The Cool Kids should be a popular meme right now. They cameo in Widows, the crime-heist thriller that sees Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen bringing his prestige sensibilities to more mainstream fare, with an equally talented cast to match. The Cool Kids show up early for one of the film's handful of memorable scenes as two low-level henchmen who somehow let Liam Neeson and his gang of thieves get away with $2 million of crime boss Brian Tyree Henry's money. They're in the midst of freestyling when enforcer Daniel Kaluuya pulls up on them, so he makes them continue. The outcome is inevitable—they're dead before they clear eight bars.
There are a dozen examples one could point to that highlight the grossly shameful, and frankly, bemusing fact that Widows is one of the most underrated movies of 2018 when it should've gone down in the books as one of its celebrated best. Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya shooting Sir Michael Rocks in the face as he rhymes sounds like catnip for that section of Twitter where rap fans and pop culture film-lovers intersect. Kaluuya intimidatingly getting in Mikey's grill while he raps is begging to be gif'd and reaction meme'd, and I have seen it but not in a context where enough people get the joke.
With Widows hitting home video this week, hopefully references to the film will soon go beyond an "if you know, you know" basis and into the mainstream where the movie deserves. (Complex was on the right side of history.) For the occasion, Complex hopped on the phone with Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish to talk about how two of the blog rap era's darlings ended up in a Steve McQueen movie, what they plan to do next now that they've, in Chuck's words, "caught the acting bug," and of course, new music.
So how did you guys end up in a Steve McQueen crime movie?
Michael Rocks: We were actually in the middle of recording some new stuff and one of the casting directors was looking for guys like us basically, that were able to rap and do some acting too. We ended up going to the audition, they told us they would contact us later. So we didn't think too much of it. We ended up getting a call back and they wanted us to do a second audition, but this time with Steve McQueen. He really liked it and we ended up sealing the deal and got the part after that.
In the audition, did you have to kick a freestyle like you do in the actual scene?
Michael Rocks: Yeah. Very similar to what we did in the movie.
You guys' scene is one of many memorable moments in the movie. Beyond yours, what's your favorite part?
Chuck Inglish: I don't think anyone could see, but as the movie opens up there's some guns firing at a van. I didn't know that it wouldn't be that visible, but we're running underneath a train track, shooting a Luger at a van, trying to get away. I think that was my favorite scene, you really just can't see it though. You just see the guys getting shot in the van as the movie's opening up. But we were a part of that, too.
MIchael Rocks: Yeah, I really liked Daniel Kaluuya in the bowling alley. It was this really powerful scene, man, I just saw that Daniel was really psycho at that point. He's crazy as shit. It looked really cool though.
Yeah, the cast is stacked but, personally, Kaluuya is my favorite performance in the film. And he kind of does a complete 180 from what we came to know him from in Get Out. What was it like acting opposite him, especially for one of his more pivotal scenes where they really inform his character's sadism?
Chuck Inglish: I don't think I could have gone to some fancy acting school and learned more than what I learned from just our first three takes. I mean I went to film school, but I didn't go to school for acting. This is like my second acting experience. And to learn on the fly with an Oscar-winning director and like a fucking superstar, and that's your introduction to it? You know, there was things I learned about how to actually act within the first half an hour of meeting him. And so I feel like I told him that when we went to lunch. Like I never seen no shit like that before.
I understand how people say they get an acting bug. This is a lot of work that takes a lot of dedication. A lot of research, you know what I mean, it's not just one of those things you can just catch and think you're going to be good at it. I feel like me and Mikey will be good at that as our career goes on.
You had the short back in 2017, Shit Show, so was acting always something that you wanted to seriously pursue?
Chuck Inglish: Shit Show got us ready for that.
Michael Rocks: It was a lot more fun and not that intensive, but I think that within that we were practicing a lot. Even though it was fun it definitely got us kind of prepared, man, because we did a lot of sketches. A lot of different characters, even a bunch of just stuff we never got to release.
Now, how many takes did the scene with Kaluuya actually take? Did you guys play around with it a little bit? Were there versions where you got more bars off?
Chuck Inglish: There wasn't no playing around. We were shooting on film. So we did about like three for blocking. We did two practice ones and then we knew we were trying to get the right one, so I think collectively we did that scene nine times.
Mikey took his L like a professional. I feel like mine was just a tad bit more awkward because I'm running away and it's hard to fake like I've been shot in the back before—because I ain't never been shot in the back before. Steve's [note] was I just needed to sell it more. So I ended up fucking busting my knee up a couple times and then on the last take, I actually fucked up and my shoe was coming off. So I was running, trying to keep my shoe on, and I actually really bust my face this time. I actually fell on my face and I lied there, heard "cut" and I was done. I actually fucked up and fell on my face and that was the scene they used.
Did you guys see that the still image of Daniel getting up in Michael's face has kind of become like a meme now on Twitter?
Michael Rocks: No. Where's that at? I need that.
Chuck Inglish: That's dope.
Michael Rocks: I don't think we've ever had our own meme yet, so if this could be the first one, I would be happy. Let's get it.
I've had this debate with people about this scene, so just to clear it up, is the idea that your characters got robbed by Liam Neeson and his gang because you were busy kicking freestyles and not paying attention?
Chuck Inglish: No. No. No. No. What happened was they had the drop on us. There was nothing we could really do about it. That was our argument. Our argument was how the fuck were we supposed to know? Us rapping was just to kill the time. So when we got jammed up and put in the gym locker, what established the characters is us just passing time. Because it was implied that we had been in there for a long ass time. You know what I mean? So we didn't fuck up. They fucked up. We just had to take the bullet for it.
With you guys both hailing from the Illinois area, how did you feel about the movie's depiction of Chicago and the overarching themes of corruption and political neglect and all that?
Michael Rocks: Man, the political angle of how they portrayed Chicago was perfect. I feel like it's pretty accurate, dude. Chicago's got one of the most corrupt political arenas in America, I would say. There's always two sides to the political game and it's never just cut and dry. I thought they did a good job painting that picture of how deep it really gets in Chicago politics and how it's a cutthroat game and you can only win if you don't pull any punches.
So what's next? More acting? A specific focus on comedy or drama? What's the game plan?
Michael Rocks: I'm definitely going hard, man. I've done a couple classes with a teacher out here. I start doing some Second City improv comedy stuff coming up in February. I'm just being proactive and trying to train myself and teach myself as much as I can. Even though nobody even asked me to take any acting classes or anything, I'm just trying to do it on my own accord so that when I am put in a position where I need that I'm already ready and already got the confidence and other experience to just hop right into it.
Chuck Inglish: Yeah, and I'm writing a short series right now. The future of where we're going...it's always going to be deep-rooted in where we started. We're just trying to make sure that I don't got to pay bills with rap music because it's funner. Because it's just a shitshow. We had many talks about how we could revamp sketch comedy and I feel like we deep on that. I got two dramas that I acted in since Widows that will be coming out in the next year. So even though I feel like our base is rooted in using humor to tell different stories, I think the other side of the coin is we know how to tell stories in a dramatic way, too. I feel like people have noticed that through the record and the songs that we make that it always pushes the envelope. This is the next envelope.
On the music front are you guys still doing recording?
Michael Rocks: Definitely. We just got back from this crazy studio in Iowa that's like built into this farm. We were there for a couple days, just recording heavy, heavy, heavy getting ready for the next project. We just like to try to venture out to different locations to inspire different ideas and some variety in our workflow. People usually don't go to Iowa to go record because it ain't beautiful, but it was tight. I like going places where we're isolated and we really buckle down and really just get to just focus on strictly the music. We're not really worried about "the party later on tonight" or going to some club after the studio because there's nowhere else to go in Iowa. You just go to the studio and lock in, man. So the train is still running.
Is there any release you're building up to or are you just seeing where it goes?
Chuck Inglish: No, we got a spring release. And we have a working title right now. We're going to wait until we release the first single, but we got two singles that we've been carefully crafting. I think we are not content with our position and I think we want people to hear us a little bit louder. So we got some...it's going to cut through. It's a lot of shit that sounds a lot alike right now with a lot of content in it that sounds a lot alike right now and I feel like we coming with something that's going to deliver some shock and awe. Like go make things shake a little bit. On top of that, we got a series of singles leading up to an album we going to drop right at the beginning of spring. So with that, we're going into music thinking about it like, not fashion releases, but every season is something different. So instead of trying to make it grandiose delivery of 'oh, this is an album with a big ass story,' no, we got just our move. So this our spring move, this is our fall move.
You guys are veterans from that crucial blog era of rap. What are your thoughts on the rap game currently?
Michael Rocks: I want everybody to quit rapping. Yeah. I hope this is not a real like formal interview, but I really want to just say fuck everybody, dog. I hate everybody, man. I don't like nobody, dude. Everybody is full of themselves and thinks that they're great. R&B singers saying they the best rapper and shit, like we are lost right now and we're about to fix this shit up. So just give us ten minutes, bro. We about to fix this shit back up again, because we let shit get out of control.
Chuck Inglish: It's country artists with trap beats. It's like fucking pop is trap. It's gotten to a place, when I was on Snapchat and clicked on something that was from MTV and iHeart Radio and four or five of the articles had shit to do with Black Chyna and Kylie [Jenner] and people that don't even fucking make music. And when I step back and look at it—more power to people for creating they lanes—but there has to be lanes. There has to be sort of parameters that separate things from certain different things. Everything can't just be one like everybody wants it to be because then it doesn't represent kids. Like there is no such thing as a rap concert. It's pyrotechnic, auto-tune and trap hi-hats on every single fucking thing you can listen to. Like R&B ain't R&B. Rock ain't rock. There's nothing different. All the playlists have the same shit on it. Lana Del Ray got trap drums. Where do we draw the line on what the fuck is what?
Michael Rocks: Where is the line? Something's got to happen man.
Chuck Inglish: My idea of the climate is everybody told somebody that they could rap and now the shit is out of control...I gotta start making that line drawn really clearly now because it seems like things are getting bent out of shape right now, so we're going to have to do some remodeling.