September 01, 1997 12:00 PM


Despite selling millions of albums and winning tons of awards, Coolio is often dismissed as a lightweight, a late-’90s answer to Hammer. Yet Coolio’s hip hop, despite having crossover appeal, is far from fluff. His third album, My Soul, is loaded with rugged, no-nonsense performances and smart, pointed lyrics. As with most hip-hop artists, Coolio liberally dips into the trick bag of classic R&B and funk hits for inspiration: On “Can I Get Down IX,” he unleashes the best of that good-time, got-a-buzz-on feeling. But he’s also capable of conveying verbal missives that tackle tougher themes like gang life, drug addiction, street ethics and the healing power of friendship and faith, as he does on his current hit “C U When U Get There,” which samples, of all things, Pachelbel’s Canon in D. In My Soul, Coolio proves to be a whole lot more than just the guy with the antenna hair. (Tommy Boy)

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