Coolio, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ Rapper, Dies at 59
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.
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 was at a friend’s house in Los Angeles when he went to the bathroom. When he did not return for a “long time,” his friends broke down the door and found Coolio on the floor, he said.
Paramedics were called and attempted to resuscitate Coolio, Mr. Posey said, but the star died at about 5 p.m.
Coolio, whose birth name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996 for “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
“Coolio still builds his raps on recognizable 1970s oldies, and he delivers intricate, syncopated rhymes as if they were conversation,” Jon Pareles wrote in a review in The New York Times in 1995, noting that “Gangsta’s Paradise” uses “the somber minor chords” of “Pastime Paradise,” by Stevie Wonder.
The song nearly didn’t make it into the hit film “Dangerous Minds,” the critic Caryn James wrote for The New York Times in 1996: “Coolio’s song ‘Gangsta’s Paradise,’ a late addition to ‘Dangerous Minds,’ turned a preachy Michelle Pfeiffer film about an inner-city teacher into a hit that sounded fresher than it really was.”
Coolio’s other hits included “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New),” from the album “Gangsta’s Paradise”; and “C U When U Get There,” from his third album, “My Soul.”
But none of those 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 its memorable opening verses:
“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’s popularity has endured for decades, with the music video garnering more than a billion views on YouTube.
A full obituary will follow.