Coolio
Steal Hear
Super Cool Entertainment

1 Out of 5 Stars

Don’t call it a comeback. It’s true, Coolio has been around for years, but his musical career has been more or less dead since his hit single “Gangsta’s Paradise” earned him a Grammy in 1995. Steal Hear should be thought of as a pathetic attempt to reinvigorate a rap career that has been irrelevant for more than a decade. It sounds like even Coolio himself realizes the inevitable failure of his effort, spending the entire album spitting half-assed lyrics with a tired, nursery-rhyme flow.

Steal Hear oozes contradiction and finds Coolio in the midst of a major identity crisis. On the majority of the record, he boasts incessantly of his gangster status. He even goes so far as to demand both coasts to “keep it gangsta” on the aptly named “Keep It Gangsta.” But he’s not fooling anyone. About 15 years removed from Compton, he has recently immersed himself in a number of utterly wholesome endeavors, including the online cooking show “Cookin’ With Coolio” (serving up dishes like Coolio’s Caprese Salad). Needless to say, when he spits “I talk the talk and walk the walk,” it’s entirely unconvincing.

His lack of self-awareness doesn’t end with his delusions of “gangsta-ness.” On “Boyfriend,” Coolio raps “If I was your boyfriend / I’ll show you how to get buck / I’ll show you how to get sprung” — a decidedly creepy sentiment from a 45-year-old man with six children.

Curiously, the album’s two club songs, “Keep On Dancing” and “Dip It,” appear back-to-back on the album. The former is stupidly repetitive, with a maddening sped-up voice sample acting as the sole hook. The latter fares a bit better, with a mildly catchy chorus and some spitfire verses where Coolio shows rare vitality.

Even a self-ascribed gangster (delusional or not) needs to get sensitive sometimes. On “One More Night,” Coolio waxes reflective. After opening with a short prayer, he attempts to deal with regret and contemplates what he would do with “one more chance.” While sincere, it comes off more daytime-drama than anything else.

The production doesn’t help much, either. Musically, Steal Hear is a bland mishmash of various hip-hop formulas. “Cruise Off” is a humdrum chop-and-screw exercise that sounds completely at odds with Coolio’s typical West-Coast smooth. The majority of the beats employ conventional bump-and-snap and faked California funk, giving the impression that the producers were stealing from Dr. Dre’s reject pile.

Even at his peak, Coolio seemed to garner more attention for his Medusa-like hair than his talent. Nowadays, it’s obvious that his newfound penchant for reality television and gimmicky celebrity-stunts has turned his music into an afterthought. In all likelihood, Steal Hear was produced solely to give his new reality show some much-needed context. But being an occasionally laughable and altogether mindless album, it might have failed to do even that.

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