Coolio

  • Hip hop/rap artist born Artis Ivey Jr., in 1963, from Compton California.
  • As a child, Ivey was smart and inquisitive, but after his parents divorced, his attempts to fit in with peers led him to hang out with a gang. This led to trouble – he was in jail at 17. After high school, he went to Compton Community College, and began to perform rap music. Someone labeled him “Coolio Iglesias”, which led to his stage name of Coolio. He became a regular on an L.A. rap radio station, recording a song in 1987 called Whatcha Gonna Do. Soon, he was hooked on crack cocaine, and he went into rehab, delaying his aspirations to rap for a living. After rehab, he worked several odd jobs, and cut another rap song, You’re Gonna Miss Me, that went nowhere.
  • In 1991, he connected with rap group WC and the Madd Circle, and contributed to their debut album. He then worked with another group, The 40 Thevz. He established himself with his gansta rap style, and in 1994, he signed a record deal. Gangsta rap had been around for 10 years – Coolio brought a fresh approach, using humor and a lighthearted perspective to the usual profane themes of the genre.
  • His debut album, It Takes A Thief, was released in 1994. The album reached #8 on the album chart, and was certified platinum. The single Fantastic Voyage peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 chart. In 1995, he achieved his biggest success with the song Gangsta’s Paradise. Coolio contributed the song for the film Dangerous Minds, and it was the best selling single of the year, selling over 3 million copies in the U.S., and 6 million worldwide, winning a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance. It is one of the few rap songs that does not have any profanity – this is because Stevie Wonder received a co-writing credit for the song, as it samples Wonder’s song Pastime Paradise, and Wonder would not permit the use of his song if Coolio included profanity in Gangsta’s Paradise.
  • Gangsta’s Paradise was not meant to be released on a Coolio album, but given its success, he made it the lead song on his second studio album, released in 1995, also titled Gangsta’s Paradise. It included 2 other singles – Too Hot reached #24 on the Hot 100 and 1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New) reached #5. The album was certified 2x platinum – his best selling record. Some of its success can be attributed to the success of Weird Al Yankovic’s parody song, Amish Paradise, which created some controversy when Coolio claimed that he never gave permission to Yankovic to use the song. As Yankovic later said, Coolio didn’t complain when he received his royalty check for the proceeds from Amish Paradise.
  • Coolio’s last successful album was released in 1997 – My Soul. One single from the album – C U When U Get There – was #12 in the U.S. and top 10 in most other countries. He disappeared from recording new music for 4 years – getting arrested twice didn’t help, and he also focused more on appearances in movies and television (he has nearly 50 movie/TV credits). He released 5 more albums from 2001 to 2009, but they did not chart, nor did any songs from them.
  • True to the form of many rappers, Coolio has had plenty of controversy and legal issues. Ultimately, his legacy in rap was to take the genre to larger audiences by incorporating pop themes into hard-core gangsta rap, and his playful approach increased the popularity of his music. In fact, his mega-hit Gangsta’s Paradise is very “un-Coolio-like,” given its dark, haunting sound – most of his work takes a happy-go-lucky funky approach to gangsta rap themes. Here is the video to Gangsta’s Paradise – if you’re wondering why Michelle Pfeiffer is so prominent, remember that she was the star of the film Dangerous Minds. And do yourself a favor – watch Weird Al’s parody after watching Coolio – you will be laughing for sure!

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