“And my homies is down, so don’t arouse my anger” – Coolio
If ever any lyrics mirrored my early life, it is … not these. Mind you, I always thought myself to be a bad man when simultaneously spitting the verses from this song in unison with our peculiar-haired author. But in reality, I was nervous in my youth just driving in an unfamiliar suburban neighborhood during the daytime. And I sure wasn’t going anywhere near any hood, wherever the hood was.
This is also a post I’ll subtitle as “Misheard Lyrics Volume 1.” And the reason for that is that I always thought (maybe sub-consciously) Coolio was saying “I’m a loc’d out gangsta, set trippin’ banker.” It made sense to me that he was bragging that he had so much money that he was like a bank. Alas, it’s “banger,” which I guess makes more sense than banker, but I still prefer my version. And why wouldn’t I? As some of you regular readers know, I’ve been in banking for 20+ years, so of course I wanted it to be a “set trippin’ banker!”
There are a few more things I want to unpack with this #1 hit by Coolio from 1995. First of all, you can’t mention this song without its’ almost as equally entertaining parody from Weird Al Yankovich – “Amish Paradise.” Weird Al’s song actually cracked the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at #53. Coolio did not appreciate the parody and apparently did not want Al making the song. Al tells the story that Coolio’s record company gave permission, so he proceeded to do so. To his credit, Coolio long ago became ok with Weird Al’s version saying his reasoning for not wanting the parody of his song “one of the least smart things I’ve done over the years.”
“I’m 23 now but will I live to see 24? The way things is going I don’t know.”
This song was released in August of 1995 and I had actually made it to 24 in March of the same year. During this time I was working for a small market top 40 radio station in Macomb, Illinois called K-100. The town of Macomb was mostly comprised of a farming community of about 10,000 people and double that amount during the school year when the Western Illinois University campus was open for business. As a DJ during the midday and on weekends, I had very little choice in the songs that were played. Our program manager still recorded the songs from cds onto giant reels, and we had three reel-to-reel machines in the studio. One reel always had the current top 40 songs. The second reel had “recent hits” that were hits within the last year and then the third reel may have had hits from 1-5 years earlier. We had a cd player in the studio also for random things like pre-recorded shows such as “Backtrax U.S.A. with Kid Kelly,” or the top 40 countdown or movie trivia contests and such.
We had cd’s that came in the mail every week with current hit songs and cds that had songs that were “on the rise.” But, we rarely played songs directly from the cds because our program director cut the ones we were to play onto the reels. At least every third song had to be played from our current hits reel, and so it was that my ears bled with every Hootie song that came up (and Hootie was HUGE during this time) sandwiched in between Dave Matthews’ “What Would You Say?” and Del Amitri’s “Roll to Me.” The pop hits of 1994-95 will forever be time-stamped into my memory.
“Power and the money, money and the power. Minute after minute, hour after hour”
My final shift at the radio station occurred on a Saturday in late August of ’95. I had the 3pm to midnight shift at which time the station would go on auto-pilot until the Sunday morning programming began. By this time, I had heard Coolio’s new song and was hooked. Unfortunately, our middle-aged white program director at the time had nothing like this in the rotation yet. To be fair, it wasn’t in the top 40 yet (it was barely a blip on top 40 radio), but in the year I had worked at the station we had never played a rap song of any kind. It all changed that Saturday night.
I’d like to spin some awesome tale about how the powers-that-be had to come down to the radio station and escort me out after I had played not one, but TWO rap songs between 11 pm and midnight! It didn’t happen, but what were they going to do? Fire me? I had played the friendlier, more radio-ready (and still one of my all-time favorite 90’s rap songs) “I Wish” by Skee-Lo sometime after 11, and then finished my shift by playing “Gangsta’s Paradise” just before midnight. I do remember the phone in the station rang during the song, and I remember thinking that it was going to be the program director or maybe even the station owner calling to chew me out. So I went gangsta mode again, and instead of boldly answering, I just let it ring. Phone? What phone? I don’t hear it. Nobody here to answer it anyway. Nope. Everyone is gone.
And so my short stint in top 40 radio came to an end that night. There were no repercussions, no angry phone calls the next day, no blurb in the local newspaper about my daring song selection. Heck, it went totally unnoticed as far as I know. But I’d like to think that there were people surprisingly pleased around midnight that Saturday when Coolio hit the airwaves for the first time in the small town.
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left.”
I find it interesting that Coolio quotes from the Bible with his first line – a nod to Psalm 23, which apparently just came out as Coolio heard the beat from Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” and just started writing.
It became Billboards Hot 100’s top song of 1995 – a first for a rap song. It also topped the charts in 16 countries. It earned Coolio a Grammy for best rap performance as well. Here is “Gangsta’s Paradise”…
And of course, what would this post be without Weird Al’s parody, “Amish Paradise”…
Thanks for reading.
your set trippin’ banker