Coolio, 'Gangsta's Paradise' Rapper, Dies at 59

Stephen Andrews
29 Sep 2022

Nineties rap music icon Coolio, best known for hits such as "Gangsta's Paradise," "C U When U Get There," and "Fantastic Voyage," and whose music was regularly aired on radio and on MTV, died Wednesday, Sept. 28, aged 59. The rapper's death was confirmed by his manager, Jarez Posey. A cause of death was not immediately made known.

"We are saddened by the loss of our dear friend and client, Coolio, who passed away this afternoon. He touched the world with the gift of his talent and will be missed profoundly," Sheila Finegan, Coolio's manager at Trinity Artists International, said in a statement shared via Variety. "Thank you to everyone worldwide who has listened to his music and to everyone who has been reaching out regarding his passing. Please have Coolio's loved ones in your thoughts and prayers."

The news of Coolio's death was met with tributes from those who knew him. 

Fellow rapper Ice Cube, who collaborated with Collio on several tracks, tweeted Wednesday: "This is sad news. I witness first hand this man's grind to the top of the industry. Rest in Peace."

"I'm freaking out I just heard my good friend Coolio passed away," Vanilla Ice wrote of the late Grammy-award musician. The two toured together last year. 

"One of the nicest dudes I've known," MC Hammer posted. "Good people. R.I.P. Coolio."

American rapper Snoop Dogg also paid tribute, saying, "Gangstas paradise. R I P," while singer Bret Michaels wrote: “My deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and fans on the loss of @Coolio. Awesome guy who will be missed."

Born as Artis Leon Ivey Jr. in Los Angeles, Coolio rose to fame on the L.A. rap scene during the 90s. Besides a prolific music career, which started with the debut album in 1994, "It Takes a Thief," Coolio was also a talented actor with roles in both film and television. His credits include "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" (1996), "Batman & Robin" (1997), "Charmed" (2002) and "Futurama" (2001, 2010) among others. 

His most successful track, "Gangsta's Paradise," is a collaboration with gospel singer L.V. that sampled Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise." The haunting single was featured in the 1995 film "Dangerous Minds," starring Michelle Pfeiffer, catapulting Coolio to stardom.  

Pfeiffer was among those paying a tribute after hearing of the rapper's death. "Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist @coolio. A life cut entirely too short," the actress wrote on Instagram. She added: "30 years later I still get the chills when I hear the song. Sending love and light to his family."

"Gangsta's Paradise" became one of the best-selling singles around the globe in 1995, spending three weeks as the No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. A year later, in 1996, it picked Grammy nominations for record of the year and best rap solo performance, with Coolio winning the latter. 

The late rapper was not so fond when his trademark single was later parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovich" into "Amish Paradise," however, the two reconciled later on. On Wednesday, Yankovich shared a photo of the two of them hugging, with a caption saying, "RIP Coolio."

Honoring the life and work of Coolio, The Washington Post wrote: "As the beat and lyrics of the 1995 hit song 'Gangsta's Paradise' came together, Coolio knew he had struck gold. The unlikely meshing of gospel and rap, spine-chilling lyrics and clever sampling of Stevie Wonder's 'Pastime Paradise' would eventually turn the single into a chart-topping hit and catapult the rapper's decades-long musical career."

"While his music encapsulated many of the trademarks that made gangsta rap so dominant in prior years, his affable, playful approach to both his music and videos endeared him to a larger audience," The Rolling Stone Magazine wrote.

The case of death remains unknown for now. According to reports, Coolio stayed at a friend's house in Los Angeles when he collapsed inside the bathroom. Paramedics were called around 4 p.m. local time. He was pronounced dead at the scene from suspected cardiac arrest. 

Stephen Andrews