Come, take a fantastic voyage to the gangsta’s paradise. Your guide is a 50-year-old rapper from Compton named Coolio and he’s had a long walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Your journey begins in 1996, when he won a Grammy for his song, “Gangsta’s Paradise,” and made himself a household name. Then, time happened. Coolio’s star started fading along with his trademark wild braids. And although he may not be accepting awards at this point in his career, he’s been keeping busy over the last two decades—still putting out albums, still making appearances in dozens of movies and TV shows, and above all, still being motherfucking Coolio.
We recently caught up with Coolio about, well, everything...
Noisey: You recently let Falling In Reverse cover "Gangsta's Paradise." I guess my question is: Why would you do that?
Coolio: Well, actually, I couldn’t stop them from doing it for one thing. Secondly, my kids like it. My kids like Falling In Reverse. They’re Falling In Reverse fans.
How old are your kids?
She’s 16 and then one is 22 and you know, I actually like them myself.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the lead singer or know anything about him, but he got skills. He got rap skills.
You think so?
Yeah he does. The lead singer from Falling In Reverse is actually skilled.
Hm. What do you think of his other side—the screaming metalcore shit?
I mean, some of it I like, some of it I don’t like but there’s a lot of things in hip-hop I don’t like so it’s not necessarily about me liking everything, I think it was something good to do. I think they did a great job on it. I don’t know what you know about Ronnie, man. Ronnie is the lead singer. He’s talented as shit.
How do you think his version of the song came out?
Some things I would’ve did different but for the most part, it wasn’t about my interpretation about it. It was about his interpretation. I think that the song itself, my interpretation of it is not everybody’s interpretation of it anyway, so the song is its own entity now. I was just a vessel which it came through. The song means different things to different people. That was his interpretation of it and if he likes it, I love it.
Did you ever think when you wrote the song 20 years ago that in 2014, some angry white dude metalcore band would be covering it?
Twenty years ago? No, I did not have any idea. Ten years ago? Yeah, I started thinking about shit like that. Ten years ago, I realized what kind of song it was. It’s an anomaly.
It became part of the culture after Dangerous Minds.
Like I said, it’s its own entity. I’m kind of like… I’m kind of like Noah. I provided the vessel for it to come to Earth, I just had to stand back and let shit happen after that. I’m like the arc and the words and the music is like… Stevie Wonder was like God… I’m like Noah. And the words are like the animals and fish and the birds and all that and they came through me and all I did was wait for them fucking waves to start rolling.
So it was a divine intervention thing on your part.
Yeah, that’s the way I look at it now. I think back to when I wrote it. When I wrote "Gangsta’s Paradise," the very first thing that came out of my mouth, I freestyled. “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” that whole first line, I freestyled it and I sat down and started writing it and I never once picked up my pen. I didn’t stop to think about anything. I wrote the whole song out without really thinking about it. So in a way, it was divine intervention because the song just came and I didn’t have stop to say, “Oh, lemme put this right here or right there.” The only thing I had to do was after I finished it, there were a few curse words, I had to go back and take those out.
It’s one of those things. I tried to explain to people what the song was about and to be honest with you, I don’t think I ever gave a really great interpretation of what the song was because I couldn’t. Like I said, the song wasn’t about what I originally wrote it about. It’s about whatever it means to whoever listens to it. It gives every person a different feeling.
Going back to the Falling In Reverse cover, I understand you filmed a video with them?
Yeah, I had a good time doing that.
How were they to work with?
They’re cool as shit, man.
Who was more fun to work with—Michelle Pfeiffer or Ronnie Radke?
Well, as much as I like girls and as much as I don’t like boys, I’d still have to say Ronnie because Michelle didn’t kick it. She came and shot her part and went back to her trailer. Now, in her defense, I will say that she had just had some twins. She had two babies with her so she didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend.
Well, Ronnie has a new baby, right?
Ronnie didn’t bring his baby to the set. He was chilling. We were in a warehouse, chilling. But also, I have to say that Michelle was much more pleasant to look at than Ronnie.
Who has prettier hair?
I’m not gonna say prettier because Ronnie ain’t pretty at all to me. But Ronnie was cool. He had a cool personality, a cool demeanor. Now, if I had to make a choice about who I’d wanna be stranded on a desert island with, definitely Michelle.
Do you ever still talk to Michelle?
Well, no I have not spoken to her... maybe one time since we did the video. I think I saw her once or twice and I think I spoke to her maybe once. We don’t have a relationship. You know, that might be a good thing to do—the next Grammys or the next award show, have me and her be presenters. I wonder why nobody’s thought of that yet—have us come together and do the song and have Michelle do some interpretive dance where she gets naked, gets naked like Miley Cyrus or something. Or have P!nk just give me a lap dance through the whole song. That’s a joke, I’m a P!nk fan. P!nk is one of my favorite artists of all time. I think she’s fucking amazing.
What do you like about P!nk?
She’s just… she’s amazing, bro! She can do it all. She does what the hell she wants to do. That’s why I like her. Know what? She’s one of those types of people that she can learn anything. If she wanted to, she could fucking learn piano right now. Even at her age, she could be a great pianist, if she wanted to. She could be a seamstress. She could learn how to drive a fucking train and then drive that shit in the video. She could learn how to build a fucking spaceship, and then build the fucking spaceship and then fly into the sky and film a video from her backyard and shit.
Have you ever met P!nk?
Yeah, I met P!nk. It’s been a while since I saw her but I don’t go to that many award shows anymore.
You’re also down with the Juggalos.
Yeah. I like them because, listen, they’re an anomaly as well. The clowns created themselves. They did what they did out of spite. They said, “Everyone wanna try to clown us? Then fuck it, let’s be clowns!” That’s what they told me. And they created a movement despite themselves. They weren’t thinking about that happening. They didn’t know that the Juggalos were gonna fucking spring from Earth. That shit happened all by divine intervention. They could be born, they could be Satan’s spawns, who knows? But it definitely happened.
How did you hook up with them?
They asked me to go on tour with them and I went on tour with them. I did the Gathering twice. And I must say, man, their fans are loyal as shit! And they adopted me. That’s how it happened.
Don’t you have a Juggalo tattoo that’s misspelled?
No, I didn’t misspell it, bro! That’s the thing. Remember in hip-hop, we always misspell shit anyway, right? Instead of putting s’s on the end of something, we put z’s. Instead of spelling something with a “k,” we spell it with a “c.” If it’s supposed to be spelled with a “c,” we spell it with a “k.” I took the “g” out of “Juggalo” because there’s only one motherfucking G, and that’s me. I didn’t need two g’s to describe my Juggalo.
TMZ tried to clown me and shit. Look, they don’t know shit about my culture and about my art and about where I’m coming from. How can they fucking judge me anyway? How could someone who knows nothing about you, nothing about your culture, nothing about your art, how can they fucking stand and judge somebody?
Something I just found out about you—you’re really big in Kazakhstan.
I’m big everywhere! Except at home. I mean, I’m pretty big at home, it’s just that people kind of forgot how big I am. Have you seen the new Scarface song? I’m like Scarface, man. After all these years, I still continue to let my nuts hang.
I wasn’t trying to insinuate—
I know, I know, you’re not trying to insinuate anything. I’m telling you, I don’t give a fuck what nobody says about me. I don’t give a fuck how anybody feel about me. I know who I am, I know what I can do. I still got it and will have until the end. There’s nothing nobody that can tell me nothing because I’m in the studio constantly, daily, with battle-tested warriors all around me and I hold my motherfucking own with that pen and that pad every motherfucking day. Everyday. Ain’t nobody tells me shit. Nobody tells me nothing. I can write songs with the best of them. I said the same thing I just said to you—I did an interview for XXL and I told them I could hold my own with anybody. You know what they put me in? They put me in the “Nigga, Please” section. But then when I confronted them on it, they all acted like some little bitches like they didn’t know what I was talking about. So that let me know, they must be scared. I had to ask them, I said, “Y’all scared of me? Y’all don’t wanna admit what y’all did?” I said fuck it.
I listen to myself, other people listen to me. I don’t got a bunch of yes men around me. If I do some wack verses and do some wack shit, somebody gonna tell me, especially my family—my kids, my nephew, my cousin, somebody gonna tell me, “That shit is garbage.” And I will take it as such and I will get rid of that shit. But everything I write ain’t great. But I’ll tell you this, I ain’t writing no wack shit. I take my time, still.
Tell me about Cookin’ With Coolio.
We are in the process of gearing up to shoot new episodes of Cookin’ With Coolio, actually. I’m actually waiting on my middle son to come on board, I want him to direct. I don’t know if he’s gonna have time to do it because he’s in school and what not and he runs track and all that. I’m gonna give him a little time. Actually, he’s on spring break right now. If he has the time to do it, we’ll do it. If not, we’re gonna go ahead and pay somebody else to. We’re gonna produce it all on our own. My crew, we’re gonna produce it this time and I’m gonna take it from there.
I read that you sold the rights to your songs to fund this, is that right?
Nah. What I did was, I threw the idea out there because I wanted to find out what people thought it was worth. And then I could make a good estimation on what I had. If there was some type of emergency that came up and I had to sell my shit, what would it be worth? And then I added a million onto that.
Do you still own the rights to your catalog?
Hell yeah I do. The internet, bro. The internet is a blessing and a motherfucking curse. You could get information on there but you can also get misinformation and disinformation.
I have a really random question to ask you.
You made my favorite cameo in a movie of all time. It’s the shortest cameo I’ve ever seen. You were in Leprechaun in the Hood. Do you even remember making an appearance in that?
Hey, when we did that cameo, we wasn’t no where near—somebody came with a camera and said, “Hey, man, I wanna put y’all in this movie.” As a matter of fact, the guy that was in the cameo with me, remember him?
Yeah, you two were standing in the back of a church.
He’s doing 50 years in prison right now.
No shit, for what?
He killed somebody in his backyard. Some dude that had just got out of jail came to his house and… he tried to extort him and he shot that motherfucker.
How long after the filming was that?
That probably was about five or six years later. Anyway, to make a long story short, we wasn’t even in a church. We were in my fucking kitchen or some shit. No, it was in my garage at my house. And the dude came and filmed it and they did their little Hollywood movie magic, super imposed-type shit and put us in there. We wasn’t even in a church.
Seriously. This cameo is 5.6 seconds long.
I have one more question and sorry to take up so much of your time.
It’s no problem, man. I’m not doing nothing this morning so it’s all good.
When I asked people what I should ask Coolio, the most common question I got, the thing most people seem to want to know: Do you still have beef with Weird Al?
Fuck no, man, I let that go so long ago. Let me say this: I apologized to Weird Al a long time ago and I was wrong. Y’all remember that, everybody out there who reads this shit. Real men and real people should be able to admit when they’re wrong and I was wrong, bro. Come on, who the fuck am I, bro? He did parodies of Michael Jackson, he did parodies of all kinds of people and I took offense to it because I was being cocky and shit and being stupid and I was wrong and I should’ve embraced that shit and went with it. I listened to it a couple years after that and it’s actually funny as shit. It’s one of those things where I made a wrong call and nobody stopped me. That’s one thing I’m still upset about—my management at the time. Somebody should’ve stopped me from making that statement because it was dumb. And I think it hurt me a little bit. It made me seem stupid.
Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.
No problem, man. No problem. I say what I feel and I tell the truth, even if it hurts me. That’s all I know how to do is tell the truth.
Shaka Zulu, man.
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