Coolio, rapper of hits 'Gangsta's Paradise,' 'Fantastic Voyage,' dead at 59
Coolio, a rapper and record producer best known for hits like "Gangsta's Paradise" and "Fantastic Voyage," has died. He was 59.
Coolio died at the Los Angeles home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately clear.
Sheila Finegan, another manager of Coolio's, confirmed in a statement to USA TODAY the rapper died Wednesday afternoon.
"He touched the world with the gift of his talent and will be missed profoundly," Finegan said. "Thank you to everyone worldwide who has listened to his music and to everyone who has been reaching out regarding his passing. Please have Coolio's loved ones in your thoughts and prayers."
Born in Pennsylvania in 1963, Coolio, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., later moved to Compton, California, where he was raised. He recorded records in the 1980s, and his career blew up in 1995 with his song "Gangsta's Paradise," which was featured in the Michelle Pfeiffer-led film "Dangerous Minds."
"It's about life, because you're living in the gangster's paradise also," Coolio said of the song on the "Howard Stern Show" in 1995.
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Coolio earned six Grammy Award nominations and one win, for best rap solo performance for "Gangsta's Paradise" in 1996. The hit song, which was played constantly on MTV, was used for the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds” and sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise.”
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 B.I.G. 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.
He released a total of eight albums: 1994's "It Takes a Thief," 1995's "Gangsta's Paradise," 1997's "My Soul," 2001's "Coolio.com," 2002's "El Cool Magnifico," 2006's "The Return of the Gangsta," 2008's "Steal Hear" and 2009's "From the Bottom 2 the Top."
He also appeared in several films and TV shows, including "Futurama," "Charmed" and "The Nanny." The rapper also performed the "Aw Here it Goes" for hit Nickelodeon show "Kenan & Kel."
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In interviews, Coolio said he started rapping at 15 and knew by 18 it was what he wanted to do with his life, but would go to community college and work as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to the hip-hop scene.
His career took off with his debut album. Its opening track, “Fantastic Voyage,” would reach No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A year later, “Gangsta’s Paradise” became a No. 1 single, with its dark opening lyrics:
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left, ‘cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin’ so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.”
In a 2016 interview with Uproxx, Coolio reflected on the legacy he wanted to leave.
"I wanna be remembered for just being a cool ass person. And being intelligent," he said. "If people don’t remember my music, my cooking, or my film work, it doesn’t matter. I just want people to say ... 'He always tried to educate me. He was always talking about something that was gonna make me a better person.' "
Contributing: Associated Press