Coolio, the American rapper responsible for the 1995 hit ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, has reportedly passed away at the age of 59.
Although a cause of death has not been officially given, the rapper’s manager, Jarez, confirmed to both TMZ and Rolling Stone that Coolio passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday night (September 28). NME has reached out to Coolio’s management for further comment. The rapper is survived by his six children.
Tributes have come in for the rapper in the wake of the news, including from his ’90s hip-hop contemporary Ice Cube. “I witnessed first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry,” he tweeted.
Comedian Martin Lawrence – who starred in the 1997 film Nothing To Lose, which featured a Coolio song on its soundtrack – has also paid tribute.
Another tribute has come from MC Hammer, who described Coolio as “one of the nicest dudes I’ve known”.
Tonight’s National Basketball League (NBL) game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, too, saw Coolio’s ‘Fantastic Voyage’ played over the PA in tribute.
“Weird Al” Yankovic, who famously parodied ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ in 1996 with ‘Amish Paradise’, also paid tribute to the late rapper, sharing a photo of the pair together.
Coolio was born Artis Levon Ivey, Jr. in 1963. His first single under his legendary moniker, ‘Whatcha Gonna Do?’, was released in 1987. A debut album, ‘It Takes A Thief’, eventually followed in 1994. Propelled by the success of its single ‘Fantastic Voyage’, which peaked at Number Three in the Billboard Hot 100, ‘It Takes A Thief’ went on to achieve Platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
The following year, Coolio achieved the biggest success of his career with ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, which served as the title track to his second studio album. Featured on the soundtrack to the film Dangerous Minds, the song notably interpolated the chorus from Stevie Wonder‘s song ‘Pastime Paradise’ – as performed by singer L.V.
Upon its release in August 1995, the song achieved worldwide commercial success. It topped the charts in 14 countries – including Australia, where it remained at Number One for a record-setting 14 weeks. This record would remain for 22 years, broken by Ed Sheeran‘s single ‘Shape Of You’. Globally, the single achieved Platinum certification a total of 222 times. It also saw Coolio win his only Grammy Award, for Best Rap Solo Performance, in 1996.
The remainder of the 90s saw continued mainstream success for the Compton-based rapper, including an appearance on the Space Jam soundtrack, performing the theme song to the Nickelodeon show Kenan & Kel and a cameo in the film Batman & Robin. Billboard chart success also came with the singles ‘1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)’ and ‘C U When U Get There’.
In 1998, however, the rapper’s momentum was blunted by the first of several legal troubles – in this case, being an accessory to a robbery in Stuttgart, Germany. Coolio was then dropped from his label, Tommy Boy Records, and released his 2001 album ‘Coolio.com’ on Japanese label JVC Victor. He later appeared on the German reality show Comeback: Die große Chance (“the big chance”) in 2004, which was a contest for artists staging a comeback attempt. He was ultimately unsuccessful, however, placing third overall.
Coolio’s final album, ‘From The Bottom 2 The Top’, was released in 2009. The rapper would continue to tour frequently, however, with his final live appearance coming last week as part of the ‘I Love The ’90s’ concert series.
Away from music, Coolio appeared in many movies – both as himself and playing a bit-part character. His filmography included the direct-to-video horror Leprechaun In The Hood, the teen comedy Get Over It and the Futurama film Bender’s Big Score.
The rapper was also well-known for his love of cooking, which eventually spawned the web series Cookin’ With Coolio in 2008. So focused was Coolio on this aspect of his career, he began selling rights to his songs in 2013 in order to fund the expansion of his Cookin’ With Coolio brand.