Coolio On ’90s Nostalgia, Publicity Stunts & Why He’s “Pissed” At The Batman Franchise

That collective nostalgia for ’90s R&B and hip-hop isn’t dissipating. This June West Co’ rapper Coolio (aka Artis Ivey, Jr), a regular visitor to Oz, will head the US-originating I Love The 90’s Tour together with Vanilla Ice, Salt ‘N Pepa and Color Me Badd.

Coming straight outta Compton, Ivey first aired music in the late ’80s. He was then briefly a member of WC And The Maad Circle. Signing to Tommy Boy Records as a solo act, Ivey debuted with It Takes A Thief – spawning the G-funk hit ‘Fantastic Voyage’. But it was ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ that transformed the rapper, with his zany image, into a pop culture icon. Ivey contributed the song – featuring R&B singer LV and sampling Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ – to the Dangerous Minds movie and used it as his second album’s title-track. ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ became 1995’s biggest single. Ivey scooped a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. As such, he made gangstadom palatable to the mainstream – opening the way for pop street rappers Puff Daddy and Ma$e. To Ivey’s (initial) indignation, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ was parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic (‘Amish Paradise’). More recently, with Ivey’s (tacit) approval, Falling In Reverse punked it up.

Alas, Ivey’s sales began to slide, slide, slippity slide with his third album, My Soul. He lost his deal, going indie. Ivey last enjoyed a minor hit with 2006’s ‘Gangsta Walk’ alongside Snoop Dogg. Still, he’s collaborated with everyone from Peter Andre to Kenny Rogers to Benny Benassi. Ivey is now dropping an EP, Long Live The Thief – the single ‘Kill Again’ about gang violence.

Ivey parlayed his ’90s success into an acting career – cameoing in the notorious George Clooney-starring Batman & Robin. He’s since turned to reality TV, with his own show Coolio’s Rules and has reinvented himself as a hip-hop chef, branding his “ghetto gourmet”. He launched a bestselling Cookin’ With Coolio cookbook and a web series. Meanwhile, aside from nostalgic ’90s kids, Ivey has been “embraced” by Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalos community – performing at the Gathering Of The Juggalos. He even has a “Jugalo Cool” (sic) tattoo. For Ivey, life is good: he now lives in Las Vegas. Yet the OG showman is touring widely.

Coolio ft. L.V – Gangsta’s Paradise

Music Feeds: I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to look at the I Love The 90’s Tour line-up, but do you have any friends on this bill?

Coolio: We are all friends. They are all my friends, actually.

MF: So it’ll be like a big party?

C: I would go as far as to say that we’re like family. We’ve all known each other for years and years and years. They’re some really good friends of mine. We stick together and we look out for each other.

MF: You’ve consistently released music. But people are most familiar with your ’90s catalogue. I wondered if you mind being seen as a heritage artist – if it frustrates you that maybe people don’t pay attention to your current work?

C: It is a bit frustrating – I will admit that. But you know what? I’m happy with at least being known for something and given some props for some of my work. That’s fine with me… You take your blessings how they come. You can’t have everything, so don’t even try!

MF: ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ had LV on it. Do you stay in touch with him? Because he slipped off the radar for a bit.

C: I actually reached out to him before this I Love The 90’s Tour started and asked him if he wanted to go with me – and he declined. So I talk to him every now and then. But I really, really wanted him to be a part of this… So I’ma reach out to him again and see if I can get him to come with me.

MF: Recently Lil Yachty got into huge trouble in the hip-hop scene when he said he couldn’t name five 2Pac or Biggie songs. Basically, his point was he doesn’t really care about the old school – he’s about the ‘now’. But it did trigger huge debate on how important it is for young artists to know the history. What do you think about that?

C: Well, you know, I don’t really care about that because I can’t name five of his songs, either! I can’t name five songs from some of these young cats myself. So, to tell you the truth, I don’t think about them at all. There’s a couple of youngsters I like and I like their music and I can name a few of their songs. But he’s not on my radar. I don’t even know who that is! I heard about the whole thing that he said, but I just found it funny… I don’t know who he is. So it’s okay if he doesn’t know who I am or if he doesn’t know who 2Pac or Biggie is. It’s our preference. You can’t get mad at somebody because of what they know or don’t know. I think people should just leave it alone. Let live and let be.

MF: Who are the “youngsters” you like? I guess Kendrick Lamar is the West Coast rapper everyone talks about these days.

C: I think that Kendrick Lamar is so important… He’s an important artist. He’s as important as I was to the ’90s. He’s as important now as I was to the ’90s or as NWA was to the ’80s. He’s as important as Public Enemy. I think that his [2016] Grammy performance was the best hip-hop Grammy performance of all time. I think he’s absolutely amazing… When I saw his Grammy performance, it actually literally brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I put his Grammy performance on the same level as a Michael Jackson or Prince’s Grammy performance. It was absolutely amazing. I can’t even watch it without tearing up.

MF: Would you like to collaborate with someone like Kendrick?

C: Oh my goodness. I would be honoured. I would be honoured. I would be honoured.

MF: In 2013 you were selling the rights to your catalogue to fund cooking projects. Did you go ahead and sell them?

C: That was a publicity stunt. I wanted to find out what my catalogue was worth, but I didn’t wanna pay for it (laughs). I used that to find out what my catalogue was worth and not spend any money. So it was totally selfish on my part. I will never sell my catalogue because that is my children’s legacy – that’s my legacy and that’s something I’ma leave for my children when I’m not here. Now if they decide to sell it, that’s fine. But it’s not up to me because it’s not really mine – it’s theirs.

MF: You’ve written a cookery book and you’ve got a web series. But where are you taking the Cookin’ With Coolio concept at the moment?

C: Well, we wanna shoot more episodes for the Cookin’ With Coolio series. I just haven’t had the time to do it yet. It’s just timing.

Cookin’ With Coolio – Caprese Salad

MF: You set a trend because now Snoop Dogg’s got a cookery show with Martha Stewart (Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party) and Action Bronson’s doing one, too (Fuck, That’s Delicious). Are they biting you?

C: Of course. Nobody’s thinking about doing stuff like that before I did it. It’s fine… Snoop always calls people ‘nephew’. Snoop is my nephew. I love Snoop to death. I love everything he does. So I got his back. And Action Bronson was an actual working chef, so it makes sense that he’s doing it. I got no hate in my heart for nobody. I think more power to ’em. They do what they do and I do what I do and we all do it different. [So] I don’t think that they’re biting me. I think that they’re doing what they do.

MF: You’ve also had a phenomenal acting career. You had a role in Batman & Robin. What it was like being in such a huge movie?

C: I’m actually pissed off about the whole Batman thing because, the way they got me to do that, they promised me a role in the next Batman – to take such a small part like that. They made some promises to me that they didn’t keep. So it kinda left a bad taste in my mouth. Actually, the Batman franchise itself can kiss my ass! Yeah, they lied to me and they played me. I feel like they played me. So whatever… It’s whatever. But more power to ’em. Like I said, I still don’t have no hate. I’ma continue to do me – and that’s what it is.

MF: You even did a vampire movie, Dracula 3000, a few years ago! Do you have a favourite role?

C: I think that might be one of my favourite roles! Quite possibly. That might possibly be one of my favourite roles. I did a really good job in that. I also did a [shark-themed horror] movie called Red Water – which was a movie made for TV, where I did a really good job on that, too. But those are probably my two favourite roles. I’ve yet to be given a role that really showcases my talent and lets me really show what I can do. You haven’t seen me in any movies in a while because I’ve been turning down lots of things – because everybody wants me to play the same role all the time and I refuse. I’m not gonna play gangsta roles and stuff like that anymore because I’ve done that already. I’m ready to try something new. So when somebody comes with something that’s gonna be a challenge for me, then you’ll probably see me in another film. But, until then, I won’t be doing any deals… until I start doing my own stuff.

MF: I was fascinated to know you had this allegiance, and this friendship, with Insane Clown Posse. I read that Juggalos are now harassed by police, like a gang. Are you still part of the circle?

C: I am a Juggalo. I have the hatchet man [logo], the hatchet Coolio, tattoo on my arm – and I am a Juggalo for life. They embraced me and they adopted me. I’m down with them to the end. They’re cool. They’re not a gang – they’re family. They’re a family and they look out for each other.

Coolio will tour Australia as part of the I Love The 90’s Tour later this year.

Coolio – Kill Again

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