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Coolio, West Coast Rapper Behind “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Dies at 59



Coolio, the Grammy-winning Compton rapper who was behind the global hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” has died. He was 59.

His manager, Jarez Posey, told The News84Media that Coolio died Wednesday afternoon at a friend’s house in Los Angeles. “He went to use the bathroom and never came out,” he said. No cause of death was given.

Indelibly associated with West Coast hip-hop and gangsta rap, Coolio reached worldwide success in the mid 1990s with three of his albums — It Takes a Thief (1994), Gangsta’s Paradise (1995) and My Soul (1997) — crossing over into the mainstream, driven by a clutch of more chart-friendly singles, including “Fantastic Voyage,” “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” and “CU When U Get There.” The single “Gangsta’s Paradise,” featuring R&B singer LV, was boosted by its appearance in the 1995 Michelle Pfeiffer drama. Dangerous Minds and went on to sell over 5 million copies worldwide.

Coolio composed the theme song for the 1996-2000 Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel, starring Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell; voiced the character Kwanzaa-bot on Futurama; and appeared in such movies as Dear God (1996), Batman & Robin (1997), Submerged (2000) and Stealing Candy (2003).

“This is sad news. I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace @Coolio,” rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube tweeted.

“Coolio was the West Coast Flavor Flav. He loved telling everyone that. We were supposed to perform together this Tuesday. #RIP my friend,” tweeted Flava Flav.

Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. in Monessen, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 1, 1963, Coolio grew up in Compton, California. A regular performer in the Los Angeles rap scene, Coolio joined the group WC and the Maad Circle in 1991 and recorded the album Ain’t a Damn Thing Changed.

He would then go solo and in 1994 signed with Tommy Boy Records which would release his debut studio album It Takes a Thief.

In 1996, he won the Grammy for best rap solo performance for the song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” written with Kylian Mash, and received another nomination for Record of the Year. The song begins with a line from Psalm 23:4 — “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” — before Coolio adds, “I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left.”

The next year, Gangsta’s Paradise was nominated for best rap album. His first of six career Grammy noms was for best rap solo performance for “Fantastic Voyage.”

More to come…

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