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Coolio, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ Rapper, Dies at 59

The artist had a string of major hits the in mid-'90s and later became a staple of reality TV
(Credit: JM Enternational/Getty Images)

Coolio, the rapper best known for his 1995 Stevie Wonder-sampling hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” has died at the age of 59. TMZ was the first to report the news. According to the outlet, the rapper was found dead in the bathroom at a friend’s house. Coolio’s manager, Jarez Posey, told TMZ that the rapper died from a suspected cardiac arrest.

Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. on Aug. 1, 1963 in Compton, Calif., Coolio released his first single, “Whatcha Gonna Do?” in 1987. He built a steady following in the L.A. area before exploding into the mainstream in 1994 on the strength of his debut album, It Takes a Thief. That album, which was released on Tommy Boy Records, saw the rapper break through with “Fantastic Voyage.” The song was in heavy rotation on MTV and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1995, Coolio and L.V. recorded “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise.” The song was released on the Dangerous Minds soundtrack and topped the Hot 100 for three weeks, as well as achieving hit status internationally. “Gangsta’s Paradise” was nominated for Record of the Year and won Best Rap Solo Performance at the 1996 Grammy Awards. “Weird Al” Yankovic famously parodied the song as “Amish Paradise,” about which Coolio expressed his displeasure. Years later on an episode of Hot Ones, he expressed remorse for how he handled the situation, saying it was “one of the dumb things that I did.”

The song was included on Coolio’s album of the same name, which would go on to sell over 2 million units. Gangsta’s Paradise also contained the hit songs “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” and “Too Hot,” which featured J.T. Taylor of Kool & the Gang.

Coolio scored another movie smash in 1995 when “Rolling With My Homies” was prominently featured in the film Clueless and on its soundtrack. His next album, 1997’s My Soul, featured his last big hit with “C U When U Get There.” His final solo album, From the Bottom 2 the Top, was released in 2009.

Over the years, Coolio frequently appeared on reality TV programs like Fear Factor, Celebrity Big Brother, Ultimate Big Brother, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, Wife Swap and Tipping Point: Lucky Stars. He also appeared in episodes of The Parent ‘Hood, Martin, Kenan & Kel, Sabrina the Teenaged Witch, The Nanny, Futurama and more.

In 2016, he was charged with felony firearm possession stemming from an arrest at Los Angeles International Airport for carrying a stolen, loaded gun through a security checkpoint. He received three years probation in the case.

Coolio’s final live performance was at Riot Fest in Chicago two weekends ago.