Interview: Sir Michael Rocks Talks Solo Identity, Banco, and Favorite Miami Strip Clubs

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Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara)

When most rap fans hear the name Sir Michael Rocks, they instantly think of The Cool Kids. But while the embrace of projects like The Bake Sale and When Fish Ride Bicycles brought the duo nationwide notoriety, Sir Michael Rocks has publicly attempted to separate himself from The Cool Kids’ early beginnings over the past couple of years. In late 2012, he relayed that The Cool Kids would no longer be in existence. Mikey and Chuck wanted to pursue different ventures at the time, and each would, musically. Chuck Inglish released his debut album Convertibles earlier this year, and while Mikey Rocks has a few mixtapes floating out there, an album has never been released. Until now.

This Tuesday, July 29th, Sir Michael Rocks will drop Banco, his 16-track debut studio effort, and according to Mr. Populair, the project is an all encompassing work of everything he’s learned in the past, including how to exist as a solo artist. Chuck Inglish will not have any production on Banco, only a rapping feature. But no worries Cool Kids fans—the duo is slated to reunite for the long-awaited release of Shark Week later this year.

We caught up with Sir Michael Rocks recently, and he spoke about creating Banco, The Cool Kids dynamic, hip-hop journalism, and superlative strip clubs in his new home of Miami. Read below.

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What’s been up with you non-musically recently?

Well, I live in Miami now. I moved down there about almost a year ago and I’ve been down there making music, kicking it, fishing, hanging out in swamps and going to the beach, strip clubs–all these different things that all go into each other well. I’ve been watching different anime—keeping up with Naruto, Attack on Titan, Space Dandy, Blue Exorcist, shit like that man, playing Final Fantasy. I have a small pet monkey named Trunks. He’s cool. He does a lot of shit. I’ve been moving around, been traveling around, been a couple places man, about to hit India in a little bit and hopefully Africa too, that’s on the radar. I’m just traveling around man, reading books, learning, meditating, and fucking hoes man.

You mention traveling to India and Africa. Are those leisure visits or is there a specific reason you’re going over there?

Yeah, so I read Steve Jobs’ book right, and toward the end it talks about where before he kind of switched the aesthetic of Apple, ‘cause Apple wasn’t always iPods, iPhones, Macbooks and shit. Apple used to be these big classic, clunky computers that’s kind of ugly. Nobody really liked Apple, everybody was doing Windows 95, Windows 98 and all that shit. But Steve Jobs, he actually—before he switched the aesthetic of Apple to the white design, the more clean cut, the more sleek Apple that we know today which is iPods and iPhones and Macbooks and iPads and all that stuff—he took a trip to India and he learned this type of meditation, transcendental meditation. [He] stayed out in India for a while and just practiced, practiced, practiced with the instructor that he had, and he eventually got really good at it. And at that time, he said a revelation in his mind came, and a switch hit in his mind that told him to switch the aesthetic of Apple to like iPods, iPads, and the sleek design, and change his marketing and basically change the whole fucking company. And that was the trigger.

So I read that, and it made me just say like, “Yo, fuck it, I gotta go do that shit man, I gotta go do it and learn this meditation so I can flip the switch in my brain and start my Apple and start my billion-dollar company.” I’ve always had great ideas and I’ve always been disciplined and I’ve always been grateful for everything I have and everything that’s come to me. I just feel like there are higher levels to myself that I can reach. I think throughout learning this meditation and practicing, I’ll be able to unlock something else within me that I didn’t know. So I’m on my way to India.

You said you enjoy going to strip clubs and Miami is like the strip club capital of the U.S. so that had to have played a factor [Laughs.] Have you been a connoisseur of sorts when it comes to South Florida burlesque?

Of course, I have definitely become a masterful tour guide through Miami debauchery man. I know all about it. My favorite strip club personally in Miami right now is Tootsie’s. Tootsie’s is big, it’s a big strip club but it’s kind of chillin’. They got really good food, the drinks are good, they’ve got really beautiful girls and the environment is more chillin.’

King of Diamonds is more poppin’ bottles and making it rain, which is fun too, don’t get me wrong. I love having a great time doing that. That’s really fun. Tootsie’s, you can take a little chick and have a convo, you could build with your friends and have a drink, relax and shit and get massages and it’s all love man, so Tootsie’s is my favorite. KOD is fun if you want to go out for a ratchet night with a couple tricks or whatever, that’s where you go.

You’ve got The Office, Club 11, and it’s a bunch of other strip clubs around. I only go to strip clubs. I don’t even go to nightclubs. It’s cold in there, I can’t wear what I want sometimes, and it’s like they charging all this money for the bottles and nobody’s naked. I’m like, “Ah, I don’t want this, I’m headed to the strip club.” You feel me? Strip clubs take up 100 percent of my time in Miami.

Well you’re definitely at the right place. Musically, Banco is coming out [this Tuesday]. What can fans expect from this one, and is it kind of different from your previous solo releases like the Lap of Lux series or While You Wait?

Yeah, you know me man. I can’t do the same thing two times. I wish I could man but I can’t. Everybody who has followed me since the beginning, they know I’m always changing and doing shit different. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me man, but I can’t do the same thing twice. It comes from this need to evolve and this need to grow at all times. I always want to be learning something new and evolving. I’m always traveling and dealing with different people and different things in the world, and it just changes me all the time in a good way. I’m always making it for the better, and becoming more wise, and more well-rounded, but musically it causes me to continue to change, whether it’s the sound or whatever.

I’ve come to a point now where I’m like all these prior mixtapes I’ve done from Rocks Report to Lap of Lux, all that stuff has just been me trying to figure out a couple things. I’m trying to figure out my unique sound, trying to figure out my unique image, my unique visual, trying to figure out my purpose with this. Like, what am I rapping for? If you don’t know what you’re rapping for—whether it’s negative, positive or neutral—you’re going to suck and nobody’s going to feel you. I’ve just been figuring out what I’ve been rapping for, what is my goal here, what am I trying to get across.

I always get the most love when I do what I want to do. I’ve tried to have other people direct my videos too much. You just do your thing, and that always fucks up, and everybody’s like, “Ah, I hate this video man.” And I’m like, “What the fuck? I’m just trying to do it. I’m just trying to do what goddamn Wiz [Khalifa] did, let me do what Wiz did and why don’t it work for me?” Everybody be getting mad and [they] hate on me, but then when I do some wild-ass weird shit that I want to do everybody loves it. So now I’m like, “I’m going to just do everything that I want to do, every little thing from my pictures to my videos and my songs, my clothes and shoes, everything.” Banco is me just coming to what I want to do, and I just did what I want to do, and it’s been tight as fuck, and everybody loves it, so I guess it worked.

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You kind of answered a question that had me puzzled about you earlier. Since you said you moved to Miami it makes more sense but I wanted to ask you about your affiliation with South Florida and some of the new artists there. You have Pouya and Robb Bank$ on Banco who are affiliated with Raider Klan in some way, at least Pouya is. Where did that connection come from aside from just moving down there?

Ah man, it’s really funny ‘cause I’ve always wanted to live in Miami bro. I promise you, since I was a little kid I’ve always wanted to live in Florida in general because I went to Disney World when I was like 10, and it was the best time of my whole life. I was like, “I’ve got to move to Florida, man.” When we started to go on tour as The Cool Kids and we would go to Miami, I was like, “Damn I love it here. Why don’t I just live here?” I always wanted to do it, but it didn’t make sense. It never came about. I actually moved to L.A. almost two years ago now. I was living in L.A., and I moved there for the wrong reasons. I moved there because I was in Chicago and everybody was like, “Ah man, you’ve got to go to L.A., it’s a lot of opportunities, record labels are there. You going to get you a record deal and get real rich man.” So I moved to L.A. because everybody told me to move to L.A. I get out there and it’s cool, it’s very cool. I enjoyed it, I learned a lot. There’s a lot of cool shit but I wasn’t—I was happy but I didn’t like it all that much. It wasn’t somewhere I wanted to live. I love being there for a long time, staying with friends and doing shit, and it’s cool, but it’s just like eventually I want to leave.

After a while my lease was about to end at my crib in L.A., so I was just like, “Fuck it man, where do I want to go? What do I want to do?” And I was like, “I want to go to Miami, that’s where I always wanted to go.” I had been talking to Pouya and Robb and Nell and couple of other people from Raider Klan and I’ve always been kicking it with these kids. For the whole time I was in L.A. I was kicking it with these kids. I was cool with people in L.A., but nobody in L.A. leaves their own house. I was kicking it with more people that live in Miami then live in L.A. So when it came time to move, I was just like, “Man, I’m going to just move where all the people I kick it with are.” So I ended up just moving down to Miami.

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Pouya and them helped me move into my house, they honestly helped me find my house. They helped me put shit together in my house. I gave Pouya $200 and I’m like, “Yo bro, I got to go out of town. I just bought all this shit from Ikea. I’ve got like 200/300 dollars, can you go find some day laborers from Home Depot or something to help put all this shit together and watch and make sure they don’t steal some shit.” He was like, “Fasho, fasho, cool.” I give him the money, I come home and everything’s built and everything’s cool. The bed, everything’s built, everything’s straight. And then a couple months later, Pouya’s like, “Remember when you gave us that $200 to put all this shit together? We just kept the money and put all the shit together ourselves.” And I was like, “Yo, you fucking idiot.” But it was cool ‘cause it got put together so it’s whatever, all of it’s put together. But I’m like, “You’re funny as hell for just taking the money and putting it together yourselves.” Pouya and Fat Nick and Braddy and them and Robb, Nuri, they all really helped me fucking get into Miami and settle in and be comfortable man. I’m down here with people that I like, people I want to hang with.

Over the past couple years I’ve been trying to kick it with rappers that don’t fucking like me, asking them for features and shit. It just sucks because they’re not really my friends and I’m asking them for features, and they like, “I got you, I got you man, for sure.” And they just fucking lie and don’t do it and just treat me weird. I’m just like, “Yo, you don’t gotta do all that, just say you’re not going to do it.” I don’t like to play the rap friendship game, so I just got tired of fucking with people that didn’t fuck with me. So I moved down to Miami and everybody that fuck with me down there is real niggas and they’re really friends of mine, so I prefer the real over the fake at any given time.

You have a lot of features on here that make sense in comparison to your previous work, but you have a couple of interesting ones on here as well. How did you go about picking who would be featured on Banco?

Well, the way I go about picking features, I always try to pick people that are going to add something to the song who would serve a necessary purpose on this song. I don’t ever take a feature because so-and-so is hot or I need to get with ‘em. It doesn’t even work like that. Niggas don’t even give me features like that. I’m definitely not about to do that. I just pick people who serve a purpose on a song and make the song better, and some people are friends of mine and people I admire and respect, so I just pick people who make the song better and serve a purpose on it.

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Maybe there is or isn’t a production list out there, but how much is Chuck Inglish involved when it comes to producing this thing?

As far as producers I got my homie Reno that made “Memo” and he made “Bussin,” [he did a] couple more tracks on the album for me. He’s out in L.A., and he’s my engineer as well, so we made a lot of those beats from scratch. I was helping co-produce a lot with him. I got a couple homies on there. Blended Babies, they got production. I produced some tracks myself. I’ve got DJ Mustard, he produced a track.

Mac Miller has a track I believe, right?

Mac produced a track on there. The tracklisting is online somewhere. Chuck is just featured on the raps. Chuck didn’t produce on this. I made it a point for him not to produce on this ‘cause I want to keep The Cool Kids sound for The Cool Kids. I’m not trying to make that my sound and I’m not trying to build off that. I want my own sound. The Cool Kids sound will be for me and Chuck. I don’t want just to produce my solo stuff, that’s sacred, that’s for me and him and I don’t want to change that formula.

You took to Twitter a while back to say that you and Chuck would be coming back together to do Shark Week. As a Cool Kids fan I’m happy about that, but what brought about that decision?

Chuck wanted to drop his solo album, I wanted to drop mine, and we wanted to experience working outside of together so we could grow and learn new things and so we can progress ourselves as individual artists, so when we come back together as a group it could be even more powerful. We both are able to sustain on our own, we both have our own teams behind us. We both have our own ideas and our own aesthetics, and we can combine these things and make them even greater. I think our time apart has helped us to become better artists, and it’ll only help us as a group.

Last time we spoke you told me that The Cool Kids was no more, and not because you and Chuck have any problems working together, but that you wanted to stay cutting edge and felt Cool Kids is a thing of the past. Maybe that’s not how you feel now, but reuniting with Chuck, are there any changes you both are going to make that you might not have made when you originally announced Shark Week?

Yeah, we’ve had that talk like, “We got to figure out what we’re going to look like.” ‘Cause I look different, he looks different, and when we was The Cool Kids, we just wore snapbacks and skinny jeans and retro shit. But I don’t look like that anymore, and he don’t look like that, so we got to meet in the middle and come up with something universal. Musically, we’re not going to sound the same either. It’s going to be a different approach, ‘cause we started fooling around with some things and we brought in other engineers and producers to create with us while we’re in there, so we’re not going to sound the same either. I hold true to that statement, like we’re not doing the same thing or going to be the exact same thing. It’s going to be something different and better, because we learned new things and we’ve become better artists, so we’re going to craft something better for y’all.

Yeah, you can definitely hear the difference.

We ain’t no lazy niggas. We’re going to give ya’ll something new. We’re not going to just try to do The Bake Sale over or When Fish Ride Bicycles over again. We might as well just quit if that’s the case.

You mention back in the day though and your older style. I always think of The Cool Kids as heavily influential in introducing boutique fashion to a wide-scale audience years back in a time when tall tees and Forces were the norm in hip-hop. Do you feel you were influential in that, especially at that time?

Yeah, of course man. We were just being ourselves and doing what we wanted to do. We weren’t afraid to be who we were, and because of that we kicked a hole in rap. That’s just how it happened man. So yeah, I think we definitely did that. It helped me to understand the world more. It helped me to understand who I am now, so it all makes sense at this point.

I know you’re a fan of animals—it’s a part of where the album title Shark Week came from, but I have to ask where “Fuck Seaworld” came from?

Well, “Fuck Seaworld” actually came from me watching the documentary Blackfish. It’s a documentary about SeaWorld and the mistreatment of the whales and dolphins and the abuse. It’s like these whales are highly intelligent creatures with huge brains and social systems that they’re used to. They’re used to being in families of 10 or more and they’re used to communicating vocally. They’re very smart, intelligent animals, and Seaworld keeps them in these little pools the size of a bathtub to us. These are huge animals that are used to swimming more than 100 miles per day and they’re in this little bathtub, and it’s like, “What the fuck?” Blackfish kind of pointed out that this is barbaric and it’s super old school. I’m surprised that we still do this and people are still entertained by having these huge whales clap and do a backflip in a pool for a couple fish. It’s kind of just fucked up, and I watched that and I just wanted to say something. I was fired up about it and I just wanted to say something man. [Laughs.] And that’s what happened.

Reflecting on your career so far, where are you at this point in your life, and have you accomplished everything you’ve wanted to so far?

I’ve accomplished more than I thought I would honestly, so anything after this point is all a plus. I thought I was going to go to school for journalism and be a journalist so yeah, there’s that. Not to diss your job, it’s cool, you’re doing a good job so of course it’s enjoyable, but I thought I was going to go to school to be doing what you’re doing as opposed to being on the other side of the phone.

Anything else that happens at this point I’m just grateful for. I just appreciate being here man, so I’m just having a good time right now. I do what I want. I don’t care about what the fuck is going on with everybody else. I just do what’s cool to me. I get cute girls, I get money, I eat good, meditate. I’m smart as fuck, I read, what else do you want? [Laughs.] I’m having a good time man.

That’s interesting you mention wanting to be a journalist initially. As an artist who has been interviewed numerous times and since you may have a little insight into writing, in your opinion, how well do hip-hop journalists of today do their job, and is there anything that needs improvement in your eyes?

Well, I think that a lot of hip-hop journalists are doing a great job. A lot of hip-hop journalists try to write with an unbiased perspective, they try to write with some type of passion behind it and I applaud hip-hop journalists for that. But something I think could be better is like the scared shit man. A lot of hip-hop journalists are just so scared of saying anything first. Everybody just wants to, and I think that’s just something with hip-hop in general honestly. It’s not even just hip-hop journalists. I think it’s just with hip-hop in general. Hip-hop media is so scared to ever put their stamp on something first before they get confirmation that it’s okay, and it didn’t used to be that way.

It just sucks because they just wait for somebody else to tell them that it’s okay, and you guys are the free press, aren’t you supposed to report the news? Why does some random kid on Twitter got to say it first before a hip-hop magazine says it? Everybody is just scared to get behind something that is not already [established fact], nobody makes their own decisions. That’s the only part that sucks man. It’s honestly been changing because besides you guys at Nah Right and other credible hip-hop blogs that people actually follow and pay attention to, there’s a lot of blogs that nobody gives a shit about what they have to say. They don’t care about their writers, they don’t care about what their perspective is because they have just been scared. And kids nowadays are making the decisions.

Kids that are in high school are running music as far as the fan aspect of it, they make the decisions and they choose what they like. That’s why I like the fans now. I like hip-hop now. I like the state of hip-hop now because people choose what they like, and they choose what they want, and they don’t give a fuck about what writer says about it. They don’t care about what this magazine says about it, and they taking control back. It’s back in control of the hands of the people man, and that’s honestly pretty good. I’m cool with that man. I would love for writers to start having their own opinions again about things and start being less afraid. Kids don’t care anyways. Sadly, a lot of the time writers find out about shit last and they showing up to the show like, “Why is this show sold out? Why are all these kids dressed like this? What’s going on?” And everybody’s like, “Dude, get with the fucking times man.”

I agree there is a lack of controversial opinion stating, and the integrity of the medium has lacked since the Internet generation came to a bloom. But um, what’s next for you coming up in the immediate future?

Well, I’m continually designing my own clothes, and designing my own merch, and making music man. That’s all that’s left for me. I broke up with my girlfriend, shit it’s almost been a year. I don’t like no more girls now. Ain’t nobody ‘bout to be my wifey. I’m just working on music, art, animals and clothes and I’m watching anime.

And going to strip clubs. [Laughs.]

And going to strip clubs. [Laughs.] And listening to rap music. That’s it man.

 

Previously: Big K.R.I.T. Updates Fans on Cadillactica, Talks Studio Sessions with Lil Boosie and Jeezy (Interview)

Catch up on all NahRight interviews and features HERE.


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