Article by Charne Graham (@88nae88)
Photos by Ten Harris (10Photosdreamchashers.net)
It was a ravishing sunny day in Chicago’s West Loop when Antoine Reed, better known as Sir Michael Rocks, greeted me at the door with a grin at Music Garage Studios. Rocks is one-half of the internationally-known group The Cool Kids, but has branched off as a solo artist within the past few years. I sat down to chat about him being a trendsetter, his solo career and growing up in the suburbs of Chicago.
The 24-year-old rapper has had quite the journey from when he linked up with his partner Chuck Inglish in 2005 to form The Cool Kids. After taking his rap career seriously at the age of seventeen, Rocks is pleased to now be listed as an influence to younger artists. “I’m still considered a part of the younger generation of entertainers but to already be held up as an OG to the little guys is cool because I feel I haven’t even reached the top yet,” says Rocks. “It’s tight to know that I’m a big deal to them and I hope they use it right.” Using his influence right is imperative to Rocks since The Cool Kids came on the scene with a look and sound that is reminiscent of the 1980’s rap era. “Our style was never anything new; it was just no one around that time was brave enough to pull it off it again,” explains Rocks.
In an interview with magazine Ruby Hornet, Mac Miller mentions the duo not getting enough credit for what they’ve done in style, music, and fashion. “I don’t really trip on it too much because I’m over shit really fast and all the shit that people go crazy from last year and the year before that I was already done with by like ’07,” adds Rocks. “I know how to do things a bit more carefully because it’s important to protect your own style, a lot of the more mainstream artists have people that look to underground artists to see what’s trendy and they bring that back to the major artists to have a certain creative image,” Rocks says.
Fashion has always been a big deal to the rapper which was why he decided to venture out into becoming the face of the Mariani, a clothing line that gives luxury designer names with a more laid-back look. Rocks was wearing an all black hooded sweatsuit with the CHANEL logo across the chest, a piece from Mariani. Mariani is a designer who is the uncle of Rock’s friend. “It’s cool because he’s using designs that these luxury brands wouldn’t exactly be excited about like sweat suits, tank tops and it’s dope to see different designs on clothes that these companies wouldn’t mess with,” adds Rocks, toying with the strings on his hoodie. A touch of rebellion against traditional and classic grandeur is what Mariani clothing represents.
Rocks once had hopes of becoming a zoologist until he realized he had other talents and dreams. His love for exotic animals never left him. He plans on moving into a new home in LA where he wants to purchase at least two Tamarin monkeys. His face lights up when he talks about the animals he plans to have. When I mentioned to him that an article on Wired reported that Tamarin monkeys only like the sounds of their own music. “Wow, I never knew that, that’s really important too because I have lots of music playing in the crib.” says Rocks. He also plans to buy a few other animals but wants to keep the details under wraps until he actually gets them.
Chicago is home to a generous variety of rappers from the LEP Bogus Boys to Rockie Fresh. Sir Micheal Rocks seems to be accepted by artists from the streets and the suburbs and has even done collaborations with them. His reason for getting respect from different artists from the gutter street style to the college party type is the simple fact that he did grow up in the south suburbs of Chicago. “I lived in Chicago when I got older but I’ve seen a lot of different things growing up in the suburbs, I had friends from the really wealthy suburbs and I had family in the really poor suburbs so I feel being all over and experiencing different people helped shape who I am,” explains Rocks. “I feel like I have the best of both worlds and I just do me when it comes down to it.”
Rocks has evolved a great amount as a solo artist and is beaming with pride with his new projects. “I’m most proud of my solo work, I’m most comfortable now and I’m having the most fun making music because I get to do what I want,” says Rocks. “I mean, I liked my stuff I did as a member of The Cool Kids but this is more exciting to me because I know exactly what I want it to sound like.” Rocks has released three mixtapes as a solo artist, including his latest Premier Politics 1.5. “When I used to write music I felt like it was fun but I was always being competitive. I was writing to be better than other rappers and now I feel like as long as I’m doing me I don’t have anyone to compete with,” says Rocks. Although rap is always going to be a competitive sport Rocks feels that if you are rapping to compete with everyone else in the game there is no geniune fun in what you do. He also felt like he was rapping to gain respect. “When I first came out, there were people talking on the blogs like, ‘Oh this nigga weak,’ and ‘He can’t flow.”, then over a mixtape or two I proved that I know what I’m doing and cleared the water which was a big relief off my shoulders,” says Rocks.
The Cool Kids as a group haven’t broken up they just decided to work separately yet still be a part of each other’s projects. They both show up to video shoots and spend time in studio sessions to decide what sounds good to each other. “Chuck is not rapping much right now he decided to focus more on his production, I think that’s the best thing for him now because before he was just making beats for us (Cool Kids) and he wouldn’t give beats to anyone else. I think he’s a great enough producer to give beats to more people because he has a signature sound,” explains Rocks. As far the group dropping another project Rocks feels it’s all about the right timing. “Chuck and I will be appreciated as a group a little longer down the line, right now if we came out with another album this Summer it wouldn’t even feel good because we’ve grown so much and we aren’t the same people when we first started.” says Rocks. The Cool Kids are still a group but they refuse to force another project.
In October 2011, Curren$y tweeted the announcement that Rocks signed a deal with Jet Life Records. With Curren$y at the head of the label and being friends with Rocks for so long, the deal only seems right. “I know he’s been through a lot as far as this industry goes and he knows I been through a lot. It’s easier to keep it real with him because I know he’s not with sucka shit and he feels the same about me,” says Rocks. “I feel like it’s nothing better than to make money with your friends and I feel like we all bring something different to the table, I bring the party because I have more of a turn up side than the other guys do.”
Rocks also has his own clique that he happens to head. The Toothpick Clique came about when his solo career started. Doing something you love and making money with your friends seems ideal for young rappers. “Shorty K and I have been friends since like third grade and he is the reason I wanted to started rapping. I always looked up to him.” says Rocks. Shorty K and Rocks have known each other since they were in elementary school and Tris J joined them in high school. “I think TPC brings something for everyone, if you’re a fan of any type of rap at least one of us can give it to you.” adds Mikey.
As far as future goes for this young man he believes the sky is the limit. Rocks doesn’t see himself having any other career than the one he has right now. “I just love rapping. I don’t want to do anything else,” explains Rocks. “I just get motivated by waking up and knowing that I can have fun, get paid and the fact that it’s actually people out here that honor the things that I say.” Sir Michael Rocks is destined for greatness and seems to be just as tenacious about taking his career to the next level as he was when he started in 2005.
Check out more on Sir Michael Rocks at http://sirmichaelrocks.com/