Coolio, the rapper best known for hits like ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and ‘Fantastic Voyage’, has died at the age of 59. According to TMZ, the rapper passed away unexpectedly while at a friend’s house on Wednesday night and was later found by his manager, Jarez Posey. Jarez told TMZ the paramedics suspect the rapper suffered cardiac arrest, but an official cause of death has not been determined.
Coolio was born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. on August 1, 1963. After moving from his hometown of Monessen, Pennsylvania to Compton, California, where he attended Compton Community College, Coolio released his first single, ‘Whatcha Gonna Do?’, in 1987. ‘What Makes You Dance (Force Groove)’, recorded with Nu-Skool, came out the following year. As he started making waves in the Los Angeles rap scene, he joined the group WC and the Maad Circle, contributing to their 1991 debut album, Ain’t a Damn Thang Changed.
In 1994, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and put out his solo debut album, It Takes A Thief. Its lead single, ‘Fantastic Voyage’ hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, while the album reached Platinum status. The following year, he teamed up with gospel singer L.V. for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, which appeared in the movie Dangerous Minds. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and earned him the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. “Weird Al” Yankovic famously parodied the track, reimagining it as ‘Amish Paradise’. Coolio’s sophomore album, Gangsta’s Paradise, was also nominated for Best Rap Album at the 1997 Grammys, while the single ‘1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)’ won Best Rap Solo Performance.
Coolio went on to release six more studio albums, his last one being 2009’s From the Bottom 2 the Top. In 1996, he wrote ‘Aw, Here It Goes!’, the theme song for Nickelodeon’s Kenan & Kel, and made several TV appearances throughout his career, including in shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Nanny, and Gravity Falls.
“We are honored to be a part of Coolio’s musical family,” his label casual wrote in a statement. “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.”