Rapper Coolio, whose chart-topping hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” propelled him to celebrity status in the 90s, died at the age of 59 late Wednesday.
Coolio’s agent Jarez Posey confirmed the news to TMZ and provided no official cause of death. Posey noted that Coolio unexpectedly passed away while visiting a friend.
A hip hop celebrity thanks to hits like “Paradise“ (1995) and “Fantastic Voyage” (1994), Coolio was a frequent play on the radio. Coolio also sported a unique head of hair, fit for television.
The Compton-raised rapper saw his star evolve from music to entertainment: frequently appearing on MTV and reaching new fans with his on-camera presence.
Gangsta’s Paradise, featuring singer LV, sampled Steve Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise” and played over a moody Scarface-inspired music video, which was as big of a hit as the song.
“Paradise” stayed No. 1 on the charts for weeks and the music video, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, won the “Best Rap Video” award at the 1995 MTV Video Music Award — at a time when they were considered equal to the Golden Globes.
Coolio had weird ways of staying relevant in the culture, including a “Gangsta’s Paradise” parody spin-off song: “Amish Paradise” (1996) by “Weird Al” Yankovic. The rapper wasn’t thrilled to have his hit song as the butt of a joke, but he later reconciled with Weird Al’s tune, which also landed in Billboard’s Top 100.
Hip-hop lost an important figure on Wednesday — tributes poured in for the genre legend.
Rest in Peace
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