23 July 2006

Won't You Give the Children Coolio?



Well, folks, here it is... my last post from The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Tomorrow I'm going home to Brooklyn. Tonight, though, I'm seeing special performances of some of August Wilson's greatest scenes, as performed by Charles S. Dutton and S. Epatha Merkerson. That's right, y'all. Tonight I'm hanging with Lt. Anita Van Buren of "Law and Order" (aka Reba the Mail Lady from "Pee Wee's Playhouse).

And I know this is a music blog, but I must digress to mention that I also got to speak with Merkerson last night. On the coolness scale, that ranks right around "I got to break the sound barrier in my very own jet." I choose to believe that her laughter during our conversation erupted because my jokes were really funny.

Anyway, my time at the O'Neill hasn't been all about meeting the bad-asses of prime time (there's that hyphen again!). It has also included a morbid consideration of my own mortality.

Most of the time I can smell the blooming flower of my youth, but that's because I don't hang out with very many people who are still in college. However, two of my esteemed fellow critics are students, and their presence occasionally makes me feel the chill fingers of death thrumming on the back of my neck.

For instance, here are two statements that the guys made that make me feel ready for the old folks' home (and I do quite like them, despite my likening them to Death approaching) :

(1) What's Friendster?

(2) Who's Coolio?

Oh. My. God. With regard to the first statement, I know that Friendster is already obsolete next to MySpace, but I didn't realize that a twenty-one year old would know as much about it as I do about the Pony Express. Wasn't it just three years ago that I felt really hip when I got a Friendster profile?

But the bigger fish to fry is Coolio. What is wrong with this world that we haven't taught the children to embrace him?

Because I would argue that Coolio represents some of the best of nineties hip-hop. Intelligent, witty, and able to make fun of himself, he offered a brand of hip-hop that felt human. Some hardcore rappers (and fans) may have dismissed him as silly, but I think they're wrong. Coolio just had a more playful side.

Don't get me wrong: I don't need a rapper to be funny. I like DMX and all. But Coolio deserves credit for being so multifaceted. Go back and listen to "Fantastic Voyage" and "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)." The samples are bouncy and melodic, the lyrics are sharp. He just wants to party Who wouldn't want to join him, even today?

And of course, there's "Gangsta's Paradise," one of the greatest rap songs of all time. Remember how it got nominated for every major Grammy? Sure, maybe the voters should've gotten to hip-hop faster, but they were dead on for praising this one. To this day, the track still sounds urgent and fresh.

It desesrves to be remembered. As do Coolio's other hits.

So go out there, find some youngsters, and shove copies of "Fantastic Voyage" into their hands.

Do it for the future. Do it to help us all feel a little younger. Do it so that "Gangsta's Paradise" doesn't get reduced to the soundtrack of future AARP convetions.

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2 Comments:

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous katy said...

All I have to say, Mark, is that I'm doing my part. Lucy and I have listened to Gangsta's Paradise quite a bit -- we have a little love affair going with the top 50 songs of 1995.

I asked her just now what her favorite Coolio lyric was, and she said she especially likes the critique of hegemony implicit in "power to the money, money to the power, minute after minute, hour after hour."

Another big favorite from 1995 is Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." My god, do you think the children know Montell?

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous satera said...

Glad to see your dreams come true - meeting S. Epatha Merkerson! I still wish we had pulled off getting her to come act on the Ho' stage!

 

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