In 1995, I visited the offices of Tommy Boy Records in New York City to interview Coolio. The Los Angeles-based rapper/actor (real name: Artis Leon Ivey, Jr.) was riding high on the global success of “Gangsta’s Paradise” feat. L.V. The chart-topping song was featured in Dangerous Minds, a 1995 drama based on the autobiographical 1992 book My Posse Don’t Do Homework by U.S. Marine-turned-teacher LouAnne Johnson (who was played by Michelle Pfeiffer).
The label’s publicist, who I had worked with on several occasions, greeted me in the reception area. He escorted me to the label’s well-appointed conference room where the interview would take place. I’m sure there was an offer made of water or coffee. But I do remember being left to my own devices for some time in the room, which is normal since interviewees aren’t always prompt.
As I killed time by scanning my list of questions, the door opened and in walked the publicist with Coolio, who looked like hell.
I stood up. An introduction was made, and we shook hands. Coolio proceeded to collapse into a chair at the head of the long table. He immediately put his head down, like when you didn’t feel well in school. The publicist acted like nothing was amiss. As he slowly closed the door, he told me he’d be back to check on us (that’s PR code for the next time you see me means the interview is over).
I was concerned about the state of a superstar who was in my presence. I asked Coolio if he was alright. He told me he had just returned from Germany and was exhausted. He had been traveling around Europe on a promotional tour and had been burning the candle at both ends by doing shows, press and radio. I empathized with his jet lag and asked him if he wanted to reschedule the interview. He summoned the energy to lift his head from the table, sat back in the chair and said, “Nah, let’s do this.”
I asked him a few softball questions to get him talking. His answers were brief and there were many long pauses. I could see that he was trying to rally and answer my questions, but his mind and body were depleted. At one point, he leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.
Watching Coolio doze off, I slide my recorder on the table to make a noise. Coolio opened his eyes. At that point, I knew he was done. I stood up, put out my hand and he shook it. Coolio apologized and asked if I got what I needed.
I smiled and thanked him for his time. “Get some rest, my friend,” I said.
When I heard that Coolio passed away yesterday at the age of 59, I remembered our brief encounter so many years ago. Good night, sweet prince.