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Coolio

Coolio was one of the first rappers to balance pop accessibility with gritty, street-level subject matter and language. Yet despite his nods to hardcore, his music was clearly more happy-go-lucky at heart; he shared the West Coast scene's love of laid-back '70s funk, and that attitude translated to his music far more often than Dr. Dre's Death Row/G-funk axis. Most of Coolio's hits were exuberant, good-time party anthems (save for his moody signature song "Gangsta's Paradise"), and he created a goofy, ingratiating persona in the videos that supported them. He was also popular with younger audiences and became a favorite on Nickelodeon comedy shows thanks to the thin, spidery dreadlocks that stuck straight out of his head in all directions. In the process, Coolio took the sound of West Coast hip-hop to wider audiences than ever before, including those put off by -- or too young for -- the rougher aspects of G-funk. A combination of inactivity, legal troubles, and newly emerging rap stars stole Coolio's thunder in the late '90s, but by that point he'd helped lay the groundwork for an explosion of hardcore-themed pop-rap (most notably Puff Daddy's Bad Boy empire), and played an underappreciated role in making hip-hop the mainstream pop music of choice for a new generation.

Coolio was born Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. on August 1, 1963, in the South Central L.A. area of Compton. As a young boy, he was small, asthmatic, highly intelligent, and a bookworm, which often made life outside the home difficult. His parents divorced when he was 11, and searching for a way to fit in at school, he started running with the Baby Crips and getting into trouble. Even so, he still wasn't really accepted and was never formally inducted into the gang; he tried to make up for it by creating a menacing, unstable persona and carrying weapons to school, and his once-promising scholastic career wound up falling victim to his violent, poverty-stricken environment. At 17, he spent several months in jail for larceny (apparently after trying to cash a money order that had actually been stolen by one of his friends). After high school, he studied at Compton Community College; he also began taking his high school interest in rap to the stage and took his performing name from a dozen contests in which someone called him "Coolio Iglesias." He became a regular on Los Angeles rap radio station KDAY and cut one of the earlier SoCal rap singles, "Watcha Gonna Do." Unfortunately, he also fell prey to crack cocaine addiction, which derailed his music career. Coolio entered rehab and straightened himself out by taking a job as a firefighter in the forests of northern California. Upon returning to L.A. a year later, he worked various odd jobs -- including security at Los Angeles International Airport -- while getting his rap career back on track.

Coolio cut another single, "You're Gonna Miss Me," that went nowhere. However, he began making connections in the L.A. hip-hop scene, meeting up with WC and the Maad Circle and guesting on their 1991 debut album, Ain't a Damn Thang Changed. He then joined a collective dubbed the 40 Thevz and wound up landing a deal with Tommy Boy. Accompanied by DJ Brian "Wino" Dobbs, Coolio recorded his debut album, It Takes a Thief, which was released in 1994. The lead single, "County Line," was a humorous recounting of the indignities of welfare, but the record really took off when "Fantastic Voyage," a rap remake of the funk classic by Lakeside, was released as a single. Accompanied by a typically playful video, "Fantastic Voyage" rocketed to number three on the pop charts, pushing It Takes a Thief into the Top Ten and past the platinum sales mark. Many critics and listeners welcomed his friendlier, gentler approach to the gangsta-dominated West Coast sound, in spite of the fact that some of his album cuts tackled hardcore themes in a similarly profane manner.

Following up his breakthrough success, Coolio teamed up with gospel-trained singer L.V. on a tune based on Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life cut "Pastime Paradise." "Gangsta's Paradise" was a social statement about ghetto life, and the music was dark, haunting, and spellbindingly atmospheric. In other words, it was nothing like what the public had come to expect from Coolio, and a less than enthusiastic Tommy Boy discouraged him from putting it on an album, instead placing it on the soundtrack to the film Dangerous Minds, which starred Michelle Pfeiffer as a tough inner-city teacher. Released as a single, "Gangsta's Paradise" was a staggeringly huge hit; it became Coolio's first number one pop single and also the first ghetto-centric rap song to hit number one in the U.K. Its chart longevity was such that, even with the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men duet "One Sweet Day" setting a new record for most weeks at number one that year, "Gangsta's Paradise" still managed to beat it out as the number one single of 1995. It was such a phenomenon that when Weird Al Yankovic recorded the parody "Amish Paradise" (authorized by Tommy Boy but not Coolio, leading to much discord), the accompanying album Bad Hair Day became his biggest-selling record ever. Naturally, "Gangsta's Paradise" was featured on Coolio's next album, released toward the end of 1995, and naturally, it was the title track. It later won a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance.

The triple-platinum Gangsta's Paradise album kept the hits coming: the bright party anthem "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" hit the Top Ten in 1996, and the safe-sex anthem "Too Hot" was fairly popular as well. Meanwhile, Coolio toured the world, contributed the theme song to the Nickelodeon comedy series Kenan and Kel, and began pursuing an acting career, making his screen debut with a cameo in the 1996 comedy Phat Beach; he would also land a small role in the following year's Batman and Robin. Coolio's third album, My Soul, could well have been expected to be a major event, given his massive success last time out. However, things had changed drastically by the summer of 1997: the specter of the 2Pac/Biggie murders still hung heavily over the hip-hop landscape, and Puff Daddy was rapidly becoming a breakout star with the young audience that had previously belonged to Coolio. My Soul's lead single, the elegiac "C U When U Get There" (which sampled Pachelbel's "Canon in D"), seemed to fit the mood of the times, but the album barely scraped the Top 40 and became one of the lowest-profile platinum hits of the year.

The disappointing performance of My Soul was complicated by various legal difficulties. In late 1997, Coolio and seven members of his entourage were arrested for allegedly shoplifting from a German clothing store and assaulting the owner; he was later convicted on accessory charges and fined. Not long after that incident, German police threatened to charge Coolio with inciting crime after missing the humor behind his in-concert suggestion that listeners steal his album if they couldn't afford it. In the summer of 1998, Coolio was arrested again, this time in Lawndale, CA; he was pulled over and cited for driving on the wrong side of the road with an expired license and was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon (despite having alerted the officer to the presence of the unloaded semiautomatic pistol in the vehicle) and possessing a small amount of marijuana. Things weren't all bad, though; he appeared regularly on the revived Hollywood Squares and set up his own label, Crowbar. In 1999, he played triplets in the film Tyrone, but had to postpone a Crowbar promotional tour after an auto accident. He continued to take a number of small film roles, but his much-delayed fourth album remained only a rumor (though it was confirmed that he had recorded "The Hustler," a rap update of Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" with Rogers himself on vocals, back in 1998). Finally, five years after his last album, El Cool Magnifico appeared on the Dragon Riders label. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: My Soul

1. Intro

2. 2 Minutes & 21 Seconds Of Funk

3. One Mo'

4. Devil Is Dope

5. Hit 'Em

6. Knight Fall

7. Ooh La La

8. Can U Dig It

9. Nature Of The Business

10. Homeboy

11. Throwdown 2000

12. Can I Get Down 1x

13. Interlude

14. My Soul

15. Let's Do It

16. C U When U Get There

x

Track List: It Takes A Thief (Explicit)

1. Fantastic Voyage

2. County Line

4. Hand On My Nutsac

9. It Takes A Thief

10. Bring Back Somethin Fo Da Hood

11. N Da Closet

12. On My Way To Harlem

13. Sticky Fingers

14. Thought You Knew

15. Ugly B**ches

16. I Remember

x

Track List: Best Of Coolio

1. Gangsta's Paradise

2. C U When U Get There

3. Change Vs Ennio Morricone

4. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New) (Feat. Goast)

5. Gangsta Walk (Feat. Snoop Dogg)

6. Too Hot

7. Fantastic Voyage

8. Ooh La La

9. It's All The Way Live

10. It Takes A Thief

x

Track List: Gansta's Paradise (Explicit)

2. Geto Highlites

3. Gangsta's Paradise

4. Too Hot

8. Smilin'

10. Kinda High Kinda Drunk

11. For My Sistas

12. Is This Me?

14. Bright As The Sun

15. Recoup This

16. The Revolution

17. Get Up Get Down

x

Track List: It Takes A Thief

2. County Line

10. Bring Back Somethin Fo Da Hood

11. N Da Closet

12. On My Way To Harlem

13. Sticky Fingers

14. Thought You Knew

16. I Remember

Comments

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A day late but Happy Mf Birthday. The leader of then the new school pop rap culture. New sound breaks new ground
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Gangster paradise the best
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TV y eh
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Gangster paradise is the BEST
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G
Ga
Gan
Gang
Gangs
Gangsta
Gangst
Gangs
Gang
Gan
Ga
G
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Blast the past
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I d op by suck dick b**ch
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cade.ennis
Ball*
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cade.ennis
Cool io sucks dicks he his a s**t b
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Gangsta paradise
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love this song. blast from the past!!
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Gangstas paradise I love this song yo know old classic.
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alexandraabe l l a 1 7
❤❤❤❤❤
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this is my s**t nice job!!
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Live learn earn
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❤❤❤❤❤
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Luv this Jam is so Relevant Now.
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Ye ahhhhhhhhhhh h h h h h h h h h h boy
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Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. Now that you have been reading this don't stop. If you ignore it you will have bad luck. Post this on 15 other songs in 143 minutes. When you are done press the space bar an your crushes name will appear in big letters on your screen. It's freaky cause it actually works
Report as inappropriate
Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. Now that you have been reading this don't stop. If you ignore it you will have bad luck. Post this on 15 other songs in 143 minutes. When you are done press the space bar an your crushes name will appear in big letters on your screen. It's freaky cause it actually works
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I remember listening to this when I was like 6!
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I love Coolio, L sang his heart in this chorus.
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G
Ga
Gan
Gang
Gangs
Gangst
Gangsta
Gangst
Gangs
Gang
Gan
Ga
G
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BSV 52 BLOCK MONSTAS LIVING IN A GANGSTAS PARADISE
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stephbilling s 7
Dope song
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THUG LIFE
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( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
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Thug life
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This is my Jam!!! first song I could rap too...gives my kids thrills when I rap it out lol!
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I love that song
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vonney2318
Gangstas paridise!!!! ! , , ! ! ! , ! ! , ! ,
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Ahhhh love this
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I love this sony so much
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Gangsta 4 life.
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Yes, won a grammy sdbbung the music from stevie wonder but threw a fit when weird al yankovic di amish paradise. Shame
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"Death ain't nothing but a heart beat away" Coolio is probably only second to 2Pac in real gangstas rap but like many people, I think that's still up for a big debate.
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follow for follow
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jamesochocin c o
Nice
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Back in the day.
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I'm A loc'd out gangsta set trippin' banger
And my homies is down so don't arouse my anger, fool
Death ain't nothing but a heartbeat away,
I'm living life, do or die, what can I say. (;

Gangster Paradise
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Weird Al Yankovic's "Amish Paradise" lol man i love this song
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Coolaid
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You s**t face
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FORGOT ABOUT MEXICANS
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B**ch you don't know coolio!!.... . g e t out of f**** outta here
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Just remembering my bro, Rob L
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Look at the situation they got me facin'
I can't live a normal life, I was raised by the streets
So I gotta be down with the hood team
Too much television watching got me chasing dreams
I'm an educated fool with money on my mind
Got my 10 in my hand and a gleam in my eye
I'm a loc'd out gangsta set trippin' banger
And my homies is down so don't arouse my anger, fool
Death ain't nothing but a heartbeat away,
I'm living life, do or die, what can I say
I'm 23 now, but will I live to see 24
The way
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Follow me
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Amish paradise is better
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this guys a f**king f**got little b**ch
Show more

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