One of the many strange contradictions surrounding Chuck Inglish is that it's surprising that Convertibles is his first solo record proper; on the one hand, he seems to have been around for so long that this surely should have happened years ago, and yet, on the other, he's still young. It's still only six years since The Cool Kids changed the face of alternative hip hop, embracing the digital era in pioneering fashion and introducing a refreshingly laid-back approach to a genre that so often seemed in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own self-importance.

That Inglish is only now delivering his first full-length is at least in-keeping with the lackadaisical pace at which The Cool Kids have produced material over the course of their career to date; they themselves have just the one official record to their name, 2011's When Fish Ride Bicycles. Last year, he prefaced this album with the similarly-monikered mixtape Droptops, and despite some obvious overlap - both boast a plethora of feature appearances and a dedication to sonic exploration - Inglish insists that they're to be viewed as entirely separate entities.

"Droptops came all at once, whereas these songs took their time to take shape," he tells me from his home in Los Angeles - he moved from Chicago three years ago. "On Droptops, there isn't much live instrumentation, but on Convertibles, I played a lot of stuff myself - there's much more of a live feel. I've been building up to this record for three years; Droptops was just something for the Jeeps, you know? For the summer, and shit. It's not like this is one big album with a concept, but just me trying to make the strongest shit that I can."

The personal significance of Convertibles for Inglish is clear; having always been primarily viewed as the producer in The Cool Kids, he's eager to ensure that this record is a clear demonstration that he's striking out on his own as a rapper. "I just wanted to be seen as a creative force, first and foremost, as somebody who can do whatever I want to do. You know the five elements of rap? I was big on that shit when I was growing up. It meant a lot to me, to be able to write beats, DJ, write rhymes and all of that shit. Convertibles spawned out of me wanting to make different kinds of music, rather than just focusing on beats."

Inglish originally claimed that he wanted Convertibles to be less heavy on features than Droptops, but a quick scan over the track listing demonstrates that he hasn't kept that particular promise. Ultimately, though, a wide range of collaborators would become a key part of his vision for the album.

"It's more a case of me having decided to give credit to people," he explains. "If somebody contributed, I gave them a feature. Like, on 'Money Clip', if you look at who's on that track, all but one of them were there in the studio with me as I was making that song. Vic Mensa was there, RetcH was there, and we just made that song organically. I thought of it like The Chronic, you know? My Chronic. There was a lot of direct collaboration in the studio, with a lot of people that I thought were going to be the up-and-comers of the next five years. The blueprint for this record was to make a more experimental The Chronic, and to showcase new artists."

One clear indication of Inglish's commitment to an exploratory sound is a collaboration with Chromeo, entitled 'Legs'. "In the initial phase of making the record, I was texting Dave (Macklovitch) a lot, just because we've got a lot of history," Inglish recalls - The Cool Kids have toured with the electronic duo in the past. "When I told him I was making a solo record, he just said, "send me a couple of beats, and I'll hit you back with something." The song ended up taking a lot of different shapes over the past couple of years, going from an electronic feel to this kind of live, future-funk disco hodgepodge that it is now."

"I always wanted to do something like that, but it wasn't until I started working with Mike Einziger that I felt I had the freedom to explore this kind of Thriller-slash-Prince element. I ended up playing the drums on that song, and we mixed it dry and fast, really going after that sound."

Einziger wasn't the most obvious choice to sit behind the desk on Convertibles - his day job is as lead guitarist with Incubus - but Inglish saw him as fitting neatly with his aims for the record. "I wanted to take it to somebody who wouldn't give a shit. Not in a bad way, but who wouldn't care what the hot sound was, you know? Somebody who, instead, could bring their knowledge of music and composition and gear it towards me, so that I could make the best record possible, not just something for the time we're in."

Two of the highest-profile guests on Convertibles are Mac Miller and Chance the Rapper, who appear on 'Came Thru/Easily' and closer 'Glam', respectively. For Inglish, it marks a pleasing completion of a full circle, given the impact of The Cool Kids on the pair's fledgling careers. "I met them because they dug The Cool Kids, and I have to feel proud of their progress. Seeing them develop their careers the way they have is incredible. I think The Cool Kids did a lot to open up that lane for independent artists, pioneering that direct-to-fan approach, where we just torrented. That's what we did, and a lot of artists on Convertibles came up under that same logic. So, to give back to them is nice, because it was us in control, and now it's them. That's the way it's supposed to go. The fact that we can inspire kids to come up and want to do the same things that we did - there's really nothing better to me."

Critics have tended to point out a nineties sound as characterising Inglish's past solo output - he himself has described his music as 'retro-futuristic' - but he feels that Convertibles has shied away from such overt influences, despite his earlier allusion to The Chronic. "There's a lot of different vibes, and some salutes to different eras, but I wouldn't say that this album leans towards a certain sound as much as we did on The Cool Kids' records. I was aiming for more of a personal display of my own influences; there's a little bit of the shit that I listened to coming up, to some degree, but I was more interested in reflecting what I'm listening to now, and what I've been listening to since I moved to California."

Earlier in the year, Inglish and his fellow Cool Kid, Mikey Rocks, announced their intention to finally follow up When Fish Ride Bicycles by the end of 2014. There's already a title for the record - Shark Week - but Inglish revealed that work on it has yet to begin in earnest. "That's something that we're going to go in and do fast, like a quick strike," he says. "Right now, we're in different parts of the country, so we're waiting until we're in the same area before we start working. We want to go back to how it was when we first started, and be more in control of our music and our decisions. We used to be completely in control, and the only reason we took a break is because we didn't see the point in working together if we couldn't do it our way; it wasn't going to be fun. That's why we both ended up doing our solo thing."

"Now, we feel like we have the opportunity to work that way again, and it gives us a shot to do something groundbreaking. Working solo has freed us up creatively, I think. We're not going to worry about whether or not we have a single for the record, or whatever; we don't really give a shit. We just want to make it our way, and do some really new shit; that's what's going to fuel Shark Week. Hindsight's 20/20, and exploring things on your own gives you perspective on how much fun you had doing your original shit. Convertibles is an experience in itself, and I'm not even done having it, but the fact that I know I have another outlet - one that already has a fanbase, that already has history, that's already taking care of itself - it's a beautiful duality."

Inglish's announcement of Shark Week on Twitter - which came in the form of a declaration that "me and (Mikey Rocks) are about to take all our shit back real quick" - caused quite the stir, with Tyler, the Creator leading a wave of delighted responses. Inglish admitted, too, that The Cool Kids' hiatus, however brief, might have been more calculated that it appears.

You know, sometimes, you've got to be like the weatherman. You have to know when things are hot, and when you've got to set things on the shelf, so they don't get too hot. In the time we were away, our solo shit has shown to people that we weren't just dope as a group. Fans came to realise that individually, we were ill, and that goes back to before we even met each other. When people see that we've been doing this shit since high school or college or whatever, they start to think, "damn, what if they got back together?" And the thing is, we never broke up. It was kind of like a perception trick, because people love shit when they don't think it's available."

"When people learn to appreciate the value of what's there, that's when you give them the opportunity to get it again. It's supply and demand; we were probably too accessible. We had a lot of songs, and we were touring a lot, and I think we hit mass. Once you hit mass, and people get tired of it, you have to dial it down if you want it to exist still. You've got to remember that we're still young. Mikey's at the age now that I was at when we started, and he's coming into his own, because the experience he's had has brought him to a point he's never been to before, creatively. When you add to that the way in which I've developed and branched out with Convertibles, I think the next album we do will be the best we've ever done."

Inglish has plans to take Convertibles on the road, with a full live show already worked out, but even that, ultimately, will tie into his plans for the future of The Cool Kids. "I have a live show that I've put together for this record, but the challenge is trying to put on things that people haven't seen," he relates. "Mikey has his own show, I have my own show, and we have our Cool Kids show, too. What we want to do, at some point in time, is have all three intertwined together, so we can show audiences all of that at once. The ultimate goal is to have a two-and-a-half hour performance, because I think with that, there would be the possibility that we could be one of the illest touring acts in rap. There's nobody doing that; it's never happened, and we're all about trying to make shit that hasn't happened yet, happen."

Convertibles is available via Sounds Like Fun Records on April 8th.