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Coolio, US west coast rapper of Gangsta’s Paradise fame, dies aged 59

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-09-29
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Photograph: Frans Schellekens/Redferns

The rapper Coolio has died at the age of 59 in Los Angeles, his manager has confirmed.

The artist, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr, died at a friend’s house, his longtime manager, Jarez Posey, told the Associated Press and other outlets including TMZ, Rolling Stone and Variety.

A cause of death was not confirmed, and a Guardian request to his manager for a comment was not immediately returned.

Coolio is best known for his 1995 single Gangsta’s Paradise, for which he won a Grammy for best solo rap performance. The runaway hit came from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds and sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song Pastime Paradise.

He was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late 1980s.

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

A year later, Gangsta’s Paradise would become a No 1 single, with its haunting opening lyrics: “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death / I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left / ’cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin’ so long that / even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.”

Earlier this year, the song hit 1bn views on YouTube. “I want to thank everybody for all the years of love and being there for me,” Coolio said in a video marking the milestone, Billboard reported. “I hope I got you through some good times and got you through some bad times.”

Pfeiffer was among those to pay tribute to the rapper. In a post on Instagram, the actress said: “Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist @coolio. A life cut entirely too short … I remember him being nothing but gracious. 30 years later I still get chills when I hear (Gangsta’s Paradise).”

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

Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, California, where he went to community college. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to hip-hop.

His early work for firefighting crews in the San Jose area was “a way to clean up”, he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “In firefighting training was discipline I needed. We ran every day. I wasn’t drinking or smoking or doing the stuff I usually did.”

Coolio would go on to become an actor as well as an award-winning musician, appearing in dozens of films and popular television shows, Variety reported.

In recent years, Coolio had appeared on the reality show Big Brother and developed a cooking series, which grew an online following. He made headlines in 2013 for a planned auction of his music rights, including to Gangsta’s Paradise, in order to fund his career as a chef. He also wrote a cookbook and appeared on celebrity cooking shows.

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