We’ve lost yet another rap legend. Artis Leon Ivey Jr., better known to the entertainment world as Coolio, passed away on September 28th, 2022 at only 59 years old. The cause of death is at this time unknown. The statement on TMZ is that he was visiting a friend’s house on Wednesday afternoon and when he didn’t come out of the bathroom after a while his friend found him unconscious on the floor. The paramedics who attended to him believe he suffered a cardiac arrest but the full details may not be available for a while.
Although he may be best known and remembered for the song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” featured on the soundtrack to the film Dangerous Minds, Coolio had a career extending far beyond that one (super) viral hit. He first broke nationally as part of WC and the Maad Circle in 1991 on the album “Ain’t a Damn Thang Changed,” and his increased profile led to a deal with Tommy Boy Records for his own solo debut on “It Takes a Thief.” This is my own personal opinion but I consider that a “must own” thanks not only to the popular singles like “Fantastic Voyage” and “Mama I’m in Love Wit’ a Gangsta” but to insightful hidden gem album cuts like “Can-o-Corn.”
Coolio’s musical career became overshadowed by just how big “Gangsta’s Paradise” became, with the old saying “You know you’ve made it when Weird Al Yankovic parodies you” coming true with “Amish Paradise.” Famously Coolio was not pleased with the comedic singer’s cover or accompanying video, thinking that Yankovic was mocking the serious sentiments of the original single. The two later made amends with Coolio admitting his ego was a little out of control at the time. “I was being too magnificent and too terrific about myself and that’s not what you want to do.” This too is my personal opinion but I felt like that showed a lot of growth and maturity for him as a person and an artist, and I’ve always enjoyed both the original and the spoof of it.
Even though the song and the controversy helped define him as a musician, his larger than life personality and signature hair style gave him a leg up into Hollywood. He was soon appearing in films as opposed to just rapping for them, being spotlighted in major motion pictures like Batman & Robin right from the start. Of course not everything was a classic or well reviewed, but he worked steadily in film and television for the next three decades and could be counted on for memorable appearances even in direct-to-video movies. Speaking of television, his guest shots run the gamut of small screen from Arli$$ to Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Even on an animated show like Futurama his voice was unmistakable.
Although Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was only 59 years old when he passed away, his was truly a life well lived, entertaining audiences of all ages from rapping to acting. He leaves behind six children who are grieving his loss as well as millions of fans around the world. Our condolences to the friends and family of this legendary hip-hop and Hollywood star. Rest In Power Coolio.