AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
Artis Leon Ivey Jr.
August 1, 1963
Monessen, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 28, 2022 (aged 59)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1996; div. 2000)
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Formerly of||WC and the Maad Circle|
Artis Leon Ivey Jr. (August 1, 1963 – September 28, 2022), known professionally as Coolio, was an American rapper. First rising to fame as a member of the gangsta rap group WC and the Maad Circle, Coolio achieved mainstream success as a solo artist in the mid-to-late 1990s with his albums It Takes a Thief (1994), Gangsta's Paradise (1995), and My Soul (1997). He is best known for his 1995 Grammy Award-winning hit single "Gangsta's Paradise", as well as other singles "Fantastic Voyage" (1994), "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" (1996), and "C U When U Get There" (1997).
From 1996 on, Coolio released albums independently, and provided the opening track "Aw, Here It Goes!" for the 1996 Nickelodeon television series Kenan & Kel. He created the web series Cookin' with Coolio and released a cookbook.
Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was born August 1, 1963, in Monessen, Pennsylvania. He was raised mostly in Compton, California. After attending Compton Community College, he worked in jobs such as volunteer firefighting and security at Los Angeles International Airport, before becoming a rapper.
Coolio recorded his first single in 1987, titled "Whatcha Gonna Do?". He also recorded "What Makes You Dance (Force Groove)" with Nu-Skool in 1988. Coolio made connections in the L.A. rap scene, and in 1991, ended up joining the group WC and the Maad Circle, led by rapper WC. He is a credited co-contributor on the group's debut album Ain't a Damn Thang Changed, including on the single "Dress Code".
In 1994, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and released his debut solo album It Takes a Thief. The lead single "Fantastic Voyage" received heavy rotation on MTV and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Fantastic Voyage" would become one of the biggest rap singles of the year. Other minor hits from the album include "County Line" and "I Remember". It Takes a Thief peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, becoming certified Platinum. The album received praise for bringing a humorous and lighthearted perspective to the often violent and profane themes of typical gangsta rap.
In 1995, Coolio released "Gangsta's Paradise", featuring R&B singer L.V., for the film Dangerous Minds. It became one of the most successful rap songs of all time, topping on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. It was the No. 1 single of 1995 in the United States for all genres and was a global hit topping the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand charts. "Gangsta's Paradise" was the second-best-selling single of 1995 in the U.K. The song also created a controversy when Coolio claimed that comedy musician "Weird Al" Yankovic had not asked for permission to make his parody of "Gangsta's Paradise", titled "Amish Paradise". At the 1996 Grammy Awards, the song won Coolio a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Originally "Gangsta's Paradise" was not meant to be included on one of Coolio's studio albums, but its success led to Coolio not only putting it on his next album but also making it the title track. The title track interpolates the chorus and music of the song "Pastime Paradise" by Stevie Wonder, which was recorded nearly 20 years earlier on Wonder's album Songs in the Key of Life. The album Gangsta's Paradise was released in 1995 and was certified two times Platinum by the RIAA and sold more than two million copies globally.
The album contains two other major hits in "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" and "Too Hot" with J. T. Taylor of Kool & the Gang doing the chorus. Despite no longer being an official member of the group, Coolio appears on the second WC and the Maad Circle album Curb Servin' on the song "In a Twist". In 1996, Coolio had another top 40 hit with the song "It's All the Way Live (Now)" from the soundtrack to the movie Eddie. He is also featured on the song "Hit 'em High" from the soundtrack to the 1996 film Space Jam with B-Real, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes.
In 1996, Coolio appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD America Is Dying Slowly, alongside Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan, and Fat Joe, among many other prominent hip-hop artists. The CD meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African-American men. That same year, he recorded the music video "Aw, Here It Goes!" for the opening sequence of the Nickelodeon television series Kenan & Kel, which ran for four seasons.
Coolio's third solo album, My Soul, came out in 1997. Although it contains the major hit "C U When U Get There" and the album went platinum, it failed to reach the success of his previous two albums. Coolio was subsequently dropped from the Tommy Boy Records label. Since then, 2001's Coolio.com, 2003's El Cool Magnifico, 2006's The Return of the Gangsta, and 2008's Steal Hear, 2009's From the Bottom 2 the Top, and 2017's Long Live the Thief have not charted on any Billboard chart. He did have a minor hit in the UK in 2006 with "Gangsta Walk" (featuring Snoop Dogg).
While touring with hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse, Coolio received a tattoo as an homage to the group's fanbase, reading "Jugalo Cool" [sic]. He stated that the misspelling was intentional. Coolio performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos.
Coolio is featured on an international collaboration track called "Fuck the DJ" by UK rapper Blacklisted MC, also featuring Bizarre of D12, Adil Omar (from Pakistan), and Uzimon (from Bermuda). The song premiered on music website Noisey from Vice in October 2014.
In 2009, Coolio appeared as a housemate on the sixth season of the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother. He later went to appear on the UK's Ultimate Big Brother in 2010, where he decided it was best to leave the house after numerous confrontations with Nadia Almada and others there. In January 2012, he was one of eight celebrities participating in the Food Network reality television series Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, where he represented the Music Saves Lives Organization. He also guest starred as himself on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Coolio is featured on the March 5, 2013, episode of the ABC reality program Wife Swap, but his then-girlfriend left him after the program was taped. On June 30, 2013, he appeared alongside comedian Jenny Eclair and Emmerdale actor Matthew Wolfenden on the UK game show Tipping Point: Lucky Stars, where he came in second. On June 30, 2012, Coolio voiced a wax figure of himself on Gravity Falls. He also appears on "Homie-Work", a 1998 episode of The Nanny, in which he portrays a nerdy man, a "gift wrapper", transformed by the Jewish nanny into a "Rapper" for Maxwell Sheffield's new rap musical.
Coolio and jazz saxophonist Jarez were enlisted in July 2008 as spokespersons by the group Environmental Justice and Climate Change to educate students at historically black colleges and universities about global warming. Coolio was a spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He said that he and his children are asthma sufferers. As a child, he was taken to the hospital several times due to asthma complications.
In 2016, Coolio and members of his crew were arrested for having a loaded firearm inside of a bookbag at Los Angeles International Airport. The bag was flagged by the Transportation Security Administration as the group attempted to pass through a security checkpoint. One of his bodyguards claimed ownership of the bag, but witnesses stated that it belonged to Coolio himself. Coolio was sentenced to three years of probation and 45 days of community service.
In 2017, Coolio was denied entry into Singapore upon landing at Changi International Airport. Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority declined to comment on the reason for the denial, citing reasons of confidentiality. Coolio had been traveling from Beijing to Singapore to perform at a Formula One concert event.
While at a friend's Los Angeles house on September 28, 2022, Coolio was discovered unresponsive on a bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead by first responders. He was 59 years old at the time of his death. Police have opened an investigation into his death, though foul play is not suspected, and Coolio's manager stated he appeared to have suffered a cardiac arrest.
Celebrities including Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Martin Lawrence, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kenan Thompson, LL Cool J, Melissa Joan Hart, MC Hammer, Bret Michaels, Denzel Curry, and LeBron James paid tribute to Coolio following his death.