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Tributes paid to 'Gangsta's Paradise' rapper Coolio after death at 59

Known for his 1995 hit Gangsta’s Paradise, Coolio was remembered for his ‘grind’ following reports of his death.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Sep 29th 2022, 2:28 PM

COOLIO, THE US rapper best known for the chart-topping 1995 song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” has died. He was 59 years old.

The Grammy-winning musician passed away in Los Angeles. No cause of death was immediately provided.

Coolio’s friend and long-standing manager Jarez Posey confirmed the news to AFP without providing additional details.

Posey told celebrity news website TMZ that Coolio was found unresponsive in the bathroom of a friend’s house on yesterday afternoon.

In 2019 Coolio collaborated with Dublin rap group Versatile on their song ‘Escape Wagon’ in which he labels Ringsend “the Compton of Europe.”

The social media reaction to the rapper’s death was one of shock, with 1990s rapper Vanilla Ice tweeting: “I’m freaking out I just heard my good friend Coolio passed away.”

“Peaceful Journey Brother. #Coolio,” wrote Questlove.

Gangsta’s Paradise was also parodied by US musical comedian Weird Al Yankovic as Amish Paradise, though at the time it was claimed that Coolio had not given him permission to do so.

However, Coolio stated in interviews that the pair had since made amends.

Sharing a picture of the pair embracing, he wrote: “RIP Coolio.”

Widely credited with combining the world of mainstream pop music with hip-hop, Coolio became a familiar voice on LA radio after leaving college, but his career as an artist took off after his collaboration with WC and the Maad Circle on the 1991 album Ain’t A Damn Thang.

His other credits in the world of television included a cameo in TV’s Phat Beach, a role in 1997’s Batman And Robin and he provided the theme tune to teen comedy Kenan And Kel.

After news of his death broke, officials at Wrigley Field in Chicago played the hit song as well as Coolio’s Fantastic Voyage throughout the stadium, as the home town Cubs hosted the Philadelphia Phillies.

Coolio was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late 1980s.

Heavyweights from the rap world, including Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and MC Hammer, paid their respects after the news was shared on social media.

Former NWA star Ice Cube said he had witnessed Coolio’s “grind to the top of the industry” in his own tribute.

“This is sad news,” the rapper and actor wrote on Twitter.

“I witnessed first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace @Coolio.”

MC Hammer described Coolio as “one of the nicest dudes I’ve known” as he shared a picture of the pair together with Tupac and Snoop.

Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr on August 1, 1963 in Pennsylvania, the artist spent most of his life in Compton, California, attending community college and working jobs including airport security before finding success in rap.

Coolio began his music career in California in the late 1980s, digging roots in the Los Angeles scene by 1994 when he signed to Tommy Boy Records.

His single “Fantastic Voyage” off his debut studio album “It Takes a Thief” charted as high as three on the Billboard Hot 100.

But it was “Gangsta’s Paradise” the following year that would make Coolio a household name.

The rapper soared to global fame in 1995 when he released the song for the soundtrack of the film “Dangerous Minds” that starred Michelle Pfeiffer.

It was the year’s top single, and scored Coolio a Grammy for best rap solo performance for the track at the subsequent awards gala.

With a hook lifted from Stevie Wonder’s 1976 track ”Pastime Paradise” off of that artist’s seminal “Songs In The Key of Life,” the hit sold millions of copies worldwide, topping pop charts in 16 countries.

“Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist @coolio,” wrote Pfeiffer on social media. “A life cut entirely too short.”

“30 years later I still get chills when I hear the song.”

‘It wrote me’

In an interview more than a decade later with Britain’s “The Voice,” Coolio said he had “no clue” that the song would go on to endure for so many years.

“I didn’t write Gangsta’s Paradise – it wrote me,” he said. “It was its own entity, out there in the spirit world, trying to find its way to the world, and it chose me as the vessel to come through.”

“I thought it was going to be a hood record; I never thought it would cross over the way that it did — to all ages, races, genres, countries and generations.”

He never recreated the success of his signature track but later put out hits including “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” and “Too Hot.”

An enduring star of gangsta rap, Coolio’s high-spirited music videos brought him an increased following.

He later pursued an acting career, including nabbing a part in 1997′s “Batman and Robin” and making a number of television cameos including on the hit 1990s show “The Nanny.”

With additional reporting from PA.

© – AFP, 2022

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