Coolio, Grammy-Winning ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ Rapper, Dies at 59

Rapper Coolio, a legendary Grammy winner best known for his smash song 'Gangstas Paradise,' passed away on Wednesday while visiting a buddy in Los Angeles.

The rapper Coolio, real name Artis Leon Ivey Jr., allegedly went into his friend's restroom and didn't come out until he was discovered dead on the floor.

Jarez, Coolio's longstanding manager, claims that Coolio went to his friend's house to use the restroom, but when he didn't return after some time, he left. After hearing him repeatedly call, the friend entered and discovered Coolio lying on the floor.

Jarez informs us that the paramedics believe Coolio experienced cardiac arrest. It is reported that the friend called EMTs, who responded and declared Coolio dead at the scene. There has been no official determination on the cause of death.

In 1994, Coolio gained a household name when the song "Gangstas Paradise," which he wrote for the Michelle Pfeiffer-starring film Dangerous Minds, topped the charts for three weeks. Additionally, he wrote the theme song for the Nickelodeon program Kenan and Kel.

Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., in Monessen, Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, California. He spent some time as a teen in Northern California, where his mother sent him because she felt the city was too dangerous.

He said in interviews that he started rapping at 15 and knew by 18 it was what he wanted to do with his life, but would go to community college and work as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to the hip-hop scene.

His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, “It Takes a Thief.” It’s opening track, “Fantastic Voyage,” would reach No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Coolio during 1994 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York, United States. (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Coolio during 1994 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York, United States.

A year later, “Gangsta’s Paradise” would become a No. 1 single, with its dark opening lyrics:

“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left, ‘cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin’ so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.”

Social media lit up with reactions to the unexpected death.

“This is sad news,” Ice Cube said on Twitter. “I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace, @Coolio.”

“Weird Al” Yankovic tweeted “RIP Coolio” along with a picture of the two men hugging.

Coolio had said in an interview at the time it was released that he wasn’t cool with Yankovic’s 1996 “Gangsta’s Paradise” parody, “Amish Paradise.” But the two later made peace.

The rapper would never again have a song nearly as big as “Gangsta’s Paradise,” but had subsequent hits with 1996’s “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” (1996), and 1997’s “C U When U Get There.”

His career album sales totaled 4.8 million, with 978 million on-demand streams of his songs, according to Luminate. He would be nominated for six Grammys overall.

And with his distinctive persona he would become a cultural staple, acting occasionally, starring in a reality show about parenting called “Coolio’s Rules,” providing a voice for an episode of the animated show “Gravity Falls” and providing the theme music for the Nickelodeon sitcom “Kenan & Kel.”

A 1998 conviction in Stuttgart, Germany, when a boutique shop owner claimed he struck her when she tried to stop him from taking goods without paying, was one of his sporadic legal difficulties. He received a probationary period of six months and a fine of $30,000.

From 1996 to 2000, he was married to Josefa Salinas. Together, they had four children.

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