Coolio, the Compton-raised rapper with the trademark braids who won a Grammy in 1996 for his No. 1 hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” from the film’s soundtrack starring Michelle Pfeiffer dangerous spirits, died Wednesday in Los Angeles, his manager Jarez Posey told Deadline. He was 59 years old.
No cause of death has been determined. Posey told TMZ that Coolio went to the bathroom at his friend’s house, but when he didn’t come out after a while, he walked in and found the rapper on the floor.
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Coolio had given concerts this summer in South America and Europe and just last week in Chicago.
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. in Pennsylvania, Coolio served as a volunteer firefighter for a time before turning to music. Coolio released a few uncharted singles in the early 1990s before hitting it big in 1994 with “Fantastic Voyage,” a rap remake of the 1979 song Lakeside. He spent five long weeks at No. pushed his Tommy Boy LP It takes a thief in the Top 10. The album and single, which also made the Top 10 in New Zealand, both went platinum.
“Gangsta’s Paradise”, the title track from the late 1995 album, was an international hit. The song was a rap version of “Pastime Paradise”, a track from Stevie Wonder’s Grammy-winning 1976 album. Songs in the key of life, and topped the Billboard Hot 100 and other charts around the world, including the UK. It also won the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, won a pair of MTV Video Music Awards, and was parodied by “Weird” Al Yankovic as “Amish Paradise,” which peaked at No. 53 in 1996. .
“Gangsta’s Paradise” was featured in the 1995 film dangerous spirits, whose soundtrack spent a month at No. 1 in the United States. In the Disney pic, Pfeiffer played an ex-Marine teaching at an inner-city school. Based on the real life of LouAnne Thompson and adapted from her book, the John N. Smith-directed film bowed in August 1995 and would gross $195.5 million at the worldwide box office.
He followed this success with another hit single, “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)”, which reached No. 5 in the US. That same year, Coolio wrote and performed “Aw, Here It Goes”, the theme song for Kenan & Kel, the Nickelodeon comedy starring Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. It played in the credits for over 60 episodes.
Coolio continued to write, record and tour, but would not match his earlier chart success. His 1996 single “It’s All the Way Live (Now)” – which sampled another Lakeside hit – dented the top 30, and the following year “CU When U Get There” with 40 Thevz peaked at No. 12.
Coolio will eventually add a reality TV star to his repertoire. He appeared as a roommate on Big brother in 2009, and a year later appeared on Ultimate big brother, eventually leaving the house after many conflicts with other people in the house. He was also one of eight celebrities who appeared on the Food Network reality show Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off representing the Music Saves Lives organization; he later became known for his cooking and wrote several cookbooks, including Cooking with Coolio: 5-Star Meals at a 1-Star Price in 2009, which would be a bestseller.
It was also featured on ABC Exchange of women and guest starred as himself in a season one episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, where he helped Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart), Zelda Spellman (Beth Broderick) and Hilda Spellman (Caroline Rhea) search for their cat Salem, who was kidnapped by a little boy. His other credits include Gravity Falls, the nanny and the adult swim show black jesus in an episode called “Gangsta’s Paradise”.
He recently had a recurring role in the 2020 HBO Max pilot Vegas High. The 1990s coming-of-age story followed a girl (Hyanna Simpson) who is caught between two worlds: the hectic lifestyle of Las Vegas and its strong Mormon faith and community. Coolio played Simpson’s character’s businessman uncle. The pilot was not taken up in series.
Coolio’s film credits as an actor include batman and robin and My God.
Erik Pedersen and Denise Petski contributed to this report.