Selected by Dan Grunebaum
With Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre back on top of the charts again, the burden falls on fellow gangsta rapper Coolio to prove he' still got the stuff. In July, Tokyo hip hop fans will get a chance to decide for themselves when the dreadlocked b-boy brings his new album
Coolio.com to Akasaka Blitz on July 5 and 6.
A reformed crack addict and former jailbird, Coolio (born Artis Ivey, Jr) didn't get started on his hip hop career until he was pushing 30, practically an old man in a field where everyone else was in their early 20s. Joining the 40 Thevz group of producers, rappers and break dancers in the mid-'90s, he eventually signed with Tommy Boy Records for his debut
It Takes A Thief.
With its self-deprecation and goofy wit, the album was a breath of fresh air at a time when gangsta rap was beginning to take itself just a bit too seriously. On the strengths of Coolio's personable character, gravity-defying dreadlocks and, most of all, the effortlessly danceable grooves of hits such as "I Remember" and "Fantastic Voyage,"
It Takes A Thief went platinum.
Now a certified star, Coolio went on to record the big budget follow-up, Gangsta's Paradise, which was released in 1995. The title track featured a sample from Stevie Wonder's song "Pastime Paradise," a safe selection that practically guaranteed it massive airplay. With its sing-along party grooves featuring a gospel choir and surprisingly thoughtful observations on ghetto life, the song went on to become the number one single of 1995 not only in the US, but in the UK as well, an unlikely feat for a rap song. It also won Coolio a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996.
My Soul, Coolio's third release, confirmed his place as one of hip hop's leading artists. He subsequently established his own Crowbar label and also embarked on an acting career. The just-released
Coolio.com, meanwhile, features an unusual cameo by country singer Kenny Rogers in a hip hop transformation of Rogers' classic number "The Gambler."
Coolio plays Akasaka Blitz on July 5-6. See listings for details.