- 29 Sep 22
Following news of the death of Coolio, aged 59, we're revisiting one of his interviews with Hot Press...
Originally published in Hot Press in 2002
Still most famous in this part of the world for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, rapper Coolio has certainly kept himself busy in the eight years since that hit. Movies, charity work and an appearance on Open House are all in a day’s work for the artist formerly known as Artis Leon Ivey Jr.
Interview: Paul Nolan
Leaving aside a few slightly dodgy career choices, Coolio in person proves to be an engaging interviewee. Despite a decidedly odd start to our conversation – Coolio turns up 40 minutes late, and spends the first few minutes composing a rap over the lounge music piping thorough the hotel foyer’s PA system – he soon settles into interview mode and gives me his undivided attention. I start by mentioning his recent performance for UN peacekeeping troops in the Balkans.
“Well, the troops were homesick man, y’know?” Coolio recalls. “But it was a weird thing performing before a bunch of guys. Guys tend not to get excited as women do during the shows. And the other thing about it is that if any of your songs have sexual innuendo, the vibe can get pretty weird. People tend not to be comfortable during those moments.”
One aspect of his life Coolio certainly seems to be comfortable with is doing charity work. An asthmatic himself, the rapper is a spokesperson for the Asthma & Allergy Foundation, as well as being an honorary director of the Heritage Begins Within Foundation. Why is he so compelled to get involved with these organisations?
“I come from very humble beginnings,” says Coolio. “My mother was a factory worker, my stepfather was a postal worker and my real father was a convict. And when I was 11, my stepfather and mother divorced, and believe me, it got pretty rough around that time. So I just believe that no matter where you come from and what your beginnings are, if you are of the mindset that you wanna do something with your life, you can do it as long as you can attain some kind of education.”
Do you have to be ruthlessly successful to succeed in the entertainment industry?
“Yes,” comes the immediate answer, Coolio peering at me over the top of his sunglasses. “Being in this business is like swimming in a pool of sharks. You can’t be a pike. Even as vicious as barracuda is, it wouldn’t survive. A school of barracuda would get eaten alive in a pool of sharks. In order to achieve what it is you want, you have to be willing to go as far as the next man. That’s just the way it is.”
Following his Hot Press interview, Coolio appeared on RTÉ One show Open House. Revisit the iconic moment in Irish TV below: