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Gangsta’s Paradise Rapper Coolio dies suddenly, aged 59

Rapper Coolio, whose Gangsta’s Paradise was a soundtrack for the 1990s, has died aged 59.

September 29, 2022
29 September 2022

Coolio, the rapper who was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including Gangsta’s Paradise and Fantastic Voyage, has died suddenly at age 59.

His manager Jarez Posey told the Associated Press the rapper was at a friend’s home in Los Angeles on Wednesday local time when he died. The cause was not immediately clear.

Rapper/actor Coolio performing in May this year. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

According to TMZ, Coolio to the bathroom and failed to return. The friend went into the room and found Coolio laying on the floor and called 911.

Emergency medical technicians pronounced Coolio dead at the scene. Although a cause of death has not been determined, Jarez told TMZ that the paramedics believe he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Coolio won a Grammy for best solo rap performance for Gangsta’s Paradise, the 1995 hit from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds that sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song Pastime Paradise.

The Grammy, and the height of his popularity, came in 1996, amid a fierce feud between the hip-hop communities of the two coasts, which would take the lives of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. soon after.

Coolio managed to stay mostly above the conflict.

“I’d like to claim this Grammy on behalf of the whole hip-hop nation, West Coast, East Coast, and worldwide, united we stand, divided we fall,” he said from the stage as he accepted the award.

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

Coolio performing on August 7. (Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP, File)

Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr in Monessen, Pennsylvania, 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 the hip-hop scene.

His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, It Takes a Thief. 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 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.”

Rapper Coolio, responsible for 1990s hit song Gangsta’s Paradise, has reportedly died aged 59 (Yui Mok/PA)

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) 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.

He had occasional legal troubles, including a 1998 conviction in Stuttgart, Germany, where an boutique shop owner said he punched her when she tried to stop him from taking merchandise without paying. He was sentenced to six months probation and fined $30,000.

He was married to Josefa Salinas from 1996 to 2000. They had four children together.

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