As the 20th anniversary of Coolio's groundbreaking album Gangsta's Paradise and Grammy Award-winning single "Gangsta's Paradise" approaches, it's good to know he's still kickin'. He is, in my opinion, one of the musical giants of our time. So when I was asked to interview him, I unflinchingly accepted. We spent a rainy Charleston afternoon on the phone together, where he taught me about love, shrimp, and his devotion to Waka Flocka Flame. Neither one of us realized he was, in fact, handing me the keys to the Panty Dropper Express.
Rex Stickel: Hey Coolio, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I'm gonna ask you a few questions if you don't mind.
Coolio: All right.
RS: The first question I'm gonna ask is, did you get my demo?
C: Your demo? Naw.
RS: It's the 20th anniversary of Gangster's Paradise and your Grammy. That song reached a whole new audience. In fact, today my dad told me it's his favorite rap song ever.
C: [dead, uncomfortable silence]
RS: What music would you say influenced you growing up?
C: Um, Motown, the Motown sound, the Stax sound, Parliament Funkadelic, Jackson 5, all that Motown stuff. The Satellites. That's my mom's favorite.
RS: What are you listening to now?
C: I like Hobson, Kendrick Lamar. I listen to a lot of mix tapes
RS: Do you listen to Miley Cyrus? Compared to when Gangster's Paradise came out, we live in an entirely new world of media and how people get their music, and exposure, and she's kind of at the pinnacle of exposure these days.
C: She's cool, yeah she's cool. She's wild, but she's smart. She's making a name for herself.
RS: The No. 1 movie right now is Straight Outta Compton, which tells the story of N.W.A.
C: I always thought from the beginning when they first started talking about that, if the acting was good, and they mostly stuck to the story, they could make it good. People back then wanted to know all about them. They never got the real story. A lot of people knew some of the story. Even with the movie, you don't get the whole story. I think they covered the parts people wanted to know.
RS: Would you like to see a Coolio movie? Who would play Coolio in your movie?
C: Probably my son. One of my sons.
RS: They could do different stages of your life with all your sons.
C: You never know. Somebody good would have to do it, make it more complex. I don't know, if you saw a Coolio story you might see it on Lifetime. It would be a Lifetime event. You'll definitely see a book before you ever see that. You'll see the autobiography or the biography.
RS: I know you're an accomplished chef and released a cookbook, but I have to ask, what food do you not like?
C: Pork. I don't touch it. Maybe some bacon? But pork. And eggplant.
RS: Oh really? I can get down on some eggplant.
C: It's the texture.
RS: Yeah, the texture tastes like a baseball glove or something. I like it.
C: Yeah. I'll eat pretty much anything else. I'm a salad guy. I'm not into pheasants. I'll kill a chicken. I'll do ducks, chicken. I'm sure pheasant tastes like chicken too, but I don't know.
RS: I got a hot date tonight, and I wanna impress a lady. What meal should I prepare on no budget? What's your advice?
C: How much money do you have?
RS: I got a $20 bill, and I got some change.
C: How much change? You got about $23.
RS: Yeah. Yep.
C: $23. OK. Um. Get some avocados. Get some of those baby shrimp that are already cooked, and get yourself an onion, some garlic, and — you already got all the seasonings — find some sweet peppers, those baby bells. You don't need to buy the whole bag. It's too much. Just open the bag and put 'em in their own bags they have at the grocery store. Get some cooking oil — get the cheap kind. You only need the small one that's like $1.19. Find a can of artichoke hearts. Right about now, we're at about $10. That's the appetizer. Buy some chicken. See if you can get a small package of nice, juicy chicken breasts. You can get it for about four bucks. Now you at $14. You got six bucks left. Take that six bucks, and buy a cheap bottle of wine. Get you a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, and get some, maybe some dinner rolls or something. Some people don't eat bread, but get some rolls.
RS: I love bread.
C: And get you a bottle of water. And a lemon. You'll go home. Now, I'm sure at home you have some rice. If you don't have any rice, you might have some oatmeal. Now I'm not talking about the little packets — I'm talking regular old oatmeal. OK, so you gotta take the avocado, slice it down the middle, pit it, scoop it out with a spoon — being very careful not to break it. You gonna take the shrimp, garlic, peppers, and artichoke hearts, and you gonna chop it up all real fine. Throw that in a bowl, put a little mayonnaise in there. If you don't have any, you might have to stop at a McDonald's or wherever you can to get a couple little packets of mayonnaise and a little packet of mustard. Mix it all together. Put it in the refrigerator. If your fridge doesn't get that cold, stick it in the freezer. You want it cold. Oh! We missed something! Now we gotta go back to the store.
RS: Oh no!
C: Take that $3 change. Luckily, you still got that $3 change.
RS: Yeah, yeah.
C: You got that $3 change, you shoot back to the store — you forgot the tempura batter.
RS: Right ...
C: You find the tempura batter — that's gonna be about two bucks, so there goes your $3. Shaka zulu, that's gone. So you pay, go back home, get some cold water, mix that tempura batter — you don't want it too thick, not too soupy. If it's soupy, it won't stick. Now, you been gone long enough for your shrimp and artichoke heart mixture to become solid. It's not frozen, but it's solid. Now you gotta take a spoon and give yourself a little more room in that avocado. Scoop a little more out where that hole with the pit was. You gonna take that filling, put it in the avocado, and then you gonna put that back in the refrigerator. Now you're gonna take the chicken breast, slice it long-ways, and slice it across. Throw that in the pan. Make sure to save some of that onion. You didn't use all of that onion, so you gotta take the rest of the onion, chop it up, put that in there, with a little olive oil, vegetable oil, whatever you got. Then you gonna throw a teaspoon of garlic in there with that chicken. Not a heaping teaspoon, just a level teaspoon. You just gotta eye it. Throw that in there, and you gonna throw the rest of those peppers in there, whatever's left. Now, this what you gotta do.
RS: Uh huh.
C: Go in your refrigerator and find whatever you got. If you got some ranch salad dressing, you got some Thousand Island, you got some French — whatever you got. When that chicken is almost done, you gonna take whatever you got in the refrigerator and make you a sauce. Throw some sauce in there, cut the lemon in quarters, and squeeze a quarter of lemon inside there, and make sure you season it real good. I would say use some Lawry's Seasoned Salt, some Johnny's Seasoning Salt — you don't wanna just use salt and pepper, because you want a little bit more flavor than that. If you don't have that, just use what you got. We gonna work around that. Now let's say you don't have any rice.
RS: I don't have any rice.
C: We gonna act like we don't have any rice. So you gonna make some oatmeal.
C: You gonna make some oatmeal — but you ain't gonna put no sugar in it! You not gonna put no butter in it! You just gonna make some oatmeal. Now you don't want your oatmeal too dry, and you don't want it soupy at all. So it's gonna stick.
RS: Are we gonna microwave it?
C: No, no, no, no. Actually, you get your water boiling first. Just get your water boiling. Most people have that one-minute oatmeal. So, you got your water boiling. Uh, your date should be on her way by now. If she's on her way, you probably got about, now, 10 to 15 minutes before she hits the door.
RS: Mmm hmm ...
C: So now you wanna get a small sauce pan or a little small pot. If you got a small deep fryer or whatever, you wanna get that oil hot. Now you gonna take that avocado with that mixture of stuff in it and take a big spoon and you put that into your batter. Make sure your avocado is covered real good with that batter, and scoop it out with the spoon. As you drop it into the oil, take a fork, and you slide it off the spoon right into the oil. The oil should be nice and hot, so it shouldn't take much longer than, uh, two minutes — max three minutes — for your avocado to get golden brown. When your avocado is golden brown, you take it out, put it on a small plate. You're gonna put it on a saucer, is what you're gonna do. Put it on a saucer, slice it perfectly down the middle — this is the half of avocado.
And now if you got some barbecue sauce, get some barbecue sauce. Everybody got an old can of peaches in their cabinet or whatever. You got some yogurt. Take some barbecue sauce, whatever flavor yogurt you got, and a little bit of ... soy ... a splash of soy or Worcestershire sauce. Mix that all together. If you got some sriracha, a little shot of that too, mix that up and now you got a sauce, a remoulade, you know, a makeshift remoulade for your stuffed avocado tempura is what you got. Slice it down the middle, take them spoons, and you just make one straight line, one straight pretty line down the middle from the inside of the avocado all the way to the edge of the plate. Then you got another line and put it across. Now you got that plated. You put that to the side. Your date should be ringing the doorbell right now. So you go open the door, set her down, and put that avocado tempura in front of her and say, "Here you go baby, try this. I know you've never had it before."
RS: Oh man, that's smooth.
C: By this time, your chicken should be almost done, so you wanna turn that fire down — it's simmering in that pan. You wanna turn that fire down as low as it can go, but don't let the fire cut off. Just enough for it to stay warm. If you been cooking it for a while, your sauce may be getting a little low, so maybe you wanna put a quarter-cup of water in there to keep your sauce right. Now, she eating the avocado tempura. And she is craving you right now.
C: She's like, "Oh my god, this is so good. Oh my god, I didn't know you could cook like that!" So you got her.
RS: That's gonna change things, yeah.
C: You got her now. So now, you gonna get your big plate now. You're gonna take a good dollop of that oatmeal — you take that oatmeal and put it in the middle of the plate. Make a little impression, make it like a little crater. Now take that chicken and put it in the inside. You gotta let the sauce cascade slowly over the side, making sure you making it look pretty. Don't let the sauce get all the way to the edge of the plate — you wanna use a big plate. You wanna have room around the sauce, oatmeal, chicken — your Oatmeal Chicken Delight, is what we gonna call that. Give her that, put a spoon on the table, and if you got those dinner rolls, um, you know you could put some butter and garlic together with a little mayo, a little cheese in there, mix that up, spread that on the bread, put that in the oven. You know, if she don't eat bread, don't worry about that. And then, you got a meal for two, and that's on $23. And then you got the wine — you got some white wine, because that's what goes best with chicken. But if you like red wine, that's cool, too. I like red.
C: By the time she eats that last bite of chicken, you need to have some Marvin Gaye on by then. You got some Marvin Gaye on. Maybe you got Tupac on. It depends on her. I guarantee you better have a rubber.
RS: Girls nowadays always wanna Netflix and chill.
C: Well, there you go. By the time she eats that last bite of chicken, she's gonna say two things. She's gonna say, "I've never eaten oatmeal like that! Oh my god, I've only had oatmeal for breakfast!" You're gonna tell her it's much better for you, better for your digestive system. You can actually substitute oatmeal for all meals. And she's all like, "Oh man, I'm trying to watch my figure!" And you got her. I guarantee you, brah. By the time you get that second glass of wine in, you better have some condoms on the table.
RS: That's why I only have $23, all the condoms I bought.
C: That's right. If she still talking about the stuffed avocado tempura — she can't get over that — she's gonna think about how she wants to eat that the rest of her life, and she's gonna lay on your chest, and start rubbing. She's gonna lay partially on your chest, halfway on your lap, and start rubbing on your, uh, on your pecs, start rubbing on your inner thigh. You about to have a good time.
C: Then, all you gotta do is rub her back, and next thing you know, uh, you might, uh, depending on how big she is, you might be carrying her to the bedroom. If not, you just gonna roll on the couch. Shaka zulu, voila. That recipe right there that I just spelled out to you, that is called The Panty Dropper Express. You better get to that store. I been riding on it for years.
RS: It's working, right?
C: Seven out of 10 times.
RS: [Laughs] Women love a good cook, man.
C: Oh, yeah. Sorry it took me so long to explain that to you, but you know, a good meal takes a good bit of time. Presentation, innovation will get you a registration. She gonna register on your calendar. She gonna call you a reservation, saying, "Can you pencil me in?" Presentation is everything. If it look good, it tastes good, and it smells good, then what is it?
RS: That's perfect.
C: Do you know the answer to that?
RS: You eat it?
C: It is good! Say that with me ...
Both: It is good!
C: There you go.
C: Shaka zulu, man.
RS: Awesome, man.
C: I'm as passionate about cooking as I am rapping, man. Next to my wife, cooking is my passion.
RS: Of course, you have to eat every day.
C: Yes sir. And if you eat, you might as well eat good, and if you can, you might as well eat healthy. Now, we're working on the second cook book right now. It's gonna be all about family meals. People on budgets, trying to feed their whole family. But the third cookbook is gonna be the word. The third cookbook is gonna be the post-apocalyptic cookbook. It's gonna teach you how to make gourmet meals where everything is coming from inside a can or a C ration.
RS: That's a really awesome idea. Once the zombies hit, you gotta know how to eat after that too.
C: That's right, that's right.
RS: I really appreciate you giving me all this time. I wanted to ask you one more question.
C: Yes sir.
RS: Does Donald Trump have your vote?
C: Uh, I'm gonna have to say no. Donald Trump doesn't have my vote. Only way Donald Trump will get my vote is if he puts some money in my bank account. He can buy my vote. My vote's for sale. But he has not won my vote. Nobody has won my vote yet. I might not vote. There's one guy who inching his way ... I can't think of his name to save my life, but I think he's a doctor. Um ...
RS: Ben Carson?
C: I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I was thinking about it the other day, but I go back and forth. But right now, nobody has my vote.
RS: What about Bernie Sanders?
C: Who? Who is that?
RS: He's one of the Democrats running — old white guy from Vermont.
C: Bernie. Sanders. Right now, you know who I wanna vote for? I wanna vote for Waka Flocka Flame for president. Or Kanye. Kanye and Waka Flocka should run against each other, and they'd do a better job than other people out there. I would vote for Hillary, but I don't think she can do it. I'm not even sure if Hillary can be president because Bill was president, and she's related by marriage.
RS: Right, right.
C: I don't know if that counts. You gotta have the struggle. Unless secretly Hillary and Bill are cousins. Like eighth cousins removed. They kinda look alike.
RS: They do kinda look alike. That sounds like the plot of a Nicolas Cage movie.
C: Yeah, they do. So who knows, man. So like I said, right now nobody has my vote, unless Waka Flocka puts his name on the bill, or Kanye pretty much.
RS: If Kanye becomes president, Coolio better have a job in the White House, that's all I'm saying.
C: I just want to be the international trade minister. I wanna handle all our overseas, uh uh, liaisons. I'm worldwide. I'm traveling 20 days out of 30 anyway.
RS: You're traveling anyway, you'd be a great ambassador.
C: That's right. The ambassador of funk.
RS: (Laughs) I gotta ask, are you vaping now?
C: No. I don't. I ain't even gonna front. I'm drug-free.
RS: Congrats on that!
C: Shaka zulu, man. Ay man, I'm gonna have grandkids one day. When I have grandkids, I'm still gonna be whippin' they ass. I'll be around. So yeah. I'm gonna be ready. There it is.
RS: Well, Coolio, I really appreciate all your time. I hope you have a great tour and get to see you when you come through Charleston.
C: Absolutely. Shaka zulu, baby. I'll be there the 25th. Anyway, shaka zulu, and I'll see you when I visit.
RS: That will be great! Thanks a lot man.
C: Peace and love. All right, Coolio has left the airwaves. Shaka zulu, mayne.
RS: Shaka zulu to you, too.