Thursday, September 29, 2022

R.I.P.: Coolio, Rapper Known for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise'

          August 1, 1963 – September 28, 2022

Coolio, the West Coast rapper whose gritty music and anthemic hits like “Gangsta’s Paradise” helped define hip-hop in the 1990s, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 59.

According to The NY Times, his longtime manager, Jarez Posey, confirmed his death.

Mr. Posey, who worked with the rapper for more than 20 years, said he was told that Coolio died at about 5 p.m. at a friend’s house. No cause was given.

At a time when rappers were derided by some as garish outlaws, Coolio, whose legal name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., achieved mainstream superstardom and critical success with “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Billboard’s top song of 1995 and the Grammy winner for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996.

The song, later certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, outshone the movie it was featured in, “Dangerous Minds.” Its music video won Best Rap Video and Best Video From a Film at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Coolio’s other hits included “Fantastic Voyage” — the opening song on his debut album — and “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New),” which were both nominated for Grammys. “C U When U Get There,” which samples Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major,” was a standout track on his third album of the 1990s, “My Soul.”

But nothing could match the success of “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a song that, with its piercing beat and ominous background vocals, became instantly distinguishable for millions of ’90s rap fans, especially with a memorable opening verse based on Psalm 23:

“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left.”

The song would expand the commercial possibilities of hip-hop, but Coolio would later say that he sometimes lamented how the track seemed to overshadow his other bodies of work, particularly follow-up albums.

Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was born on Aug. 1, 1963. He grew up in Compton, Calif., a place known for producing some of hip-hop’s most successful artists, such as Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar.

As a child, he would play board games with his single mother, to whom he later dedicated his success. After a turbulent youth — the bookish, asthmatic child became a teenage gangbanger, juvenile offender and drug addict — Coolio worked as a volunteer firefighter.

In his 20s, he moved to San Jose to live with his father and fight fires with the California Department of Forestry, The Ringer reported. There, he became more spiritual. He later credited Christianity for helping him overcome his addiction to crack.

When he embarked on his music career, he quickly gained a following among the rapidly growing audience of hip-hop fans, who had been enraptured by the music of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

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