Coolio carved a route to hip-hop superstardom unlike any other, going from a bookish, asthmatic youngster to a crack addict to a popular recording juggernaut.
In 1995, Coolio. Credit... Redferns/Paul Bergen Via Getty Images
Rapper Coolio, from the West Coast, passed away on Wednesday in Los Angeles. His gritty songs and anthems like "Gangsta's Paradise" helped define hip-hop in the 1990s. He was 59.
Jarez Posey, his longtime manager, announced his passing.
Mr. Posey, who spent more than 20 years working with the rapper, claimed to have learned of Coolio's passing at a friend's home about 5 o'clock. The reason wasn't stated.
Rappers were formerly mocked as gaudy criminals, but Coolio, real name Artis Leon Ivey Jr., became a mainstream phenomenon and enjoyed critical acclaim with "Gangsta's Paradise," the number-one single on Billboard in 1995 and the 1996 Grammy winner for Best Rap Solo Performance.
The song outperformed the film it was featured in, "Dangerous Minds," and was subsequently certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. At the MTV Video Music Awards, the music video took home the prizes for Best Rap Video and Best Video From a Film.
The somber minor chords of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" are used in "Gangsta's Paradise," according to Jon Pareles in a review of the album in The New York Times. "Coolio still builds his raps on recognizable 1970s oldies, and he delivers intricate, syncopated rhymes as if they were conversation," Pareles wrote.
According to a 1996 article by reviewer Caryn James for The Times, the song almost did not appear on "Dangerous Minds." The late addition, according to her, "transformed a sanctimonious Michelle Pfeiffer film about an inner-city teacher into a smash that sounded fresher than it actually was."
The first track on his first album, "Fantastic Voyage," and "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)," both of which were nominated for Grammy Awards, were among Coolio's other hits. On his third album of the 1990s, "My Soul," "C U When U Get There," which samples Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major," stood out.
But nothing could compare to the success of "Gangsta's Paradise," a song that became instantly recognizable for millions of '90s rap fans because to its piercing beat and menacing background singers, especially with a memorable opening line based on Psalm 23:
"I look at my life and realize there's nothing left," the song goes. "As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."
However, Coolio would later claim that he occasionally regretted how the song appeared to eclipse his other bodies of work, particularly follow-up albums. The song would increase hip-commercial hop's potential.
Even so, he admitted to have had "a terrific journey" because to the song in 2018 when speaking to PopkillerTV. The music video has received an extremely uncommon billion or more views on YouTube, demonstrating the longevity of its appeal.
On August 1, 1963, Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was born. He was raised in Compton, California, which has given rise to some of hip-most hop's well-known figures, including Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar.
He recalled playing board games as a kid with his single mother, to whom he subsequently credited his success, in an interview with The Independent in 1997. Following a difficult upbringing as a bookish, asthmatic youngster who grew up to be a teenage gangbanger, juvenile offender, and drug user, Coolio served as a volunteer fireman.
He relocated to San Jose in his 20s, according to The Ringer, to live with his father and fight fires for the California Department of Forestry. He developed his spiritual side there. He eventually attributed his success in beating his crack addiction to Christianity.
He soon developed a fan base among the rapidly expanding hip-hop listeners who had been mesmerized by the music of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. when he first started his music career.
After playing with WC and the Maad Circle, which also included DJ Crazy Toones, Sir Jinx, and WC, Coolio went solo. It Takes a Thief, his 1994 first album, was praised for its smart lyrics and lively rhythms.
With Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise," which substituted the streets with pastoral lyrics about making butter and selling quilts, "Gangsta's Paradise" left a lasting cultural impression.
In 2015, Coolio reflected on his career and the impact of "Gangsta's Paradise," telling Rolling Stone that he was on tour in Europe when the song reached the top of the charts and that he suddenly realized he was No. 1 all over the world, not just in the United States. Everywhere you could imagine, I was No. 1.
Ice Cube, a rapper, reflected on the impact of Coolio's songs at the time on Wednesday. He said on Twitter that he had "first hand experienced this man's slog to the top of the business."
Through the course of his career, Coolio, whose spindly and growing cornrows defined his appearance, sold over 17 million records.
By creating and performing the theme song for "Kenan & Kel," a Nickelodeon mainstay in the late 1990s, he increased his influence. After the 2008 series "Coolio's Rules," which centered on his personal life and his attempt to find love in Los Angeles, Coolio later established himself as a regular on reality television.
The number of survivors in their entirety wasn't immediately known. With Josefa Salinas, whom he wed in 1996 and subsequently divorced, Coolio has four children.
Years after reaching the top of the charts and becoming a well-known performer, Coolio encountered legal issues and entered a guilty plea to charges including drugs and guns.
According to his official web biography, the rapper, who had asthma his whole life, acted as the spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. According to Page Six, he experienced an asthma attack at a 2016 concert in Brooklyn, New York, and was saved by a supporter carrying an inhaler.
Coolio has just became conscious of his irrevocable impact on hip-hop. In 2018, he said that after years of complaining about his difficulties in the music business, he had come to the conclusion that "others would kill to take my place."
People will revisit my body of work and study it after I'm long gone from this world and from this realm, he predicted.