The SPB Q: Cheo Hodari Coker

Quote of the Day: “Sometimes your words just hypnotize  me…” — “Hypnotize” by Notorious BIG

I first met Cheo Hodari Coker a short time before he graduated from Stanford in the early 90s. He’s the nephew of one of my favorite people in journalism and literature, supremely entertaining mystery writer Valerie Wilson Wesley, so it didn’t surprise me that he was so smart, focused and determined considering, as my grandmother used to say, who his people were. But it didn’t take long to think of Cheo outside the context of just who his people were, he turned out to be a wonderful and prolific—and in 1997, he wrote one of the finest pieces of journalism VIBE magazine ever published. “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” blended real-time, you-are-there reportage of the night of Big’s murder with flashback interview time Cheo had spent with Big himself just upon the release of Ready to Die. It’s a haunted, vivid piece of writing; so it’s no surprise that Coker is one of the co-writers of NOTORIOUS, the recent cinematic rendering of Big’s rise which grossed an estimated $24 million over it’s opening weekend. Coker’s writing has appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and The Source, among other spots, and his book Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. was published in 2004.


Name: Cheo Hodari Coker

Hometown: Storrs, CT

Zodiac sign: Sagitarius (Dec 12th)

Favorite book: Hard to nail it down to just one. Blues People by Amiri Baraka is high up there. Bird Lives by Ross Russell is another one. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Claude Brown’s Manchild In The Promised Land.

Favorite author: I’m a huge fan of mysteries by George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, and my aunt, Valerie Wilson Wesley. But Ellison, Wright, and Baldwin are my Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Favorite movie: The Godfather. No question.

Screenplay or screenwriter that most influenced you?: Screenwriter: My uncle, Richard Wesley, who wrote Uptown Saturday Night and Let’s Do It Again. I learned everything I know at his knee. As for screenplay: The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola and
John Logan’s Any Given Sunday. Say what you want about the film, but when you actually read the words and the descriptions? Wow.

Favorite old school hiphop song: World Famous Supreme Team, “Hey DJ”

Favorite recent rap record: Ghostface Killah’s The Big Doe Rehab. Listen to “Supa GFK.” Forget Lil Wayne. Ghostface is the best pure rapper alive.

Favorite word: Dope. I’m old school. I use that word every day. Muthafucka is a close second. May not say it, but I often think it.

Career High: Interviewing the Notorious BIG on the steps of 226 St. James two weeks after Ready to Die came out. I’ve had a lot of professional highs (and lows), but you can’t replace history.

Life High: August 30th, 2005, 2:31 a.m: Watching my twins being born.

You’re on a desert island and can only save 5 flicks. What are they?:

The Godfather, PT 1.
Malcolm X

Your favorite quote: “Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.” I don’t know who said it, but that’s Hollywood in a nutshell.

If you don’t have an old copy of Vibe’s May 1997 issue lying around, you can find Cheo’s article reprinted in Raquel Cepeda’s And it Don’t Stop; The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years.



1 Comment

Filed under flicks, music, The SPB Q

One response to “The SPB Q: Cheo Hodari Coker

  1. Pingback: The Return of The SPB Q: JUNOT DIAZ « Scott Topics™

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