Rapper Coolio, hugely popular for his Gangsta’s Paradise and Fantastic Voyage which won him Grammys, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 59, according to his manager Jarez Posey, Coolio passed away at the house of a friend in Los Angeles.
Uncertainty surrounded the cause of his demise. Gangsta’s Paradise, a 1995 hit from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds, which sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song Pastime Paradise and was aired nonstop on MTV, earned Coolio a Grammy for best solo rap performance.
The Grammy, and the height of his popularity, came in 1996, amid a fierce feud between the hip-hop communities of the two coasts, which would take the lives of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG soon after. Coolio managed to stay mostly above the conflict. “I’d like to claim this Grammy on behalf of the whole hip-hop nation, West Coast, East Coast, and worldwide, united we stand, divided we fall,” he said from the stage as he accepted the award.
Coolio went to Compton, California after being born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. in Monessen, Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh. When he was a teenager, his mother sent him to Northern California for a while because she thought the city was too unsafe.
In interviews, he stated that he began rapping at the age of 15, and by the time he was 18, he knew it was what he wanted to do with his life. However, he decided to attend community college, work as a volunteer firefighter, and work in airport security first, all before dedicating himself fully to the hip-hop scene.
It Takes a Thief, his debut album for Tommy Boy Records, was released in 1994, and that marked the beginning of his career. Fantastic Voyage, the album’s lead single, would peak at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. With its ominous opening line, “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realise there’s not much left, ’cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughing so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone,” Gangsta’s Paradise would go on to become a No. 1 single a year later.
Social Media reacts to Rapper Coolio Demise
Social media reacted to the unexpected death. “This is sad news,” Ice Cube said on Twitter. “I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace, @Coolio.” ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic tweeted “RIP Coolio” along with a picture of the two men hugging.
Coolio had said in an interview at the time it was released that he wasn’t cool with Yankovic’s 1996 Gangsta’s Paradise parody, Amish Paradise. But the two later made peace. The rapper would never again have a song nearly as big as Gangsta’s Paradise but had subsequent hits with 1996’s 1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New) (1996), and 1997’s“C U When U Get There. His career album sales totalled 4.8 million, with 978 million on-demand streams of his songs, according to Luminate. He would be nominated for six Grammys overall.
And with his distinctive persona, he would become a cultural staple, acting occasionally, starring in a reality show about parenting called Coolio’s Rules, providing a voice for an episode of the animated show Gravity Falls and providing the theme music for the Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel. He had occasional legal troubles, including a 1998 conviction in Stuttgart, Germany, where a boutique shop owner said he punched her when she tried to stop him from taking merchandise without paying. He was sentenced to six months probation and fined $30,000. He was married to Josefa Salinas from 1996 to 2000. They had four children together.