With one hand on a turntable and the other on the fryer, Compton-born rapper Coolio is coming at you this Thanksgiving with a culinary book to "pimp yo' kitchen skills." Uh, yes—that's the same Coolio who won a Grammy for his 1995 album, Gangsta's Paradise, and who was arrested last spring for felony cocaine possession as he walked through security at LAX. (In a plea deal, Coolio, AKA Artis Leon Ivey, agreed to attend drug rehab to avoid jail.) No matter. When it comes to cooking, Coolio, now 46, adds his own ghetto twist. He and his cousin launched an online cooking show back in 2008—and now Coolio is back with a cookbook of his own. With recipes that range from "Tricked Out Tilapia" to "Appetizers for That Ass," Cookin’ With Coolio is sure to entertain as well as feed. On Thanksgiving Eve, Coolio talked with NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett. Excerpts:
So what is Coolio cooking this Thanksgiving?
I'ma fry up a coupla turkeys, and I'ma do a duck. In one of the turkeys I'm gonna stuff a Cornish Hen, and then I'm gonna put the Cornish Hen inside the turkey. So it's gonna be called, "My turkey is having a baby day."
Your cookbook is subtitled "The Ghetto Gourmet." What's that about?
My specialty is making something outta nothing. I just say I'm the Ghetto Gourmet to let people know, you know, who they're dealing with. It's not about caviar and champagne over here, it's about chicken and beer.
Have you always liked to cook?
I've been cooking for a long time. How the cooking show came about was just that me and my cousin were just playing around one day, watching the Food Network, and this guy burnt his hand. You know, he was boiling water, and he grabbed the pot with a metal handle and said, "Ahh!"—and we just started cracking up. The next day, we were in the kitchen, cooking, and my cousin says, "Damn, what if we had a cooking show?" It all went from there. And now he's my A.C.P.—that's Assistant Chef Pimp.
What do you cook?
My style is fusion. I do Mexitalian, I do Blasian, which is black and Asian.
What's your favorite thing to cook?
Fried chicken wings and steak.
How do you do that on a budget?
Easy, you just don't buy prime beef. You go to a regular grocery store and buy some Choice, and cook it, you make it real tender, and tasty, and you put some onions and garlic on it.
What separates you from the rest of the cooks out there?
It's my style! And I'm not afraid. I'll do anything in the kitchen. I'll combine any flavors. I'll coagulate any flavors. Also, I think that I'm a little bit more fun in the kitchen. I'm not tall but I'm big.
What do you do in the kitchen that Rachael Ray doesn't do?
I probably get naked. I yell out "Shakazulu!" when I'm all alone.
It's another word for "motherf---er"; it's the equivalent of Emeril's "Bam!" But it's got a lot of meanings. It means, "Hell yeah." It's like, "Oh really?" It's like, "Well what the f--k then? Shakazulu, fool!" I just use it in my every day speech. It's like, "Aight, peace." Like when I'm getting off the phone and I'll say, "OK, Shakazulu, brotha." I started saying that cause my daughter heard me talking on the phone one day and said, "Dang, Daddy, you cuss too much!" And I said, "Really? Damn. I gotta watch that." So a couple days later I was thinking about it and instead of saying "MF" I started saying "Shaka!"
Do you have a favorite ingredient to cook with?
Lawry's seasoning salt. Also, garlic and onions. But I don't like to over-salt things. I usually pour the salt in my hand first, before I sprinkle it, so I don't accidentally oversalt.
Do you keep your salt in a shaker?
Nah. I keep it in a dime-bag!
What's the best thing you've ever cooked?
Man, that's a hard question. Everything I've cooked is the best thing I've ever cooked.
Do you still have your braids?
I do, but I got them in a reverse brokawk.
What's a reverse brohawk?
Well, you'll have to see.
How do you keep your brohawk out of the food?
Well I don't rub my head in the food. And I wear my chef's hat!
What's next for Chef Coolio?
The "Ghetto Gourmet" brand, in a grocery store near you. My tagline will be, "It's like I'm right in your kitchen," or, "It's like I cooked it in yo' oven." It looks good, smells good, tastes good, is good.