Photo credits: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Rap star Coolio, who had huge hits with his albums It Takes a Thief and Gangsta’s Paradise during the ’90s, has passed away.
Longtime manager and jazz saxophonist Jarez Posey told TMZ on Wednesday night that Coolio had been found lifeless on the floor of a friend’s bathroom. Shortly thereafter, the musician was pronounced dead by paramedics who arrived on the scene. Although the official cause of death was not revealed, TMZ reported that responding emergency personnel suspected heart arrest.
Coolio, born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., lived to be 59 years old.
Born in 1963 in Monessen, Pennsylvania, Coolio and his mother and sister uprooted to Compton, California when he was eight. He started his music career in 1987 with the release of the track “Whatcha Gonna Do?” after having previously worked as a firefighter and an airport security guard.
After signing with Tommy Boy Records in 1994, the rapper released his first solo album, titled It Takes a Thief. Profiled in The Source Magazine that year, he was called the “MTV hip-hop poster boy of the minute” thanks to the album’s chart-friendly first track, “Fantastic Voyage.”
According to Coolio’s comments in the article, his kids were the inspiration for the album’s creation.
“I’m happy with my life, and I don’t care if this CD sells a million copies or a few hundred thousand. For the sake of my children, I just want everything to go well. I need to find a way to end this cycle for them,” the rap legend said. In the end, It Takes a Thief would earn platinum status.
The title track from his album, Gangsta’s Paradise, which he released in August 1995, charted in 16 countries, peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end singles chart. It went on to win the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. The song “Dangerous Minds,” which featured on the soundtrack for the Michelle Pfeiffer film of the same name, went triple platinum in the United States due to its massive sales.
Coolio told Rolling Stone: “I freestyled that; that came out the top of the dome and I scribbled that down.” That is was in reference to the song’s iconic opening words. “After giving it some thought for a while, I wrote the rest of the song in one continuous sitting, from the first to the third verse,” he continued.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” wanted to be born. It wanted to come to life, and it chose me as the vessel. You know, I like to believe that it was divine intervention,” he added.
Following the release of his third studio album, 1997’s My Soul, Coolio appeared in a slew of films and television shows, including those directed by Joel Schumacher (Celebrity Big Brother, Futurama, and Batman & Robin). Coolio also composed the theme song for the Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel.
All four of his children with ex-wife Josefa Salina, to whom he was married from 1996 to 2000, will miss him greatly.