IT is with tremendous sadness that we record the death of one Artis Leon Ivey Jr, who passed away on Thursday, September 29 at the not so ripe age of 59. Artis, better known as Coolio, was a massive superstar in the 1990s after his single “Gangsta’s Paradise” spent ages at Number One and won him a Grammy for best solo rap performance. With the dawning of a new century, Coolio found new fame with an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother but his three or four hits, which also included “I’ll see you when you get there” and “1,2,3,4”, afforded him plenty of concerts all over the country.
What some will know (because I’ve mentioned it before on this column) but many won’t, Coolio spent a memorable night in Waterford in 2007. This week’s column tells the story of that infamous night.
Fifteen years ago, I worked as a PR & Marketing Manager for the Tweedy Group of Bars. You’ll remember them I’m sure – Ruby’s, Mason’s, Woodman, Muldoon’s etc. Anyway, one night, I remember seeing somewhere that Coolio was playing at a venue in Dublin on a Monday night. I contacted his management and asked them if they’d be interested in adding an extra night in Waterford the following night. This was about a decade after Gangsta’s Paradise but I still wasn’t sure what kind of money Coolio could demand. In the end, we landed at a figure of €1,500 plus accommodation, travel and a rider. For those who don’t know what a rider is, it’s essentially a list of requests – some items that the artist would like to have backstage. Coolio’s rider included a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, a tray of sandwiches and a mini fridge full of still water. No problem says I.
The plan was that Coolio would perform in Oxygen Nightclub for approximately 20 minutes and God only knows what he would do then – presumably something involving Grey Goose vodka and egg sandwiches. We made up some posters and stuck them up – a tenner a ticket to see Grammy winner and rap legend Coolio! Within hours we were getting calls from people wondering if it was the man himself or some kind of tribute act. It was a reasonable suspicion to be fair because at that time we were running a weekly blast of tribute acts every Friday night in Muldoon’s. However, we were able to tell them all, with great delight, that it was indeed the man himself.
When the day came, we had Coolio and his entourage (two boyos) collected in Dublin by local taxi company, JB Cabs. John Buckley picked up the lads himself in a seven seater and the fun started when they got hungry and stopped in Carlow for a bite to eat. Abrakebabra was the chosen venue and because the international superstar didn’t have a penny to his name, John had to pay for it.
When they got to Waterford, a large queue had already formed outside Oxygen. We sold 700 tickets at €10 a pop – I’ll let you do the maths on that one. I remember Coolio getting quite excited about the queue – it probably reminded him of bigger and better days. Wearing a jacket with a hoodie underneath, Coolio hopped out of the seven seater and walked alongside the queue, surveying his audience, looking for something but none of us could figure out what. Suddenly, he pointed at two young girls. He motioned for them to follow him and his crew into the back of John Buckley’s taxi. It must have been exciting for the girls to be chosen from all the other excitable young ladies in the line up. However, I really wanted to be there when that excitement evolved into something else when a superstar on the street became a horny rapper in the back of a taxi heading to who-knows-where. They arrived at the hotel that I had booked for them and again, it must have been a sight for the staff and guests to see these three bling-ridden gangstas, carrying a bottle of vodka in one arm and three girls on the other. Unsurprisingly, the girls pressed the abort button very soon after and John was scooting them all back into town.
The gig itself went brilliantly. Coolio had so much fun playing to a sold-out venue that he ended up playing for an hour and did a few stage dives in the process. After the gig, I lost sight of him but presumed that he had been brought back to the hotel to finish the vodka, and perhaps the sandwiches. And then, the phone rings. The night manager at this particular hotel didn’t like the look of Coolio bouncing towards the hotel at 1am in the morning so he told him he’d have to find alternative accommodation. Of course, what that meant was that Darren had to find alternative accommodation, which I did thankfully, in the brilliant Granville Hotel. Coolio threw his arms around me and thanked me by giving me two homemade CDs of some new tracks that he had been working on. I still have these CDs, although there is a recession on and the man has died so you’ll probably see them on eBay later. RIP Coolio!