'Flavor Ade' is just some flavorful fun music. 'Cool-Aide' definitely has the fun and flavorful aspect to it but it delves deeper into things and has a more personal/serious edge to it. 'Cool-Aide' also has more songs that people would call hits on it.

C: The 'Cool-Aide' album doesn't have any features what so ever on it, at least not rap-wise. The actual album is even more musical than 'Flavor Ade' and more cohesive as an album. There's a really specific sound for the album, and some of the tracks on 'Flavor Ade' fit that vibe, but not the sound.

Tell us some more about the 'Cool-Aide' album thematically and production wise...

MK: The album is about staying cool through adversity. In these days and times everybody in the world is dealing with very real issues. Chum and I have had our own respective problems in the making of this album so we made songs that dealt with those with a smile in hopes that you can dance your way through your own issues.

C: Production wise, it's the most musical I've been that people actually get to hear. I played a lot of instruments like keys and horns. I also brought in some live musicians to fill in some parts. It's still a fun album with a big sound.

Which beverage do you prefer: Kool-Aid or Flavor Aid?

MK: Honestly the only thing I remember about Flavor Aid is that it was the bootleg Kool-Aid. In Philly they sell it in this cheap grocery store in the hood called Murray's and it's what they really used when the guy drugged people through. I make the ill Kool-Aid though so I'ma go with that. Purplesaurus Rex was the illest flavor ever!

C: Red Kool-Aide...with a shit load of vodka!

iCON, you're one of those artists who have their own website apart from the social network pages. A lot of artists stopped their personal site after networking came around. Do you feel like it's still 'necessary' to have a website?

MK: I have some internet marketing in my background and I've been on the web since it first popped up for public consumption so I've seen enough websites come and go to know that MySpace and Facebook aren't the end all be all of the web. With MySpace's popularity going to where it is now that should be more than enough to prove we should always have our own sites. Not to mention you're severely limited in the content and presentation you can serve on the social networking sites and with things like OpenID, Facebook Connect, etc. there's no excuse anymore since you can integrate the access via the social networking accounts to allow access to your site.

What's the set-up of your blog Blindfold Freestyle?

BlindfoldFreestyle.com was just another way I'm helping to catch those people that can't remember my name but remember my performance. They never could remember “iCON the Mic King” but they will google 'blindfolded freestyle rapper' and when they did I might as well be #1. I've been too busy though to really bring it to life.

Blindfold freestyle is actually a good name...can you life being marked as a 'freestyle rapper'? Don't you think this gives a narrowed-down representation of your real MC skills?

MK: Yes and no. I quit battling six years ago and reviews of my album will still mention how I used to battle. That carries a negative stigma of course so by branding myself as the 'blindfold freestyle rapper guy', I hope to at least overwrite that. Also the blindfold routine helps me stand out. The average person doesn't understand why my technical abilities make me a better rapper than the next guy. They just remember if they heard songs they liked or not so if I'm on a bill with a bunch of guys with great songs as well who do you think the average person will remember? Yep, the 'blindfold freestyle rapper guy.' Until people are more aware of my 'real MC skills' as you called them I'd much rather have something unique attached to what I do.

On cool-aide.com there are possibilities to ask questions ('Ask Chum'). Answers are being sent in video format and through all networking tools...
Do you experience the advantages of all those "new media" as a perfect
marketing tool, to make fans go buy the music?

MK: I don't know that it's making fans buy music but it certainly is helping us make more people aware of our brand. Every time we post a video like that a flurry of traffic comes over to see it. I don't really do it because I think it will make us sell records I just wanted some interaction between us and the people we make music for. I also wanted it to be a platform for Chum to show his personality. He's an integral part of the group obviously so I felt like the people should get to know him. New media just gives us a direct route to the listener, I'll have to check the sales figures before I can truly say it made a difference in the sales but it sure made me feel like I was doing something productive when I was shooting and editing it. LOL

C: To me, it's something I would've ended up doing anyway I think, promotional purposes or not. I like to bitch about things and tell off color jokes. So if I'm given an opportunity to share that, I'm going to with no apologies.

iCON, you ran a half-marathon to raise money for Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis...how did that came together?

MK: That's me at my most selfless. I did it out of love.

Off the record: have you reached the finish?

MK: Yeah of course I reached the finish! My time was 2:22:07. I had a great experience participating in that half-marathon and I've met a lot of wonderful people who were grateful for my involvement. I'm just glad that was able enough to help. Ccfa.org for more info on the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America.

C: He ran for the runs!

Chum, do you have any ambitions in that direction? What are your efforts for the good cause?

C: My efforts for the good cause? I entertain, I guess that's my effort. I'm far from athletic so doing a marathon isn't happening. I would like to do something for muscular dystrophy and diabetes though.

We reached the end of this interview: thanks!


POSTED 12|01|2009
conducted by cpf

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