1994, Music

It Takes a Thief (1994) by Coolio

I guess serious hip hop fans have strong feelings about Coolio, like he got too famous or something, or he’s not as talented as less famous rappers, or something. I don’t know anything about this and, frankly, I couldn’t care less. I hate arguments about whether or not someone is more authentic than someone else and, as the older I get, I increasingly hate arguments based on tacit assumptions that people who are successful need to be knocked down a peg, especially if we like those successful people less than someone else. (I used to be super guilty of this with regards to some bands, but I’ve tried to cure myself of it.) Success is not something that can be easily understood. Sometimes someone just connects with the zeitgeist in some strange way and their career takes off, and sometimes someone who we think should do that never does. It happens. A lot. It’s not anyone’s fault.

This is some pretty slick hip hop, something I don’t normally like. Musically, everything feels very considered and polished. I believe this is only my second G-Funk record, but whether or not it is, I’m pretty sure I don’t like the genre.

But Coolio is endearingly ridiculous. Unlike most Gangsta Rappers I’ve heard, he seems to understand that this whole genre is built primarily on empty posturing. (Yes, some of the posturing is not entirely empty, I know that. But isn’t most of it?) And he leans into how ridiculous it is, at least a lot of the time, taking the typical scenarios to ridiculous extremes. (And when he seems like he’s being serious, we can choose to interpret it as satire or parody because of the silliness of his other lyrics. At least I do.) Apparently this wasn’t cool, as he doesn’t have a great reputation but listening his lyrics it’s hard to decide whether people were mad that he had hits so quickly or actually mad at the fact that he was at least partially making fun of his contemporaries.

Listen, I don’t know to what extent everyone on the record is in on the joke. I’m not 100% sure much of the time if he isn’t actually being serious, but that’s sort of the fun of the record, in a way that I don’t experience in most of the hip hop I’ve listened to, much of which is extremely serious (with rappers only walking out the “I was only joking!” defense when someone gets mad about a lyric).

Anyway…I laughed a few times.


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