Photo: Paul Natkin/WireImage
There was a three-year period in the ’90s when Coolio, the doe-eyed Compton-raised rapper best known for trying out a Midwestern funk band to groundbreaking success, became such a ubiquitous figure in the culture. pop that had the power to help turn a movie reeling from review hell into one of the best movies of the year.
“Test screenings weren’t going well,” hey said of Dangerous minds, the 1995 drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer, which featured Coolio’s next song, “Gangsta’s Paradise.” “They were afraid the movie was going to flop; They were terrified.”
In fact, the latest in a wave of ’80s and ’90s coming-of-age movies about a tough adult nurturing inner-city youth nearly became a commercial bomb. it’s which is also riddled with stereotypes and, according to roger ebert, watered down to comfort white audiences through Bob Dylan lyrics instead of the rap music that mentions the book it’s based on. Fortunately, the film also had a secret weapon: Coolio’s lead single from the soundtrack, which dropped 10 days before the premiere. Propelled by a rich baritone twisting the 23rd Psalm as his own, singer Larry “LV” Sanders’ haunting but tinged gospel choir, and a somber music video, the song would help propel mind by not. 1 opening weekend. one month after, the soundtrack other just both hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts, just a week apart. (The movie was finally made more than $179 million at the box office).
For Coolio, who died Wednesday at the age of 59, “Gangsta’s Paradise” was the moment he became one of the world’s biggest rappers. Armed with an eye-catching braided bonnet and a gruff but honest West Coast demeanor, the man born Artis Leon Ivey Jr. had managed to achieve worldwide fame without turning his back on his Compton roots.
“I think he was the reason our movie was so successful,” Pfeiffer wrote in his honor. “I remember he was nothing but friendly. Thirty years later I still get chills when I hear the song.”
Built off of a riff from Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise,” “Gangsta’s Paradise” was a departure from the party raps Coolio was already known for. It was dark and ethereal, more a song for a funeral than a white savior movie (though the song still needed Wonder’s blessing and no-profanity promise for the original sample to be cleaned up). It later won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1996, though it narrowly lost out on Record of the Year to another soundtrack-driven single (“Kiss From A Rose” by Seal), while cementing Coolio’s work as a superstar already in demand. It was an impressive promotion for a man who had battled asthma his entire life, joined Baby Crips as a teenager to fit in, and once worked odd jobs, as a firefighter fighting fires in the Northern California woods and as a guard. security at Los Angeles International Airport: to make ends meet.
His early days in hip-hop found him grinding his teeth on the Los Angeles indie circuit alongside another gruff shaker, WC. Together, the two were part of the Maad Circle alongside DJ Crazy Toones and Big Gee, releasing their debut album. Nothing has changed in September 1991. On songs like “Behind closed doors” other “If you don’t work, you don’t eat” Coolio gave a straightforward and honest description of life in Los Angeles, whether it’s for ex-felons who get into trouble with the LAPD or for men who ultimately decide to turn to crime because a regular 9-to-5 job is too bad. feel darker. “Money isn’t everything, but neither is bankruptcy,” she raps bluntly on “You Don’t Work.” “Give me a knife because I can’t live on happiness.”
Once WC linked up with another West Coast supergroup, Westside Connection with Ice Cube and Mack 10, Coolio went it alone. His 1994 debut album. It takes a thief mixed a slider, sampler-heavy production with lyricism that pointed to government failures, gang paranoia, poverty, and more. In “County Line”, talked about a setting of Zapp’s “More Bounce to the Ounce” and Bar-Kays’ “Hit and Run” about a day he swindled the government for welfare – he questions everyone in line looking at him like an alien despite to have a music career and confesses to a social worker about a previous addiction to crack cocaine. “I got a crack shot and I was hooked,” he raps. “Her sitting there wondering when I’ll get to the point.”
It takes a thief brought Coolio to early fame. The album went platinum mainly because of the back of the single. “Fantastic trip”. An improved version of Lakeside’s 1981 hit of the same name, the song was about the rapper looking to have a simple day without gang politics and nonsense, one where he can have steak and beans and rice. Combining similar themes and funk vibes like Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” and Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” it eventually reached No. 3 on the Hot 100. The single, along with the distinctive look, the name and Coolio’s laid-back demeanor gave white audiences a new rapper to root for. Even when things had a chance to go south, he was able to charm the naysayers. Weeks after winning his Grammy, he appeared on The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder. After reminiscing about his childhood in Compton, a suburban mother called into the show congratulating him on winning the award. However, she was saddened that her 10-year-old son heard cursing on his album. gangster paradise. But Coolio quickly calmed his nerves. “If you let your son watch rap city sometimes or I let him watch MTV during the day, I do a lot of things with both BET and MTV,” he told her in a warm and engaging tone. “Oh, and Nickelodeon!”
Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
But in Coolio’s eyes, that brief ’90s run and the success of “Gangsta’s Paradise” would ultimately become a curse. in a interview 2015 with rocking swing in the morning, he felt that the song “dwarfed” his other work. Two years after it became a pop hit, others were using the formula established by him and producer Doug Rasheed, adjusting it to his own style. “CU when you get there”, the lead single from Coolio’s 1997 album my soul, tried to repeat the achievements of “Gangsta’s Paradise”, with a story about a fallen friend. It was modestly successful, but nowhere near its predecessor. And while my soul it eventually achieved platinum status, failing to reach its predecessor’s double-platinum sales highs, prompting his label Tommy Boy to drop it. By 1997, Diddy’s Bad Boy empire on the East Coast had reached its zenith, blending a mix of sadness, glittering wealth and New York demeanor with beloved samples of pop music. It seemed that mainstream America no longer had room for Coolio, a chameleon-like superstar who I could put verses along with the Notorious BIG on the early days of the Oakland Black Panther movement for 1995 panthers soundtrack; trade bars with B-Real, Method Man, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes for space jam, the beloved 1996 Looney Tunes basketball movie starring Michael Jordan; and record the theme song for the Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan and Kel, All without feeling awkward. For a brief moment in time, Coolio could be anything to anyone.