July 19, 2022

Coolio "It Takes A Thief" (July 19, 1994)

After what seemed like an endless wave of negative attention, it seems as if the American media has decided to leave hip-hop alone (for now at least) and concentrate on more pressing issues (Bosnia, South Africa, etc.). And since things are returning to normal, many artists are once again kicking tales about their own individual realities. So it should come as no surprise that Coolio is going to be at the top of the pile this summer. Yeah, he's from Compton, but this isn't your typical gangsta record. For Coolio, Compton isn't just the spawning ground for G-rap; it's a place where the concept of comedy and tragedy can be viewed up close and personal. Where the ills of American society (unemployment, welfare, drug addiction, homelessness...) are discussed from the first person. And like Richard Pryor did years before him, Coolio refuses to let the realities of what many would consider to be a no-win situation extinguish both his artistic spirit and sense of humor. If you don't remember Coolio, you can think back to his appearance with WC on the 1990 Low Profile album. If you can't go back that far, just peep the rhymes he rocked as a member of the M.A.A.D. Circle. Even if you missed his debut, there is no reason for you to sleep on his current reality-inspired work...

While "County Line"--a humorously cool lead-off single dealing with the shortcomings of the welfare system--didn't quite evoke the anticipated response, the current single "Fantastic Voyage" really articulates Coolio's message. The video is hilarious. As the Lakeside groove carries you along, Coolio piles about six million people in the trunk of his '64 and takes them into a magical land where race, poverty, gangs or sexual orientation don't matter and everybody is cool. On the real side, tracks like "Smokin' Sticks" and "Locked In The Closet" are '70s-styled pimp tracks that have Cool kicking real-life tales about how he used to trip out smokin' sherm (cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid or PCP) and doing cocaine. Another excellent track, "Can O' Corn," speaks on his younger days, growing up in a drug-infested household with nothing to eat but a can of corn. But then it's back to the laughs. "Ugly Bitches" is one of the funniest rap records ever. Reworking the melody that 3XDope used on "Funky Dividends," Coolio pokes fun at his homies who, when their funds were low, had to settle for the not-so-fine girls. The chorus is a killer: "When I was young/I used to have fun/F#ckin' with ugly bitches/But now that I'm grown/I leave them alone/'Cause I went from rags to riches." There are also a few standout group efforts. Le Shaun stands by her man on "Mama I'm In Love With A Gangsta," Tha Alkaholiks drop by for "I Remember" and W.C. puts in work on "U No Hoo." And when added to tracks like "On My Way To Harlem" and "Ghetto Cartoon," the album seems to take on a movie soundtrack-like quality. Perhaps for the unmade Trouble Man II or Hell Up In Compton. Whatever the case, in order to capture that '70s dusty feel, you have to get some dusty n!ggas to make the tracks and the production by Dobbs The Wino, Brian G and Crazy Toones is top notch. No P-Funk. No G-Funk. Just the best of the 8-Track pimp era. - The Source (July, 1994). Revisit it today.