Style: Listeners seemed to welcome your friendlier approach to gangsta rap when your first album "It Takes a Thief" came out. Were you trying to reach a wider audience? Did you ever feel like you had a message?
Coolio: Definitely, but I never did gangsta rap. I think people classified what I did as gangsta rap because I was from Compton. The basis of what I do is not me being from the street. The basis of what I do is me being a man. I just wrote the songs and that's what people thought of them. I was not making a conscious effort. I probably do now more so. At that time I wasn't even thinking about it, it was just what was coming out.
Your label didn't want you to release the song "Gangsta's Paradise." Why did you think it was an important song to release?
They didn't get it at first. I just think at the time this was a different approach to what everybody was doing, it wasn't so much that it was a different approach lyrically I think it was just so musically different, so melodic that it caught people's attention. It took on its own life basically. I think it was important because it was a song that had meaning for people but everybody had their own definition of what the song was for them.
Your music helped bring hip-hop into the mainstream. What do you think of where rap has gone?
I'm not happy about what people are saying. I think that people are placing too much emphasis on material things and physical things. We all try as entertainers to give people what they want but at the same time I think there should be some obligation to give people what they need because everything that people want is not good for them.
A lot of the songs of today give people justification for the habits they do. I can't knock the next man for doing what he wants, but at the same time I make a conscious effort to put some meaning and some integrity in what I say. I don't just rap to be talking about sh-t. There's a lot more to be talking about than sex and money and my car and all that. It became a trend and everybody started following each other, you know.
Hip-hop culture seems to be really materialistic compared to other types of music, and I think that has to do with all the promoting and commercialization in the industry. How have you seen this commercialism affect communities like Compton?
I think that the message being given to a lot of kids right now is that if you don't have money you ain't sh-t. And I don't agree with that because, I mean, I don't come from money but I always had some integrity and some pride about myself even when I had nothing. I think that it's just a phase [in the industry].
I'm a little concerned about the state of hip-hop. Also, the trend now if you're a new artist and you're not affiliated with somebody it's hard to get a record deal. You got to be down with somebody. What happened to a guy walking in off the street having some talent? That's what hip-hop is really about. It's a universal thing and it's about everybody.
You've got a new album coming out Oct. 15. What can fans expect?
The new album is straight 15 joints and I'm telling you I got 10 singles. I got 15 singles but not all of them are going to translate well to the clean versions. S
Coolio will perform at the Siegel Center Thursday, Sept. 26 as part of the Legends of Rap Tour. Tickets cost $5-$20 and are available at the box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Call 262-8100.
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.