Coolio: “Gangsta’s Paradise” Rapper Passes Away at Age 59

COOLIO, whose music from the Nineties was ubiquitous on radio and MTV and featured the smash single “Gangsta’s Paradise,” passed away on Wednesday at the age of 59. The rapper’s manager, Jarez Posey, told Rolling Stone that Coolio had passed away. There was no immediate word on what caused the death.

Our great client and buddy Coolio died away this afternoon, and we are heartbroken about it. Sheila Finegan, his manager at Trinity Artists International, stated in a statement, “His gift of creativity impacted the world, and he will be sorely missed” (via Variety). “I’d want to express my gratitude to the millions of people around the world who have appreciated his music and reached out to me since learning of his death. Keep Coolio’s family in your prayers. Those who knew him mourned as the word spread.

The news is quite disappointing,” Ice Cube stated. I have seen firsthand how hard this man has worked to reach the top of his field. So long and farewell.

One of the kindest people I’ve known, MC Hammer wrote. Excellent citizens. In memoriam, Coolio.

Coolio Gangsta's Paradise Rapper Passes Away at Age 59

Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was born in 1963, and he attended Compton Community College while living in Compton, California. In the late ’80s, he recorded his debut single, “Watcha Gonna Do,” which received some airplay on a local hip-hop radio station. Years later, he linked up with WC and the Maad Circle and ended up contributing to their 1991 first album, Ain’t a Damn Thing Changed.

Established in the L.A. rap scene by 1994, he signed with Tommy Boy Records and dropped his first studio album, It Takes a Thief. The album’s “Fantastic Voyage,” which was promoted with a lighthearted music video, peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

After a year, he collaborated with gospel singer L.V. on the eerie “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which sampled Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” and was used in the film Dangerous Minds.

Coolio, a huge Stevie Wonder fan, admitted in an oral history for Rolling Stone that he had never heard “Pastime Paradise” until that year. “The album featuring Superwoman was the first record I ever purchased. (“Music of My Mind,” 1972) Both it and Fight the Power by the Isley Brothers were gifts on my 12th birthday. My mom had Songs in the Key of Life on the stereo, so it seemed strange that I didn’t recognize the tune. I heard the tune as I walked back inside my manager’s house to use the restroom before rolling out. When I entered the recording studio, the first thing I said to Doug was, “Wow, whose track is that?” As for Doug, he just said, “Oh, it’s something I’m working on.” The response I gave was, “Well, it’s mine!”

Moreover, he said, “I sat down, and I began to write.” Hearing the song’s foundational elements—the bass line, the chorus line, and the hook—was a revelation. The lines “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death/I take a look at my life and find there’s nothing left” were improvised by me; they dropped from the heavens as I was contemplating death. After giving it some consideration for a while, I composed the rest of the song in one continuous draft, from the first to the third verses. Yes, I’d like to think it was some sort of supernatural intervention. “‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ was looking for a way to enter the world, for its story to be told, and it choose me to be its mother.”

According to rumors, Tommy Boy did not feel the song belonged on his next album and instead included it in the film’s soundtrack. (And despite the fact that the song “Rollin’ With My Homies” was featured prominently in the 1995 picture Clueless, he never released it as a single.)

As the year 1995 drew to a close, “Gangsta’s Paradise” was still the top song of the year. It was so popular that it earned him a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance and was featured on his subsequent album of the same name.

Because of the song’s success, “Weird Al” Yankovic made a parody of it in 1996 called “Amish Paradise,” which Tommy Boy liked but Coolio didn’t. After some back-and-forth, Coolio realized his pride had gotten in the way, and the two patched things up. Yankovic posted a photo of the two of them cuddling on Wednesday with the comment, “RIP Coolio.”

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