Rest in Peace, Hip-Hop Star and 1990s Pop Culture Icon Coolio: 1963-2022

Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

On Wednesday, word broke that Coolio, the Grammy-winning hip-hop star/rapper with a handful of iconic hit songs from the 1990s, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59.

According to TMZ, which was first to report about his death, paramedics were called to a house in Los Angeles around 4 PM for a medical emergency and when they got there they pronounced Coolio dead.

Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., the man later known as Coolio grew up mostly in Compton, where he cut his teeth with various jobs before finally making it big as a rapper. That era was started when he signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1994 and released his solo debut, It Takes a Thief. The album featured “Fantastic Voyage,” a single that reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the strength of a sample of the 1981 funk classic of the same name by the band Lakeside:

That early success paled in comparison to Coolio’s next chapter: “Gangsta’s Paradise,” released in 1995 for the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds. The song, built around a sample of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, was the top single of the entire year across all genres in the United States and topped charts all around the world.

Coolio released six more studio albums after that mid-90s era, but it proved to be his most successful period, and cemented his place in hip-hop history. The runaway train that was “Gangsta’s Paradise” also gave “Weird Al” Yankovic fodder for what would be one of his most successful parodies, “Amish Paradise”:

Coolio and Yankovic became forever linked as a result, though for years much was made of the fact that the rapper had not actually granted Yankovic permission to record the parody. Under fair use guidelines, Yankovic has never been required to be granted access from an artist for a parody — but he has always sought approval anyway, just as a courtesy.

Eventually, Coolio changed his tune about the initial disapproval of Yankovic’s parody, even sharing a video on YouTube explaining as much:

We came to a understanding
Coolio said when Weird Al initially requested to remake the song, he said, “No,” but later realized that, due to the fair use copyright laws, he could not stop the production.
Coolio later reconsidered Weird Al’s proposal. “I sat down, and I really thought it out,” “I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ I was like, ‘Coolio, who the f—k do you think you are? He did Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson didn’t get mad.'”

The ubiquity of Coolio’s presence in ’90s pop culture helped make him a beloved figure among millennials who grew up with his music — as well as his theme song for the Nickelodeon series “Kenan & Kel,” starring future SNL alum Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell:

In terms of his particular journey of coming up from the streets of Compton to hip-hop and pop superstardom, Coolio maintained a powerful relationship with his roots, as illustrated in this Twitter thread:

Said Coolio’s manager to EW in a statement:

“We are saddened by the loss of our dear friend and client, Coolio, who passed away this afternoon. He touched the world with the gift of his talent and will be missed profoundly. 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.”

May Coolio rest in peace.

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