- 29 Sep 22
Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Michelle Pfeiffer and MC Hammer, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Martin Lawrence, Ice-T, Flavor Flav, Questlove and Blondie have all shared tributes to California rap star Coolio, who died yesterday.
Coolio, the rapper best known for his hit 'Gangsta’s Paradise', has died at the age of 59, his longtime manager has confirmed.
TMZ and Rolling Stone alleged early this morning that the rapper passed away unexpectedly while at a friend’s house on Wednesday night (September 28).
The California hip-hop star's death was reported by his manager at Trinity Artists International, Sheila Finegan.
"We are saddened by the loss of our dear friend and client, Coolio, who passed away this afternoon," she said in a statement.
"He touched the world with the gift of his talent and will be missed profoundly. 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."
Coolio was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor of a friend’s house in Los Angeles, according to US media outlet TMZ.
The rapper (real name Artis Leon Ivey Jr.) was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, but later moved to Compton, California. He attended the local community college, becoming a crack addict and juvenile offender – but later decided to become a volunteer firefighter. Coolio picked up a job as security at the Los Angeles Airport, in order to kick the habit and pursue a better future, eventually turning to music as a way to escape his problems. He released his first single in 1987.
He was 24 years old when he recorded 'Whatcha Gonna Do?' and followed it with 'What Makes You Dance (Force Groove)' the next year. After teaming up with others in the Los Angeles scene, Coolio eventually joined the hip-hop group WC and the Maad Circle and contributed to their 1991 debut album, Ain’t a Damn Thang Changed.
Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records in 1994 and released his debut solo album, It Takes a Thief. Lead single 'Fantastic Voyage' launched him into a new stratosphere of fame with the music video earning heavy rotation on MTV. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped the album reach Platinum status.
He recorded 'Gangsta's Paradise' for the 1995 film Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, and it went on to become one of the most successful rap songs of all time. The track topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and won Coolio a Grammy for Best Rap Solo performance in 1996.
Coolio’s sophomore studio album, Gangsta’s Paradise, included the titular song upon its release in 1995 alongside the singles '1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)' and 'Too Hot'. The album garnered two more Grammy nominations in 1997, including Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance for 'Sumpin’ New'.
After releasing his third album My Soul and its single 'C U When U Get There' in 1997, Coolio went on to release five more studio albums, the most recent being 2009’s From the Bottom 2 the Top. Coolio found the term gangsta rap and its implications heavily problematic.
“Gangsta rap is a derogatory label,” he told the Independent. “We was rapping about our reality. They should have been calling it reality rap, or street rap, inner city rap. They just chose to call it gangsta rap to make people afraid of it. I don’t consider myself a gangsta rapper. But I’m probably more qualified to be a gangsta rapper than people who call themselves that. I’ve been through that life.”
Coolio sent much of 2022 in Ireland, hanging out with local rappers Versatile, on whose video for ‘Escape Wagon' he appeared in 2019, and with the band’s manager – and Coolio's agent – Julian O’Brien. While he was here, the legendary rapper visited Ernesto’s Cafe in Rathmines.
Coolio was known to be a huge fan of the Ringsend outfit, describing the working class area they grew up in, on the Southside of Dublin, as "the Compton of Europe” and predicting – in an interview with the Talking Bollox podcast, that the band were a cert to break big in the US over the coming 12 months. Coolio made a special appearance at Zampas, in the Hard Rock Hotel in July, and invited Versatile onstage – with Alex Sheehan taking a verse in front of a packed house.
Coolio's European agent Julian O'Brien said that he was "shook to the core" by the terrible news.
Coolio famously made appearances on shows like Martin, Dangerous Minds, the Nanny, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Futurama, and Gravity Falls. He also rapped the adored theme song for the Nickelodeon series Kenan & Kel, 'Aw Here It Goes'. Later on, Coolio pursued a career as a chef, publishing the cookbook Cookin’ With Coolio.
Michelle Pfeiffer – star of Dangerous Minds, who appeared in the video for 'Gangsta Paradise' – said she was "heartbroken" to hear the news of his death, adding that she remembered him as "nothing but gracious" when they worked together.
"A life cut entirely too short. I remember him being nothing but gracious. 30 years later I still get chills when I hear the song. Sending love and light to his family. Rest in Power, Artis Leon Ivey Jr," the actress said.
Rap heavyweights - including Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and MC Hammer - have since paid their respects to him after the news was shared on social media.
Former NWA star Ice Cube said he had witnessed Coolio's "grind to the top of the industry" in his own tribute.
"This is sad news," the rapper and actor wrote on Twitter. "I witnessed first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace @Coolio."
— Ice Cube (@icecube) September 29, 2022
MC Hammer described Coolio as "one of the nicest dudes I’ve known", sharing a picture of the pair with Tupac and Snoop.
“Coolio is a legend who has inspired a generation of artists to unapologetically share their visions with the world. We are beyond grateful Coolio shared his talents with us, and at the same time, we are extremely saddened to be a bookend on his amazing musical journey,” wrote Casual, the label who released Coolio’s last single, in a statement.
“Weird Al” Yankovic, Martin Lawrence, LL Cool J, Ice-T, Flavor Flav, Viola Davis, Questlove and Blondie have also shared tributes.
RIP Coolio pic.twitter.com/Z53f3n6HDU
— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) September 29, 2022
Rest in power my brother .@Coolio Love & Respect
— LLCOOLJ (@llcoolj) September 29, 2022
Oh man!!! RIP Coolio! Loved your music....too soon 💔 https://t.co/vPZzuKW4yk
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) September 29, 2022
Never forget his appearance on RTE chat show Open House:
RIP Coolio. Never forget his appearance on Irish daytime chatshow Open House, who, legend has it, booked him by mistake. They hadn't arranged backing dancers, so he made the middle-age production crew dress up and do it instead. Best TV ever. pic.twitter.com/gVxehs4rlt
— James Cotter (@sirjamesofcots) September 29, 2022
Comedy writer James Cotter says Coolio is rumoured to have been “booked by mistake” and the crew realised too late that no backing dancers had been booked.
“They hadn't arranged backing dancers, so he made the middle-age production crew dress up and do it instead. Best TV ever,” Mr Cotter says.
Marty Whelan confirmed the rumours about the dancers this afternoon.
“Ah Coolio, I remember him with great fondness,” Whelan writes on Twitter. “To have him dancing with the staff was quite the moment. Which they did willingly. The very idea of introducing Coolio on afternoon television shows you how innovative RTÉ has always been…”
— Podge and Rodge - Official (@OfficialPandR) September 29, 2022
...and his appearance at Croke Park:
🗣 "𝗙𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗚𝗮𝗻𝗴𝘀𝘁𝗮'𝘀 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗲"
Who could forget when Coolio visited Celtic Park almost five years ago 🍀 pic.twitter.com/DQEiV17JMO
— Celtic TV (@CelticTV) September 29, 2022
Revisit his recent July gig in Dublin here.
- Film & TV
- 11 Mar 21