Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Coolio, the West Coast rapper whose gritty music and anthemic hits like “Gangsta’s Paradise” helped define hip-hop in the 1990s, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 59.

His longtime manager, Jarez Posey, confirmed his death.


Mr. Posey, who worked with the rapper for more than 20 years, said he was told that Coolio died at about 5 p.m. at a friend’s house. No cause was given.

At a time when rappers were derided by some as garish outlaws, Coolio, whose legal name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., achieved mainstream superstardom and critical success with “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Billboard’s top song of 1995 and the Grammy winner for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996.

The song, later certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, outshone the movie it was featured in, “Dangerous Minds.” Its music video won Best Rap Video and Best Video From a Film at the MTV Video Music Awards.

“Coolio still builds his raps on recognizable 1970s oldies, and he delivers intricate, syncopated rhymes as if they were conversation,” Jon Pareles wrote in a review in The New York Times, noting that “Gangsta’s Paradise” uses “the somber minor chords” of “Pastime Paradise,” by Stevie Wonder.

The song nearly did not make it into “Dangerous Minds,” the critic Caryn James wrote for The Times in 1996. She wrote that the late addition “turned a preachy Michelle Pfeiffer film about an inner-city teacher into a hit that sounded fresher than it really was.”

Coolio’s other hits included “Fantastic Voyage” — the opening song on his debut album — and “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New),” which were both nominated for Grammys. “C U When U Get There,” which samples Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major,” was a standout track on his third album of the 1990s, “My Soul.”

But nothing could match the success of “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a song that, with its piercing beat and ominous background vocals, became instantly distinguishable for millions of ’90s rap fans, especially with a memorable opening verse based on Psalm 23:

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