'Chef' Hayes cooks crazy stew

ERROL NAZARETH

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

Soul legend Isaac Hayes doesn't waste any time getting to the heart of the matter.

"Do you think it'll be a hit?" he asks, referring to Chef Aid: The South Park Album that arrived in stores Tuesday. Hayes and his 12-piece posse slide into Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow.

There's a lot of filler in there, but given that it's as demented as the show, it'll sell well, I offer.

"I think it'll be a hit 'cause it's entertaining," the world famous baritone says. "It's all fun."

The first in a series of soundtracks to the hugely successful animated TV show, Chef Aid features songs so bad they're hilarious. And dig the bizarre couplings on the album: Wyclef Jean sings with South Park heroes Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny; Ozzy Osbourne rolls with rappers DMX and Ol' Dirty Bastard, and Chef and Meatloaf duet on Tonight Is Right For Love.

Then there's Hayes (the voice of Chef) singing Chocolate Salty Balls. Black Moses laughs when I ask how he managed to keep a straight face while singing it.

"I had to laugh a lot before I was able to compose myself and really do it," he says from his pad in New York. "It came up in an episode and I was like, 'You guys (creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone) sure you want me to do this?' And I just laughed and laughed."

Incidentally, Hayes almost passed on the opportunity to get involved with South Park after his agent told him the creators of "a late-night animated cartoon show" were interested in Hayes' rich, seductive voice.

"I was, like, 'What are you talking about?' so my agent suggested I meet the creators," he explains. "I was very suspicious as I went to meet them and when they showed me the script, I said, 'Okay, the joke's on me. Who's the prankster?'

"And they said, 'No, this real.'

"I almost passed on it but I was like, 'Damn! if you white boys are crazy enough to do it, I'm crazy enough to join you.' "

Regardless what you think of Chocolate Salty Balls or Chef, you have to be happy for the success this architect of black music's enjoying. Keep in mind that Hayes was raised by sharecropping grandparents, slept in abandoned cars, picked cotton, and encountered vicious racism while growing up in Memphis.

What strikes me as remarkable is that Hayes -- who was in his late twenties when he tuned in to The Sepia Swing show on Memphis' WDIA and went, 'Wow! A black man on radio' -- now hosts a wildly popular morning show on KISS-FM, a black station in New York.

I ask Hayes if he's ever reflected on this. When he answers, he pauses a lot, trying to come to grips with the idea.

"That's a helluva thing! I've never thought about that, I never did," he says. "Wow! Isn't that something? No black radio around and ... here I am on one.

"Boy, it's amazing!" Hayes adds. "I don't take it for granted. To even get here and to be in demand is a helluva thing."

E NOTE: Tix for Isaac Hayes 8 p.m. show are $35, $45, $55, and $65.

GREEN CHOCOLATE!: Chocolate Chip, Isaac Hayes' first post-Stax album, which was originally released in '75, will be reissued shortly on Fantasy Stax. On the topic of Stax, Fantasy has also released Time Is Tight, a 3-CD set from Booker T and The MG's. Local musicologist Rob Bowman, who authored the essential Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records, wrote the liner notes for and produced the Booker T box.


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