Grammy-Winning ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ Rapper Coolio Is Dead At 59

Coolio in "Gangsta's Paradise" music video
(Image credit: Tommy Boy Entertainment)

If you’re in any way a film fan, you know that it’s not just the people in front of the camera that make a movie special. For example, music can make a movie stand out, and in the case of 1995’s Dangerous Minds, rapper Coolio contributed “Gangster’s Paradise,” for which he won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Sadly, it’s been reported that Coolio has died at the age of 59.

According to TMZ, Coolio, whose real name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., died while visiting a friend in Los Angeles. Jarez, the rapper’s manager, said Coolio went to the bathroom, and after he didn’t come out for a while, this friend called for him and eventually found him laying on the floor. EMTs pronounced Coolio dead at the scene after being called around 4 pm PT, and while an official cause of death hasn’t been disclosed, Jarez informed the publication that paramedics believe he suffered cardiac arrest. The police have opened an investigation into Coolio’s death, and while there appear to be no signs of foul play, the coroner will deliver a final determination after conducting an autopsy.

Coolio made his professional rapping debut in late 1987 with the single “Whatcha Gonna Do?”, and by 1991 he joined the groupWC and the Maad Circle. By 1994 though, Coolio’s career really started to take off upon signing with Tommy Boy Records and releasing his first album, It Take a Thief, which contained “Fantastic Voyage.” That single peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the album itself peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and became certified platinum. 

In 1995, Coolio made his first major contribution to the film scene with the aforementioned “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a song that featured R&B singer L.V. and continues to have pop culture resonance, as evidenced by its use in the first Sonic the Hedgehog trailer. Upon its initial release, in addition to Coolio eventually winning that Grammy, “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which was obviously the lead song of the Gangsta’s Paradise album, became the No. 1 single in the United States across all genres, among other accolades. Also, you know you’ve hit the big time when your song is parodied by Weird Al Yankovic. In addition to “Gangsta’s Paradise” being used in Dangerous Minds, the movie’s lead actress, Michelle Pfeiffer, appeared in the song’s music video.

In addition to his rapping career, Coolio also accumulated a fair amount of onscreen film and TV credits. In 1997, he cameoed in the DC movie Batman & Robin. Coolio said in 2017 that the only reason he took the role was because he’d been “promised” the role of Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow, in the planned sequel Batman Unchained, which was scrapped following Batman & Robin’s poor critical reception. Coolio also got some Marvel movie experience under his belt by playing Dante Jackson in the director’s cut of 2003’s Daredevil. TV-wise, Coolio’s major work, both on and off camera, included All That, Kenan & Kel, Futurama, The Nanny, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Static Shock.

CinemaBlend passes along its condolences to Coolio’s friends and family in this time of mourning. He will be missed.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.