Citing the rapper’s longtime manager, TMZ reports that Coolio died from cardiac arrest on Wednesday. At the time of his death, he was at a friend’s house, his manager said. After the rapper went to the bathroom and never returned, his body was found laying on the floor. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Released in 1995, the Stevie Wonder-sampling, L.V.-featuring “Gangsta’s Paradise” was an ominous yet infectious document of gangster life, a darker offering from a man with a pretty lighthearted persona (if his iconic hair wasn’t proof enough, Coolio’s earlier output had built him a reputation for bringing a humorous perspective to his tales of violence). The track spent three weeks at No. 1 and earned a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The song was also famously parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic, who reimagined it as “Amish Paradise.”
Coolio’s other notable songs included “Fantastic Voyage” and “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” — both of which cracked the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Coolio was born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. on August 1st, 1963. After moving from Monessen, Pennsylvania to Compton, California, he came up in the West Coast rap scene of the 1980s and ‘90s, releasing his first single, “Whatcha Gonna Do?”, in 1987. In 1991, he joined WC and the Maad Circle, appearing on their debut album Ain’t a Damn Thang Changed.
In 1994, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records. The same year, he released his solo debut, It Takes a Thief, home to the platinum single “Fantastic Voyage.” “Gangsta’s Paradise” arrived in 1995 and became one of hip-hop’s rawest, most enduring singles.
Following the success of “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Coolio wrote “Aw, Here It Goes!” as the theme song for Nickelodeon’s Kenan & Kel, and joined the likes of Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan, and Fat Joe for America Is Dying Slowly, a compilation album for the AIDS-awareness group Red Hot Organization.
Coolio also had a number of acting roles throughout his career, featuring in television shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Nanny, and Gravity Falls and becoming a fixture of 2000s reality TV by appearing on Celebrity Big Brother and Wife Swap. His eighth and final studio album was 2009’s From the Bottom 2 the Top.
Just two weeks prior to his death, Coolio performed at the 2022 edition of Riot Fest in Chicago.