Renowned West Coast rapper Coolio passed in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 28. His 1995 track “Gangster’s Paradise” won a Grammy for best rap solo performance in 1996, and eventually was certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
“As far as what I know now is that he was at a friend’s house and was in his bathroom and had a heart attack,” revealed his manager, Jarez Posey.
Reportedly, medics were called at 4 p.m. local time and found an unconscious Coolio upon arrival. They attempted “resuscitation efforts for approximately 45 minutes,” Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department explained. Coolio “was determined dead just before 5 p.m.”
He was born Aug. 1, 1963, in Monessen, Pennsylvania, and named Artis Leon Ivey Jr. His family soon moved to Compton, Calif., the hometown of future hip hop legends Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and MC Ren. While growing up he combated asthma, crime, drug addiction, and gangs; and during his 20s he moved in with his father in San Jose where he fought fires with the California Department of Forestry.
Soon after the news broke, Coolio’s colleague, Ice Cube, tweeted: “This is sad news. I witness firsthand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace.”
His first single “Whatcha Gonna Do?” was pumped independently in 1987. After performing extensively with the group WC and the Maad Circle—which included WC, Sir Jinx and DJ Crazy Toones—Coolio signed a solo deal with Tommy Boy Records in 1994. Utilizing the G-funk imagery and sound, along with his distinct voice and sprouting cornrows, captivated audiences.
His debut album “It Takes a Thief” featured the lead single “Fantastic Voyage,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 charts.
During a 1994 Los Angeles Times interview Coolio explained, “I wasn’t looking for a career, I was looking for a way to clean up—a way to escape the drug thing. It was going to kill me and I knew I had to stop. In firefighting training was discipline I needed. We ran every day. I wasn’t drinking or smoking or doing the stuff I usually did.”
The lead single to his 1995 album, “Gangster’s Paradise” featured singer L.V. and played off Stevie Wonder’s 1976 “Pastime Paradise”; it spent three weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 and was named the chart’s No. 1 song of the year. Coolio used his Grammy speech as a platform for peace: “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 also mentioned the song’s long-range effects: “A lot of people say it saved them from whatever demons they were dealing with, that they listened to the song and it helped them carry on.”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “Dangerous Minds” actress, stated on Instagram: “Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist @coolio. A life cut entirely too short,” she attached a clip from the movie. “I remember him being nothing but gracious.”
Coolio’s other popular tracks include “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” and “C U When U Get There.” The comedy “Clueless” gave Coolio another crossover moment. His song “Rollin’ With My Homies” was on the soundtrack.
He was featured in several reality shows, including “Coolio’s Rules” in 2008. In 2009, the entertainer wrote “Cookin’ with Coolio.”
He had four children with Josefa Salinas, whom he married in 1996 and later divorced.
“I’m sure after I’m long gone from this planet, and from this dimension,” he said, “people will come back and study my body of work.”
Mimi Ivey said she’d abide her husband’s plans. “I’m respecting his wishes. He wanted to be cremated. He did not want a funeral; he did not want a memorial service. He didn’t want any of that.”
In 2022, “Gangster’s Paradise” reached a milestone of 1 billion views on YouTube. “It’s one of those kinds of songs that transcends generations,” he said in an interview shortly before his death. “I didn’t use any trendy words…I think it made it timeless.”
Overall, he has sold more than 17 million records. Coolio was also in a number of television shows and films.