Musicians and artists pay tribute to rapper Coolio, who died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 59 years old.
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., Coolio was best known for his mega hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which was used in the 1995 film “Dangerous Minds,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer. The song won the artist a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996. He also had hits with “Fantastic Voyage” and “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New)” and “It’s All the Way Live (Now).”
Among those who remembered Coolio on social media were “Al Weird” Yankovic, who was embroiled in a feud with the rapper when he released the song “Amish Paradise.” Later, they repaired the fences. Ice Cube, quest love, Debbie Harry, Martin Lawrence and MC Hammer also paid tribute to the Compton-raised musician.
As the hip-hop community reflects on his music and its impact, Chuck Creekmur, CEO of AllHipHop.com, said Coolio was more than just a rapper: he was one of hip-hop’s griots who shared the harsh realities of his community.
“If you listen to the lyrics, it’s not glorifying the [gangster] life, but he’s actually someone who’s really coping with it – or at least trying to explain his point of view,” he said. “And so it resonated with so many people.”
Creekmur said Coolio’s Grammy win came at a time “when rapping wasn’t really respected as an art.” Coolio also showed other artists that there was a “pathway to making music adjacent to gangster rap,” he said.
While Coolio has accomplished a lot in his career as a musician, winning an American Music Award and multiple MTV Video Music Awards in addition to his Grammy, Creekmur said the rapper is often underappreciated as an artist.
“I think in music in general, in hip-hop in particular, too often we use artists and spit them out,” he said. “And I think once you’re spat out, you’re left in the desert to fend for yourself.”
Creekmur said Coolio found ways to stay relevant as a creative by getting into television. He created the theme song for “Kenan and Kel”, appearing in the show’s intro, and also performed in “Cooking with Coolio” and “Coolio’s Rules”. Coolio also made big-screen appearances in the 1997 film “Batman & Robin” and 2004’s Dracula 3000, among others. Coolio’s singular style, like his signature standing braids, was one of his many traits that made him unique. Creekmur also said that Coolio speaks intelligently about his artistry and creates music that has truth.
“He talked about things like HIV and the ramifications behind promiscuity,” Creekmur said.
As for Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” released over 25 years ago, Creekmur said it remains a treasure in the hip-hop community.
“We’ll be listening to ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ forever,” Creekmur said. “There is no doubt about it.”