Interview & Show Preview: Coolio @ Nectar, Sunday June 8th
by Dana Easterling
Hip hop legend Coolio is playing at Nectar this coming Sunday, June 8th. He’s also playing shows at Wild Buffalo in Bellingham and Jazzbones in Tacoma this weekend. I had an opportunity to talk with him about his tour, new music, family, and food. I learned that Coolio is just as you’d expect him to be – creative, funny, and opinionated. Who knew he had such strong opinions about organic food??! There’s no bullshit when you’re chatting with Coolio and I dig that. Here’s what he had to say:
Dana Easterling: I’m excited to see your show at Nectar on Sunday. You’re playing three shows in Western Washington this weekend, and you’re coming back in July. How did your Seattle area fans get so damn lucky?
Coolio: We’re working on a new project, it’s called SpaceGoast, and the new single’s called “Connoisseur.” We had an opportunity to come up and do that for you all. The promoter actually originally booked us for one show, and then we saw that we had some dates open around that time and we wanted to take the opportunity to go ahead and do three (shows).
DE: That’s amazing. Will we get to hear some new material? “Get Rich” is such a great song and I’m really excited to hear something new from you.
Coolio: Absolutely. You’ll hear “Get Rich” and “Connoisseur.” There’s another song off the SpaceGoast project. . . so yeah, we’ll be live and direct. We’ll do something old, something new…
It’s graduation weekend as well. One of my sons is graduating, so check this out. I’m flying in on Friday night for the show, driving back to Tacoma, getting on a flight back to L.A., go to my son’s graduation, then performing at a friend’s wedding, and then flying in to Tacoma for the show that night.
DE: Whoa, that is dedication!
Coolio: Perpetual motion!
DE: You’re playing at some intimate venues this time around, and fans even have a chance to meet you before the performance in Seattle. Do you always go to such great lengths to make sure that your fans have a one-of-a-kind experience when you tour?
Coolio: I try to. I do it as often as I can. A lot of people have supported me over the years so I try to give back as much as humanly possible. I try to do as much as I can without doing too much. I usually hang out at the venue a little bit after the show anyway, so why not hang out with some people that like me? (laughs)
DE: You’re being recognized for your skills in the kitchen as well as the mic because of Cookin’ with Coolio (the cookbook and the show) and your appearance on Rachael vs. Guy. How has your fame as a celebrity chef changed the way fans react to you?
Coolio: Actually, I think it’s made me more human, you know? Some of the people who may have been. . . I don’t want to say turned off by me, but. . . that were maybe a little bit apprehensive about approaching me or allowing themselves to like me, I think it made it easier for them. It made me more accessible to them. Some people view me more as a chef than a rapper these days.
DE: Do people come out to your shows now because they’ve seen you on TV as a chef?
Coolio: Yes, they do. They bring the cookbook with them. Instead of talking hip hop we talk food! I’m a foodie!
DE: Me too! I’d say that hip hop and food are two of my favorite things to talk about.
DE: You have recorded some iconic songs, and I’m sure your fans love to hear you perform those live. What is your favorite song to perform onstage?
Coolio: I’ve got two or three. One’s called “What is an MC.” One’s called, and my crew hates this one, “Keep it Gangsta.” My crew hates that one but I like the way the verses come in. I’ve got a couple but those two stand out in my head. I’ve got this one called “Mirrors.” I like that one too. There’s so many to choose from! Actually I’m going to start doing some songs from deep, deep into the albums that I’ve never performed before. It’s going to be fun.
DE: I saw you on CNN about six months ago. You talked about being focused on maintaining a healthy balance as you get older, particularly with your food choices. How do you stay healthy while you’re out on the road?
Coolio: It’s difficult at best. What I try to do is. . . the places I go where I know people; I try to set up a gig to go over to somebody’s house and cook. I know that I’m going to get a healthy meal that night because I’m cooking it. We try to eat early so we don’t have to do fast food. The food that we put backstage now is healthy food. We used to put Kentucky Fried Chicken backstage. Well, sometimes we still do that but we do the grilled chicken vs. the fried chicken. Sometimes we don’t eat at all. Sometimes we’ll have a juice night. We try to eat at healthy places. It costs a little bit more. What’s a couple of dollars compared to your health?
DE: I heard somebody say recently that organic food is expensive, but so is cancer. Do you try to eat organic food?
Coolio: Personally, I think that organic food is a scam. In all of the food we eat, they’re allowed to put X amount of chemicals. There were 17 chemicals that were banned from food for the last 10 years and they’re now allowed to put those chemicals back in the food. I think that organic stamp is just another way to rip people off. Half the food that you think is organic is not. A really good friend of mine who is a journalist had the opportunity to go to a place that does – I’m holding my hands up in the air doing the “quote” “unquote” – organic foods. She got to see the whole process. This particular place, they were turning a baby cucumber into full grown cucumber in a matter of seven days. And it was labeled as organic! And that’s some bullshit, because a cucumber don’t grow in seven days. They were putting all kinds of vitamins into this “organic” cucumber. So, personally I think it’s a sham. We all gotta die. Hell, I’d rather die eating than in a car accident. I’d rather die over a nice rib eye than a Volkswagen slamming head on into a bus.
DE: You’ve done a lot of charity work over the years. You teamed up with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America because you and your children are asthma sufferers. How did you get connected with Music Saves Lives (an organization that encourages blood donation by offering donors incentives such as MP3 downloads or the opportunity to meet a band before a show)?
Coolio: I try to identify organizations that I can see, physically, doing things out in the community. I’m not going to do anything for an organization where the Director’s driving a Bentley or a brand new Mercedes with the doors that pop up on the sides. I try to identify people who are just regular people trying to give back. Music Saves Lives, that’s what they do!
DE: How will you prepare for your show at Nectar on Sunday? Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Coolio: Oh yeah, I do some meditation backstage. I do some energy centering techniques. I gather energy from all around me. I try to walk out and be a Jerry Lee Lewis style of performance – a Great Ball of Fire! Usually after the show’s over I’m spent! My socks are wet, and it’s not because I was pouring water on myself!
DE: You’re going to great lengths to make sure it’s a really special experience for your fans. Is there anything you’d like your fans to do to make the show really special for you?
Coolio: Well, you know, I like gifts. A nice bottle of alcohol, I like tennis shoes. . . no, I’m joking! Just tell ‘em I said be there!
DE: Do you like to look out into the audience and see your fans singing along and dancing?
Coolio: Absolutely! When I ask them to make some noise or say “yeah”. . . if I ask them to do something, just play along. Even if you’re one of those people who don’t do that kind of thing, get drunk! Smoke a joint before you come! Be loose and ready to party.
DE: I can’t wait for the show, and I promise I’ll play along!
Coolio: All the single ladies, bring your fine friend. You know, the one that’s not married! No, you know what? Tell a friend to bring a friend and let’s try to sell out every one of those shows.
DE: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to the party on Sunday night.
Coolio: I can’t wait to see you! Shaka Zulu!
You heard the man. Tell a friend to bring a friend, and we’ll see you all at Nectar this coming Sunday, June 8th!